Ernst Kreidolf (1863 -1947)


(Flower Fairy Tale)

Illustrations, texts, and lithography by Ernst Kreidolf
Cologne: Hermann and Friedrich Schaffstein, 2nd edition, s.a.,
[24] fol., 16 col. watercolors, printed as original lithographs, numerous line drawings
27,5 x 18,8 cm, pictorial cardboard covers;

The book and its history

The picture book was first self-published in 1898, printed by the renowned Kunstanstalt Piloty & Loehle in Munich, and published by Schaffstein Verlag in 1900. The publisher refers to this edition as the first, even though it is actually already the second. The present second edition by the Schaffstein Verlag is published in a smaller format.
In his "Lebenserinnerungen" (Memoirs), Zurich 1957, Kreidolf describes how he unexpectedly discovered primroses and gentians on a walk in the late autumn of 1894 and took them home to paint. This resulted in a series of watercolors showing flowers as human beings and depicting small scenes. In 1897 these paintings were exhibited together with others in Dresden, but Kreidolf did not find a publisher. With the financial help of the Princess of Schaumburg-Lippe, however, the "Flower Fairy Tales" could be self-published a year later. Kreidolf initially looked for an author to write the texts, but eventually he took on this task himself. For a whole year, the lithographer Kreidolf worked on the approximately 150 printer's copies for the 16 watercolors, including those for the seperate color plates, and also supervised the printing. Kreidolf documents this by signing all the color pictures with E. Kreidolf fec. (fecit).

Rhymed texts accompany small scenes, loosely strung together. They are named "The First Flowers", "The Cowslip Garden" or "The Vegetable Market". The flowers have human bodies and each wears specific petal shapes and colors as headdresses, hairstyles, or ruffs. Their dresses are also decorated with distinctive leaf shapes or entwined by tendrils with corresponding fruits. Viewers will happily engage in a game of guessing and recognizing the different plants. It is an unprecedented way of seeing the botanical world.

The texts are traditional in tone and content, but the structure of the book with its irregular sequence of color pictures, line drawings, and text pages is unusual for the period. In addition, the pictorial composition and division of space varies, framed pictures alternate with free-standing scenes, the color scheme is rich in nuances and does not always follow the prevailing color, and the pencil is used very freely in the sketch-like pages between the watercolors. This structure, which Kreidolf designed in the most meticulous manner, reveals the artist's goal of presenting a bibliophilic painter's picture book. The book was enthusiastically received in professional circles. Kreidolf reports that he was celebrated as a rising star in the widely read magazine "Der Kunstwart". From then on, he received numerous illustration commissions, published a series of picture books, and became a role model for an entire generation of picture book creators.

Biographical note

Ernst Kreidolf, geboren 1863 in Bern und 1956 dort verstorben, ist Schweizer Grafiker und Maler mit einer besonderen Bedeutung für die Entwicklung der Buchkunst des Jugendstils und des modernen, künstlerisch anspruchsvollen Bilderbuchs.
Nach einer Lithographenlehre in Konstanz besucht er ab 1883 die Kunstgewerbeschule in München und ab 1889 dort die Akademie der Bildenden Künste. Als Künstler schafft er seinen Durchbruch mit diesem ungewöhnlichen Buchprojekt, seinem ersten Bilderbuch „Blumenmärchen“, das er zunächst als eine Art Künstlerbuch herausbringt. Anschließend ist er ein gefragter Kinderbuchillustrator, der viele seiner Bücher selbst mit Texten versieht.


Ernst Kreidolf, Lebenserinnerungen, Zürich: Waldgut,1957

Roland Stark, Ernst Kreidolf - Der Malerpoet und seine Verleger, Frauenfeld: Huber, 2005

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