Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Bauhaus Bird Paradise of Carl Ernst Hinkefuss

by Stephen J. Gertz


In 1929, graphic designer Carl Ernst Hinkefuss (1881-1970) published, Mein Vogel Paradies (My Bird Paradise), a tie-bound modern block book for children featuring stunning color lithographs depicting abstracted forms of birds reduced to their fundamental forms, accompanied by verse about each individual bird, both text (printed in silver ink) and images printed on black paper. A two-page introduction by Hinkefuss encourages children to create their own pictures based upon his simple designs.


Carl Ernst Hinkefuss was a popular Bauhaus illustrator known for modernist graphic design work that integrated art with commercial values. He did a great deal of advertising design for Hamburg Amerika oceanliners. Hinkefuss was also the editor of the design periodical Qualität, 1920-1932.


He "trained as a painter, graphic artist, and architect at the Königliche Kunstschule and the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin at the turn of the century. While still a student, Hinkefuss became interested in the idea of artists collaborating with the business world, and after graduation he became a commercial graphic designer. From 1905 to early 1910, he worked in the advertising and publicity departments of several firms in Berlin and Dessau, and then later in 1910 set out as an independent publicist in Berlin" (Online Archive of California). 

He ultimately partnered with Wilhelm Deffke (1887-1950) in Wilhemwerk, their commercial design house.

Prospectus for Mein Vogel Paradies, 1929.

According to the prospectus for the book, it was produced using a fifteen color offset-lithography process. The prospectus also mentions a gift box but, apparently, it was never produced; no copies in a publisher's gift box have ever been seen.

Mein Vogel Paradies is an extremely rare book. OCLC/KVK note only four copies in institutional holdings worldwide. According to the ABPC Index, 1923-2011, no copies have ever come to auction. Fine copies, if you can find them, now sell in the low five figures.
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HINKEFUSS, Carl Ernst. Mein Vogel Paradies. Gesamtwerk von Karl Ernst Hinkefuss. [Berlin: Verlag International GMBH / Internationale Propaganda für Qualitatserzeugnisse], 1929. First edition, limited to 1500 copies signed by the artist. Quarto (11 5/8 x 8 1/4 in.). [14]  leaves on black paper printed in silver and fourteen other colors. Color lithographs. Color pictorial wrappers side-stitched with black string.
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Book images courtesy of Aleph-Bet Books, with our thanks.

Image of prospectus courtesy of Wilhelmwerke, with our appreciation.
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