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Otl Aicher "Wilhelm von Ockham"




I visited a fascinating exhibition two weeks ago: "Picture sheets" (Bilderbogen) by Otl Aicher on the life and theories of the medieval philosopher Wilhelm von Ockham.







Otl Aicher (1922 - 1991), German graphic designer, author, and teacher, created these plates in 1986 for an exhibition on Wilhelm von Ockham for a Bavarian insurance company together with Reinfriede Bettrich and Sophie von Seidlein.

Wilhelm von Ockham, a Franciscan monk from England, was one of the most important philosophers of the European Middle Ages, who had to flee from papal inquisition and found asylum at the court of the Bavarian king Ludwig der Bayer, in 1328. His philosophical theories inspired Umberto Eco to his novel The Name of the Rose.
Otl Aicher tells the life and certain aspects of the theories of Ockham in a cycle of thirty posters (bigger than A1, could not find the exact measurements), in which each detail is not painted or printed but cut out of coloured paper that had been made especially for these works of art.
Here a few of my favourites (the colours should be quite a bit more brilliant and less blurry....the crux of repro):

 

  

 

 

What I think was even as fascinating as the conciseness of the visual, is that he really cites art history: The Bible moralisé with Godfather designing the world with dividers (see below); or the sleeping landsquenet of Dürer (could not find an image of it) with the back of the horse in the image befor the last,...



I will stop here, just one more thing: The term "Bilderbogen" (picture sheet)  that was used by Aicher himself to describe his cycle refers to a certain medium of prints that is to be found since the Middle Ages and is to be seen as a "precursor" of the modern comic strip. In the early times picture sheets told mostly stories of the Bible always in a combination of image and (little) text, so that the illiterate population was able to understand the story and its meaning. Later, in the 16th century, benefited by the invention of (letter) printing, these popular graphics also showed profane topics, reported about executions, and other political events. In 19th century Germany these picture sheets were re-discovered as a possibility to educate the lower classes by presenting them with informative topics to increase their common knowledge and to educate their aesthetic sense with images of high quality . Here a few examples:


Münchener Bilderbogen, Nr. 248,
Wilhelm Busch, Der kleine Maler mit der großen Mappe

or


Wiener Bilderbogen für Schule und Haus, Nr. 8, 1897.
Alexander Pock, Der Wolf und die sieben jungen Geißlein.


Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
baleanoptera
Oct. 2nd, 2007 10:20 am (UTC)
These are absolutely gorgeous!

I especially like how some of the images are structured after colour-defined panels. It is reminiscent of how medieval imagery created perspective.

Furthermore I like how Aicher's pictures mimic both the "bilderbogen", but I'll admit that his images also reminds me of mosaics. Both with the aforementioned use of perspective that does it, but also with his technique. In short these images are fascinating - I'll add to memories right away. Thank you for posting!

Ps. these images remind me a bit of a Norwegian painter/illustrator called Gerhard Munthe. he worked in the Jugend-style, but had the same medieval, iconographic inspiration. I'll see if I can find some pictures of him and do a post. Among other things he illustrated the old Norse sagas.
schionatulander
Oct. 4th, 2007 06:41 am (UTC)
Aren't they? I love them too!

I did not think about mosaics (do not know so many), but I agree completely with the perspective. I was most surprised and thrilled to see how much research he had done to do these panels. The people are recognisable because he modelled their faces/profiles after medieval portraits. The few image quotes I mention above add to this, and also the perspective. And nonetheless these panels look very modern. It's like he chose a medieval "modus" for a modern style. And that's brilliant.

Thanks for the link to Munthe. I think I came across him first in connection with the Scherrebeker tapestry company.. But googled him for more pictures and liked his work instantly! He seems to have done a lot of tapestries, though, very graphically designed. Did you have a special picture in mind?
baleanoptera
Oct. 8th, 2007 04:40 pm (UTC)
It's like he chose a medieval "modus" for a modern style. And that's brilliant.

yes, that's exactly it. And the modernisation is both in the composition as well as the colours. The more I look at these pictures, the more I like them.

But googled him for more pictures and liked his work instantly!

Munthe is extremely interesting! I thought I had some pictures of him, as I wanted to do a post, but I cannot find them! Whaaa! Hopefully they are on the harddisc somewhere.
At any rate - Munthe worked with a lot of materials. He didn't weave much himself, but his wife was a weaver and so he created a lot of patterns for weaving. he was inspired by Norwegian folklore, legends, folkmusic and art - all while being very interested in the idea of the Gesamtkunswerk and Jugend stil.

He was also responsible for illustrating the Old Norse King sagas - and his illustrations there are now so closely linked to the sagas that new saga editions still have his illustrations in them.
schionatulander
Oct. 9th, 2007 12:32 pm (UTC)
That sounds fascinating. I will have to look whether I can find a copy of these sagas with his illustrations then!

By the way: Do you know any good books on Norwegian/Scandinavian art that are at least in English? I bought a book on Scandinavian Art around 1900 by Rudolf Zeitler, I haven't started yet, but I have the feeling that I might not be at all satisfied...
baleanoptera
Jul. 26th, 2008 11:27 am (UTC)
Now this can only qualify as a late reply - but if you are interested in checking out early and medieval Scandinavian art (in other words the Stavechurches and so forth) I would recommend Peter Anker's two volume work "The Art of Scandinavia", 1970 Hamlyn Publishing group. They are available in French as well, as L'Art Scandinave, 1969 Zodiaque La Pierre-qui-Vire, France. I just finished reading them, and I would say they offer a better introduction to that subject than many of the more modern books.

I'm still trying to find books on 19th Century art, but the only ones not in Norwegian are about Munch.
schionatulander
Jul. 28th, 2008 05:00 pm (UTC)
Thanks a lot!! I add it to my "must-read"-list... :-)
sunnyskywalker
Oct. 10th, 2007 05:28 pm (UTC)
here through baleanoptera
These are fascinating! I don't know a whole lot about art history, but I can see the medieval influence in those pieces, and I love the modern interpretation of them. The colors alone are gorgeous even in these tiny reproductions. And I didn't know about the Bilderbogen!

I love learning about art from baleanoptera and her friends :D
schionatulander
Oct. 11th, 2007 06:56 am (UTC)
Re: here through baleanoptera
Glad you liked them!! I was completely fascinated by the brilliant colours of the originals. They were so luminous even in the rather dark exhibition room. And I really had not expected the artist to do so much research on the iconography of his topic. Ah well, I could just start to babble again how adoring they are...
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )