Otmar Alt (born 1940)


(Brat Bear)


Told by Hans Stempel and Martin Ripken

With pictures by Otmar Alt

Cologne: Friedrich Middelhauve, 1970

[15 ]fol. 12 color illustrations, collage, gouache, colored pencil

27,5 x 23,2 cm, color. cardboard covers.

The book and its history

Otmar Alt's first picture book was published in 1970 by the renowned Middelhauve Verlag in Cologne, which had helped Leo Lionni achieve a worldwide breakthrough with his picture books. The young, courageous publisher Gertraud Middelhauve entered new territory with books by a generation of authors and artists committed to modernism, including outstanding book designers.


The existence of this picture book is clearly due to this commitment. In free associations, Otmar Alt created colorful, two-dimensional images to illustrate the fantastic story by the author duo. Or did the narrators fabbulate along Otmar Alt's colourful circus figures? In any case, the overall design owes its coherence to the work of the groundbreaking book designer Gotthard de Beauclair.


Unusual for the time is the pictorial composition with forms and colour planes that extending beyond the page format. The story is about the circus bear Buster, who one day escapes his life as a dancing bear goes an adventurous journey, supported by children, and finally comes to the place where he finds his bear's happiness. Buster is almost the only figure to remain easily recognizable in his multifaceted composition. All other figures and objects appear rather vague and subordinate to the imaginative play with colours and surfaces, collage and colored pencil. The artist responds in an idiosyncratic way to the cheerful, fantastic fairytale story with colourful, good-humoured pictures arising from his own cosmos.

Biographical note

Otmar Alt, born 1940 in Wernigerode/Harz, lives and works as a painter, sculptor and graphic artist in Hamm/Westphalia. In 1996, he created the Otmar Alt Foundation, committed to the promotion of creativity, which operates a sculpture park, a museum, and a creativity centre.


Alt began his artistic training in Berlin, initially in the field of arts and crafts. He soon moved to the Hochschule der Künste (Academy of Fine Arts) to study painting. In the late1960s, he developed a particular interested in different graphic techniques, collecting them in cycles and portfolios. Alt soon became increasingly interested in three-dimensional figures and art in public spaces and has been creating. His vibrant animal sculptures and figurines ever since. Alto's world of images and forms is committed to a figurative tradition, but always oscillates between fantastic elements and a recognizable objectivity. In addition to the intense colourfulness, his distinguishing marks are his puzzle-piece-like colour surfaces, which interlock with one another. His work also includes stage sets, toys, porcelain and furniture.

Back to Collection