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Mixing Pop Art and Political Criticism: Heinz Edelmann’s Artwork for Children

Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer

Résumé

Heinz Edelmann (1934-2009), a German illustrator and designer, is probably best known as the art director of the Beatles’ animated film Yellow Submarine (1968). Less well-known are the three picturebooks he illustrated for children, which are influenced by the Pop Art movement. The large-sized picturebooks Maicki Astromaus (1970) and Andromedar SR1 (1970) refer to the science fiction genre and reveal a critical attitude towards the contemporary political and economic situation. Kathrinchen ging spazieren (1973), by contrast, is a picturebook story with nonsensical verses by the East German playwright Peter Hacks and subliminally refers to the causes of consumerism and careless wishes. A comparative analysis of these picturebooks demonstrates that Edelmann’s illustrations in combination with the accompanying texts are significant examples of the political, cultural, and societal upheaval that can be found in German children’s literature of the ‘68’ period.

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Introduction: Heinz Edelmann, art director, graphic designer, and picturebook artist

  • 1 On Edelmann’s graphic design and book covers, see Wolfgang Kermer (ed), Zwischen Buch-Kunst und Buc (...)
  • 2 The artistic style of the movie is similar to the specific style developed by Push Pin studio. Whil (...)

1The Beatles animation film The Yellow Submarine (1968), the first full length feature cartoon produced in the UK after the successful Animal Farm (1954), paved the way for the international career of the German designer and illustrator Heinz Edelmann. Born in Aussig, Czechoslovakia, in 1934, Edelmann studied print making at Düsseldorf Arts Academy (1953-1959). He earned his living as a freelance illustrator and designer for advertising companies and theater posters. From 1961-1969 he created the covers for the youth magazine twen. After having completed the work on the Beatles film, Edelmann settled in London as a partner of small animation studios. Due to a lack of demand, he moved to The Hague in 1970 and focused on the creation of book jackets and film posters. From 1972 onwards, he taught industrial graphic design at Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences and was appointed professor of illustration at the State Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart in 1989.1 In 1992 he won the competition for the mascot for the World Fair Exposition in Seville for his design of a plump bird with a rainbow plume and a conical beak. When Edelmann passed away in Stuttgart in 2009, several obituaries appeared in newspapers in Germany, but also in the UK and the USA, celebrating his artistic genius. Unsurprisingly they all focused on the author Edelmann’s seminal role in the creation of the Beatles film, as thanks to its innovative design and psychedelic landscape2 the film was a great success, appealing to children and teenagers as well as adults.

  • 3 Horst Künnemann briefly mentions Edelmann in his survey on contemporary picturebooks; see Horst Kün (...)
  • 4 Gertraud Middelhauve sold the publishing house in 1990. The original illustrations are stored in th (...)
  • 5 On the German picturebook market, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag opened the door for the sophisticated (...)

2However, while the Beatles film is still a part of the popular cultural memory and a cornerstone of Edelmann’s artistic oeuvre, his picturebooks for children have been completely forgotten,3 even though they were praised as beautifully designed artworks at the time. They were published by Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, one of the leading publishers of modernist children’s literature at that time.4 Gertraud Middelhauve translated and published a couple of picturebooks originally published by Harlin Quist.5 What these picturebooks have in common is their unusual artistic style, inspired by the Pop Art movement. Gertraud Middelhauve then began to look for German authors and illustrators who could create similarly experimental and innovative picturebooks to rival the children’s books produced by Harlin Quist. Among the artists that Gertraud Middelhauve recruited to help her carry out this project, Heinz Edelmann played a crucial role, as he remained faithful to the publisher for a quite long time, producing illustrations of covers for children’s novels as well as creating three visually inventive picturebooks. What distinguishes Edelmann from the few German picturebook-makers who also created Pop Art picturebooks at around the same time is the fact that he further developed his own art style. He created unique picturebooks, whose artistic techniques, typography, and graphic design changed from one book to another. While his poster art informed his picturebook illustrations, Edelmann referenced famous Pop Art artists of his time, in this way establishing a connection between art for adults and art for children. Moreover, he made important contributions to the debate on the political validity of books for children. And, as the following investigation will show, Edelmann was particularly interested in ecological matters, which set him apart from the majority of radical and leftist children’s book authors and illustrators involved in the ’68 movement.

3Hence, in this essay I will analyze the close relationship between text and images in three picturebooks illustrated by Heinz Edelmann by focusing on the impact of Pop Art on the construction of the visuals and the text as well as on the inherent critical stances on the current political, social, and economic situation. To answer these questions, we must first define what we understand by the term Pop Art.

What is Pop Art?

  • 6 Marco Livingstone, Pop Art: A Continuing History, London, Thames and Hudson, 2000; esp. p. 15ff.

