Traces of the Hand: Master Drawings from the Collection of Frederick and Lucy S. Herman
Andreas Paul Weber
Owl Drinking Tea in an Armchair (recto); Deer in a Jacket from Behind (verso), n.d.
Pen and ink on wove paper
10 5/8 x 7 1/16 in, 27 x 18 cm (sheet)
Inscription: (recto) signature: "A. Paul Weber"
Gift of The Frederick and Lucy S. Herman Foundation, 2007.15.81
Although serious political images and social satire dominate A. Paul Weber’s six-decade-long oeuvre, his playful drawings of animals lend a refreshing humor to his art. The prolific German artist is most recognized for his political activism and illustrations for the Widerstands-Verlag (Resistance Press) opposing Hitler. This aspect of his work emphasizes social commentary, political criticism, militarism, and concerns about environmental pollution. It reflects his anxiety about technological advances and his skepticism of twentieth-century political leadership. In contrast to his darker images, in the post-war years Weber focused on the depiction of animals. This category of his work includes humorous social satires and images intended to amuse children.
Weber’s personification of animals continued in the tradition of Aesop’s Fables, portraying sometimes disturbingly human characteristics. Additionally, he produced drawings following the popular tales by Beatrix Potter (1866–1943) and animations by Walt Disney (1901–1966). Weber’s interest in his natural surroundings began during his boyhood participation in the Jungwandervogel, a community that fostered appreciation for the outdoors through hiking.2 This attentiveness to the natural world reappeared in his intricate visual representations of animals in the 1950s, when he prepared numerous comical drawings of animals aimed at young audiences. These were intended for the Bergedorfer Lichtwark-Kalendar, a popular children’s calendar published by the Lichtwark Foundation.3 These playful animal drawings mildly caricature human behavior, conveying an overall sweet and charming mood.
Perhaps a sketch for the Kalendar, Weber’s Owl Drinking fits into this light-hearted category of his work; the lively owl clearly appears as one of Weber’s favored themes during the time. The nocturnal bird, occupying his wings with a large cup of tea, characterizes a person snuggling into a comfortable chair with a blanket. The deer, depicted on the verso, emerges far less often in the artist’s drawings. The deer runs away from the viewer, dressed in a morning coat and shoes, and he carries a parcel under his arm. Large antlers stem from the deer’s head, and his tail playfully swings from under the jacket. The overall image seems slightly more satirical than the cozy owl, perhaps suggesting an overlap between his animal drawings for children and those for mature audiences.
1. The Johannot paper mill has been active since the early 19th century in Annonay, France and continues to make and widely disseminate its paper. Dard Hunter, Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, New York, 1943; reprint, New York, 1978.
2. "Biography," A. Paul Weber Museum (Lynet Kommunication, 2008).
3.Helmut Schumacher and Klaus J. Dorsch. A. Paul Weber: Leben und Werk in Texten und Bildern (Hamburg: Mittler, 2003); and "Die possierlichen Tierbilder," A. Paul Weber Museum (Lynet Kommunication, 2008) (accessed March 15, 2010).