Friday, December 30, 2005

Meggendorfer Whimsy : Pop-Ups & Sketchbook

Lothar Meggendorfer (1847-1925) grew up in Munich as the youngest of 25 children (2 marriages) . He originallly worked as an illustrator for the satirical magazines Fliegende Blätter and Münchener Bilderbogen but eventually founded the long running Meggendorfer Blätter. He would also illustrate more than 100 children's books.

He is best known however for the ingenious movable (pop-up or toy) books which he took to a new level of sophisticated construction. His first effort, Lebende Bilder was a Christmas gift for his own son but was eventually published in 1878. His books included tab movement, stand-up panoramas and revolving plates, but for all their mechanical complexity his work always displayed comedic situations. Needless to say these new and amazing books were enthusiastically received by the general public. Perhaps it was such enthusiasm that prompted him to add a verse to one of his publications telling children to treat his movable books gently.

There are many websites around with material by Meggendorfer. I had been looking at the book with the Punchinello-like image above when I started searching. I have to say that I was thoroughly enchanted by his original sketchbook. Whimsical scribbles, penetrating caricatures and test book sketches brought not only a smile to my face but had me wondering if and where the matured illustration(s) might be found. I was also turning pages expectantly, hoping that one of the little characters such as the piano player above would reappear (as it did) again and again. Maybe it's the holiday season that has me more than usually appreciative of Meggendorf's benign but insightful humour. He seems like somebody I would love to have met.

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