Friedrich Karl Waechter (1937 - 2005)

Der rote Wolf

The Red Wolf

Zurich: Diogenes, 1999

62 p., col. pen-and-ink, mixed media 
28 x 22,5 cm, celloglazed pictorial cardboard covers 

"...that, over time, stories came my way that had something directly to do with me."
The book and its history

The cover irritates: In the middle of the upper third of the picture, a small, short-legged, reddish-brown dog stands on a cliff and looks into the distance. Is that supposed to be a wolf? A story of escape, loneliness, hunger, survival and death, of friendship, of being uprooted and finding a home is told in text and image from the point of view of this little dog. Waechter develops it with seemingly sketchy drawings in a wide variety of techniques, colors and pictorial compositions. He combines brown-toned brush or pen strokes with hatched and inked areas; he juxtaposes figures sketched with sparse outlines with detailed portraits of animals. This visual diversity corresponds with the open text form, but is primarily due to the complex story behind the story. In this book, Waechter draws on autobiographical memories of his family's evacuationfrom East Prussia toward the end of the Second World War.

Biographical note

Friedrich Karl Waechter, born in 1937 in Danzig, now Poland, died in 2005 in Frankfurt/Main, made a name for himself as a artist, caricaturist and cartoonist, author of plays and picture books. Together with other artists, including Robert Gernhardt and F.W. Bernstein, he formed the group Neue Frankfurter Schule in the 1960s, which developed its own culture of political caricature, satirical cartoons and entertaining nonsense drawing.

Towards the end of the Second World War Waechter came to the Western part of Germany with his family. He started drawing on paper from the armed forces postal service, later in exercise books, his own and those of his friends. He attended the Alsterdamm art school in Hamburg, worked as a commercial artist until 1962, when he became head graphic artist at the satirical magazine Pardon. He drew for Twen, Titanic, the magazine of the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit, and published cartoon books for adults and picture books.

F. K. Waechter cites Wilhelm Busch and Saul Steinberg as his great role models. His graphic oeuvre comprises about 3400 works. It is housed in the Museum Wilhelm Busch -  The German Museum for Caricature and the Art of Drawing in Hanover, together with the entire estate.

His first children's book, Der Anti-Struwwelpeter (The Anti-Struwwelpeter), appeared in 1970 and was influenced by anti-authoritarian currents in the aftermath of the 1968 student revolution. Like this book, many of his early children's and picture books were written in the context of the anti-authoritarian kindergarten (Kinderladen) movement. They often contain instructions for play and suggestions for self-determined, fun play. His later large-format picture books are aimed at readers of all ages. He wrote them after a long break, during which he worked primarily as a playwright and theater director.

F.K. Waechter is described by both his peers and younger illustrators as a kind of drawing philosopher, as a storyteller who sees image and text as synonymous media. Tomi Ungerer, for example, admired F.K. Waechter, the storyteller for children and adults, as someone who was "sharp and gentle with word and line" at the same time.


Official website 

F.K. Waechter, Manchmal „nicht ganz fertig“ Werkstattgespräch. Jahresgabe 2002. Freundeskreis des Instituts für Jugendbuchforschung, Frankfurt/M.
Collection Caricature and Design of the Museum Wilhelm Busch, which holds the artistic estate of K.F. Waechter - 

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