by Eric Verbist (Brussels)
When the second edition of the Kirchner postcard catalogue(*) was published, many collectors must have been quite surprised to discover the newly listed sets K.12 and K.13, representing little children. Drawings of children are indeed rather atypical for Kirchner’s work and from the postcard collector’s point of view, they play a very modest role. Actually, next to the above-mentioned sets, children only appear in a mere handful of cards (for example in the Christmas’ cards D.20-1 & 2 and E.13-2 & 3 and — disguised as winged cupids — in a few of the later cards). Some research into Kirchner’s overall artistic production, however, makes us realize drawings of children do have a place in his work and therefore, this aspect certainly deserves a closer look.
Two not very well-known works that are quite interesting in this respect are part of the Bibliothèque Artistique de la Jeunesse ('Artistic Library for the Young People'), published by Raphaël Tuck et Fils in Paris (an overview of the titles can be consulted at TuckDB). Kirchner contributed to two of these books.
First, there is Contes pour les Enfants ('Tales for Children’, publication date unknown but probably during Kirchner’s Parisian period, before WWI), a book in French for which Kirchner illustrated tales from Voltaire (Zadig), Charles Nodier (Trésor-des-Fèves & Fleur-des-Pois; Le Chien de Brisquet), Alain-René Lesage (Gil Blas & Le Parasite; Les Homélies de l’Archevêque de Grenade) and Hégésippe Moreau (La Souris blanche).
There are 41 drawings in the text and 9 plates in this book. The subject of several of these are children (some examples are shown below). The same book was published with three different cover vignettes none of which is by Kirchner, however, but by the Victorian painter Maud Goodman (1853-1938).
For another volume in Tuck’s Bibliothèque Artistique de la Jeunesse, Marie de Grandmaison’s L’Art de faire des Jouets avec rien! ('The Art of Making Toys with Nothing’, 1906), Kirchner designed a superb cover vignette, featuring two children making their own toys by lamplight. We may assume that the characters of the title on the cover were also drawn by the Viennese artist.
* Raphael Kirchner and his postcards. New Edition, by Pia and Antonio Dell'Aquila, Matilda Editrice, 2020
Last updated on November, 20th, 2022