4Since the sources and the development of Pop Art are as varied as the works ascribed to this label, the notion of Pop Art, although a common term in art history and art criticism, is far from being easily definable.6 Many Pop Art artists refused being labeled as members of this art movement, despite the fact that they were aware of the historical context in which they created their artworks. There is at least consensus that Pop Art emerged as a reaction to the predominance of abstract art that governed the European and American art schools after the Second World War. Moreover, some of the prominent characteristics of Pop Art were anticipated in different Avant-garde movements, such as Cubism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. The Cubist and Dadaist collages blazed the trail for the use of found imagery in Pop Art, while Surrealism and Pop Art share an interest in psychoanalysis and the influence of dreams on the artists’ creative power. Particularly the surrealist paintings by René Magritte anticipated Pop Art in their fundamental questioning of the strict border between object and image.

  • 7 See Lawrence Alloway, “Popular Culture and Pop Art”, Steven Henry Madoff (ed), Pop Art. A Critical (...)

5Moreover, Pop Art tends to borrow from existing imagery from mass culture, preferably from advertising, comic strips, movies, photography, and other mass media sources.7 Key features of Pop Art are the aspiration to artistically convey novel ways of perception, as for instance the psychedelic experiences evoked by the consumption of drugs. Other issues linked to Pop Art are a preference for unmodulated and bold colors, an interest in areas of popular taste, including trash culture, and the focus on contemporary subjects. As a whole, Pop Art represented a rebellion against a categorical set of artistic conventions, inevitably leading to a permanent openness to new ideas which contradicted rigid restriction to a well-defined art movement.

  • 8 Werner Spies, From Pop Art to the Present, New York, Abrams, 2011.

6With precursors at the end of the 1950s, Pop Art quickly expanded throughout the world via reproductions of their artworks on posters, cards, and other mass market products. While the emergence of Pop Art seems to have taken place simultaneously in the UK and the USA, it quickly spread to many European countries, such as France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, and even beyond. The iconic paintings created by Peter Blake, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol have shaped our image of Pop Art up to the present.8 Numerous exhibitions, catalogues, and research monographs have been dedicated to the investigation of Pop Art, and the different art forms it has taken, including paintings, sculpture, graphic design, book design, and disc labels. However, it is hardly known that prominent artists, such as Peter Blake, Étienne Delessert, Peter Max, and Andy Warhol, created Pop Art picturebooks for children, and famous authors, such as Marguerite Duras and Eugène Ionesco, wrote the texts for these books. While some of these picturebooks had large print runs at that time, they have been almost completely forgotten nowadays, a fate which also met the picturebooks illustrated by Heinz Edelmann.

Heinz Edelmann’s Picturebooks for Children

  • 9 Hans Stempel, Martin Ripkens, Andromedar SR1, ill. Heinz Edelmann, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verla (...)

7Edelmann entered the picturebook market with Andromedar SR1 (1970),9 whose large-sized format, typographical experiments, strange story, and lavishly colored illustrations gave readers much food for thought (ill. 1). The text was written by Hans Stempel and Martin Ripkens, who had both lost their jobs (in the press and publishing, respectively) after they revealed their homosexuality. They went on to work as film critics in Munich, where they met Edelmann, about whom they produced a documentary. Their cooperation on the film project led them to create a picturebook together with Edelmann, which inspired Stempel and Ripkens to write ten books for children in the following years. Andromedar SR1 was praised as one of the most beautiful books by the German publishers and booksellers Association in 1970 and also awarded an honorary prize by Premio Grafico the same year.

Ill. 1: Book cover of Hans Stempel, Martin Ripkens, Andromedar SR1, ill. Heinz Edelmann, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1970.

8The title refers to a rocket called “Andromeda,” while “SR1” is an abbreviation of “Super Rocket 1.” The rocket was damaged during its construction and as a result has a noticeable bump, so its original name was slightly changed in order to indicate its likeness to a dromedary. The story unfolds as a rich octopus tycoon sends two astronauts with the rocket on a mission to the planet Mars.

Ill. 2: The octopus sends the two astronauts on a mission to the planet Mars. Illustration by Heinz Edelmann from Hans Stempel, Martin Ripkens, Andromedar SR1, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1970.

9He orders them to collect the blue cobalt flowers that cover the planet’s surface. While the octopus pretends to have a scientific interest in the mission, in fact he covets the precious jewels hidden within the calyxes. When the astronauts finally land on Mars, they are given a friendly welcome by the Mars mice and their king.

Ill. 3: The Mars mice and their king welcome the two astronauts. Illustration by Heinz Edelmann from Hans Stempel, Martin Ripkens, Andromedar SR1, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1970.

