Monday, 3 October 2011
Tales from ebay: Otto Krebs
Out of interest, a couple of small colour woodcuts by the Swiss maker of ex libris, Otto Krebs (1870 - 1955). There were one or two artists making bookplates using colour woodcut in Switzerland early in C20th. All of them were pretty good but I have to admit Krebs work hadn't made much of an impression untill now. The Dutch dealer sur-sum, who has these two prints for sale, nevertheless can come up with some fairly impressive prices - but then these works are for specialist collectors. (That isn't to say that sur-sum isn't affordable and I have had one or two nice things from him). But the Schneider plate has an asking price of about £50 (it's in US dollars). The Goldman is about £28 which is not such a bad price for what is, after all, a subtle piece of work - the varying greens are striking. That said, the Schneider is just as good as some British colour printers (if not better) - Phillip Needell images of Chateau Gaillard and Corfe Castle come to mind and even some of Isabel de B Lockyer's landscapes. The seller has these down as circa 1910 and I know he is knowledgeable about these things. But for most of us these images will actually be just too small for all their skill.
What lets them down are two things: the borders and the lettering. They in no way compare to Alfred Peter's borders which are as good as the images themselves and are always well-integrated. I have one treasured little piece where the image is surrounded by large feathers. With Peter, less is also more. Perhaps Krebs felt the need to set off the complex landscapes with rather severe and uncompromising surrounds. It's when artists make good use of simple devices and three or four colours, as both Peter and Fritz Mock did, that you know just how good they are. But here, for Herr Schneider, it's the detail, of course, that appeals.