Wolf Erlbruch (born 1948)

Frau Meier, die Amsel

(Mrs. Meyer, the Bird)
Wuppertal: Hammer, 1995
[16] fol., mixed media, collage, brush, pastel, pencil
21.5 x 28.3 cm, col. pictorial cardboard covers

The book and its history

The artist stages this little three-character play with a tender look at its protagonists: Mrs. Meyer, a stately housewife with a black apron and an elongated head full of unnecessary worries, Mr. Meyer, a small down-to-earth gentleman with a bulbous nose and round glasses, and a young blackbird. When Mrs. Meyer finds the little bird in the garden, all her worries shift to the animal child. She feeds and cares for the blackbird, but wonders how the bird will learn to fly? These flying lessons are the creative highlight of the picture story. Finally, Mrs. Meyer spreads out her stately arms and, o miracle, she flies over the pasture. When she returns home, smiling mysteriously, Mr. Meyer asks: "So, you two blackbirds, did you fly?"
The landscape-format book derives its appeal from its well thought-out scenic sequence across the double pages, the lighthearted approach to the unusual proportions of the clearly contoured figures, the masterful layout and composition, and the different media - brush, coloured pencils, patterned scrap papers, and pastel chalks. No page of the book is the same as the next, since text and image are always arranged differently. In the beginning, there are picture fields delimited by a fine red line, but towards the end they are completely missing. Flying does not fit a frame; the vastness of the sky and dreams is unlimited.

Biographical note

Wolf Erlbruch, born 1948 in Wuppertal, lives there to this day as an artist, graphic designer, illustrator, and author. He taught illustration until 2011, his last position being at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen. In Germany, he is considered the innovator of children's book illustration of the 1990s. With his strikingly poignant, often collaged drawings and compositions, he created a new style of bold visual design that influenced many of his students.

 

After studying graphic design at the Folkwang School of Design in Essen, he started working as an illustrator for magazines and for advertising agencies in 1974, designing maingly posters and book covers. In 1984 he illustrated his first children's book, after becoming a father. With the illustrations for his second book, "Vom kleinen Maulwurf, der wissen wollte, wer ihm auf den Kopf gemacht hat" ("The Story of the Little Mole Who Knew it Was None of His Business"), written by Werner Holzwarth, he attracted a great deal of international attention in 1989, which may also be due to the unusual subject matter. The book counts among the contemporary picture book classics, was published in more than 30 languages and reached a circulation of over one million copies. Since this success, Wolf Erlbruch has devoted himself strongly to children's book illustration in addition to his teaching activities and also writes his own texts. Erlbruch sees himself as an illustrator, but feels that his approach to the text is an autonomous process, with its own laws that are closely related to those of the artist book.

Wolf Erlbruch has received numerous prizes, in 2017 as the first German artist the most prestigeous Astrid Lindgren Memorial Awrad for international children's books.

Literature/Links

Vom kleinen Maulwurf und anderen Helden. Bilderbuchillustrationen von Wolf Erlbruch. Exhibition catalogue. Bilderbuchmuseum der Stadt Troisdorf, 1999


Challenging and Controversial Picturebooks: Creative and critical responses, ed. by Janet Evans. London: Routledge 2015



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