10Neither the sinister octopus’ “emotional organ” nor his light canon may afflict the joyful mice. The astronauts, after having swallowed a number of “courage pills,” return to earth without the cobalt flowers. Instead, they outsmart the greedy octopus by presenting him nine nicely packed parcels with cans. Since the eight-armed octopus wants to simultaneously grasp the parcels, his arms get tightly knotted, which sends the spectators into fits of laughter. Together with the astronauts they dance around the helpless octopus by singing a song about the power of nature and imagination.

11The nonsensical story combines the contemporary interest in the exploration of the universe – the Apollo 11 mission has been successfully accomplished in 1969 – with an allegorical critique of the exploitation of the cosmos by capitalist interests. The octopus with his eight arms symbolically represents the greediness of capitalism, in stark contrast to the population on Mars. Although the form of government on Mars is a monarchy, the king does not show any aspiration in repressing his subjects, quite the contrary; he openly joins in the general play, dance, and singing. The attire and demeanor of the mice refer to the fashion of the “flower people” or hippie generation. With the support of the astronauts, they finally overcome the octopus and introduce a new lifestyle on earth.

12Besides its critical attitude, the story is replete with mixed-up intertextual references, which reveal a humorous note. The astronauts are called Castrop and Rauxel after a German city with the name of Castrop-Rauxel, but the names of the twin-like astronauts may also be interpreted as a garbled reference to the stellar constellation of Castor and Pollux. The organ plays a song about Tarzan and Isolde, thus mixing the names of a couple from a popular adventure story with another one from a medieval epic poem. A specific song mentions the “White Giant,” which is an allusion to a then-popular washing powder. Beneath or besides the illustrations, the authors have added short texts in a smaller font and size that explain the content of the images in a matter-of-fact style, in marked contrast with the nonsensical and mocking main text.

Ill. 4: The two astronauts in their space shuttle. This image shows the influence of the Yellow Submarine movie as well as Japanese graphic art. Illustration by Heinz Edelmann from Hans Stempel, Martin Ripkens, Andromedar SR1, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1970.

  • 10 See Manuel Gasser, “Heinz Edelmann”, Graphis 166 (1973), p. 118-138.
  • 11 As for strangeness as a minor aesthetic category in Pop Art picturebooks, see Bettina Kümmerling-Me (...)

13Edelmann’s illustrations were clearly influenced by the art design he developed for The Yellow Submarine. The stylized Neo-Art Nouveau manner of the movie directly flows into the picturebook images. It is obvious that Edelmann borrowed from Japanese graphic art, which is particularly evident in the line drawings (ill. 4). Each doublespread created in full color is followed by a doublespread with black-and-white illustrations. Populated by humans and queer beasts and placed into a psychedelic landscape, the color scheme is dominated by vibrant colors, such as Prussian blue, raspberry red, and canary yellow, which contrast with the inky black of the octopus. While the bigger surfaces are covered by unmodulated colors, some smaller sections are modulated in watercolors. As Edelmann once stated in an interview, he was captivated by the paintings of William Turner in the Tate Gallery in London and attempted to include Turner’s skillful rendering of water, air, and the blurring landscape into his animation movie.10 He returned to this artistic strategy once more in the picturebook, thus underscoring the story’s dreamlike atmosphere. Particularly striking is the depiction of the eyes of the characters, whether human or animal. They either stare wide-eyed or squint shyly, but always give the impression of a hypnotic look – a characteristic that distinguishes almost all artwork by the artist. This weird representation of the eyes matches with the grotesque figures and the unusual color scheme, thus defamiliarizing the story and attributing the impression of strangeness to the characters.11

14Strangeness as a minor aesthetic category refers to the potential reception strategies children may face when confronted with unusual topics and illustrative styles. Pop Art gained access to art galleries and museums in the middle of the 1960s, and it entered the picturebook medium towards the end of the 1960s. The combination of this new artistic style with nonsensical stories, which reveal a sharp critical stance on closer reading, challenges child readers on multiple respects. While children may still be accustomed to nonsense via nonsensical poems and stories, they definitely have no knowledge about Pop Art, let alone the connection between this artistic style and the accompanying enigmatic stories. In this regard, Edelmann’s picturebook can be classified as “strange,” as it transgresses boundaries of common ideals of childhood and the functions of children’s literature.

15The author-illustrator team of Andromedar SR1 based their decision to create a Pop Art picturebook on a specific image of childhood. They evidently believed that children – in contrast to most adults – have an openness to new experiences and could therefore easily access the inherent messages of the text-picture relationships. These ideas were often expressed in the blurbs, prefaces, and afterwords of Pop Art picturebooks as well as other radical children’s books inspired by the ‘68’ movement, but these paratexts are missing in the picturebooks illustrated by Edelmann. One may speculate whether Edelmann and his co-authors took understanding of the critical messages for granted or whether they did not care much about this issue. Nevertheless, it is safe to say that Andromedar SR1 addresses children and adult co-readers alike, as the intertextual and interpictorial allusions mostly go beyond the knowledge that could be expected of a child. Alternatively, the fairytale-like story, the outer-space setting, and the references to the trickster tale are easier to understand for a child audience, and thus potentially more appealing to the intended target group. Another reason for this picturebook’s attractiveness for younger and older readers is the close connection with Edelmann’s animation film The Yellow Submarine. People who have watched the movie could recognize the artistic style in the illustrations as well as the references to the ecological and political messages expressed in the film.

  • 12 Fredric Brown, Maicki Astromaus, transl. Uwe Friesel, ill. Heinz Edelmann, Köln, Gertraud Middelhau (...)
  • 13 On this picturebook, see also Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer, “Just what is it that makes Pop Art pict (...)

16The interest in potential alien societies in outer space resurges in Edelmann’s next picturebook, Maicki Astromaus (1970)12. In line with Edelmann’s decision to change his graphic design to avoid being pigeonholed as a psychedelic artist, this picturebook adopts a different design ethos and a much darker color scheme. The picturebook narrative refers to a short story, The Star Mouse (1941), by the American science fiction author Fredric Brown. The idea for the slightly changed German title goes back to a suggestion by the Austrian poet H. C. Artmann and refers to the famous comic character Mickey Mouse. Hence, the book title is a fusion of two intertextual references to American pop culture.13

Ill. 5: book cover of Fredric Brown, Maicki Astromaus, transl. Uwe Friesel, ill. Heinz Edelmann, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1970.

17Unusually, the book cover (ill. 5) consists of a long text that introduces the main characters and announces the names of the authors, illustrator, and publisher:

Hello! My name is Klarloth, I am 1 ½ centimeters tall (you can verify this here), black, and a professor. There is another professor in this book, Professor Oberburger, who lives on earth. But most of all this is the story of the mouse Maicki, who is supposed to fly to the stars. Every word in this book is true. Fredric Brown has written everything down as it happened then, Uwe Friesel has narrated the story for children, and Heinz Edelmann has created some drawings. The book has been published by Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, and its title, of course, is Maicki Astromaus. (my translation)

18The book title is underlined with small lines in the colors of the rainbow. A small black figure is inserted between the first and second sentence, whose appearance is a hybrid mixture of a sea lion and a human hand with an outstretched forefinger.

19The composition of text and illustrations refers to Edelmann’s experimental design, which consists of four different typographies in various sizes. Each chapter begins with a number printed in bold typography, while each paragraph is indented with a black arrow. The story is printed on the left pages, while the right pages feature lavishly colored visuals. Underneath each image a short text is printed that describes the content of the illustration. This text does not belong to Brown’s original story but had been added by the German translator Uwe Friesel.

20Following the plot developed by Brown, the story centers on Professor Oberburger, who manages to send the first rocket ship to the moon with Maicki as a passenger. What he does not foresee is the fact that the rocket eventually lands on an asteroid that is inhabited by an intelligent race of tiny beings. While spending 15 months there, Maicki is lifted to a human intelligence level, and is therefore able to inform the aliens about the actual state of human civilization.

21When Maicki finally returns to earth, he is provided with two gifts: human speech and the ability to design machines that may uplift other mice. The aliens thus hope that two warring species at similar intelligence levels will neutralize the threat that earth poses to their own population. Maicki then proposes a deal to Professor Oberburger: in exchange for the promise to help humans to get rid of the rats, the continent of Australia should be conceded to the mice. However, as Maicki realizes that his wife Minnie has been encaged, he rushes to meet her but accidentally comes in contact with the electric fence surrounding the cage. Consequently, he loses the faculty of speech as well as his memories of the space travel, and goes back to being a normal mouse again.

Ill. 6: Maicki vanishes into the mouse hole. Illustration by Heinz Edelmann from Fredric Brown, Maicki Astromaus, transl. Uwe Friesel, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve, 1970.

  • 14 See Manuel Gasser, (1973), p. 120.

22This anticlimactic ending is typical of the narrative structure of many Pop Art picturebooks of that time. The satirical intention of the original story has been kept but slightly adjusted to the child audience. Nevertheless, the inherent messages are still demanding and are in tune with the critical attitude of contemporaries towards the alleged omniscience of natural scientists and the human hubris of regarding mankind as a potential master of the universe. This attitude is in line with Edelmann’s own impression as he regarded contemporary society as sinister and menacing.14 This rather pessimistic view is mirrored in the illustrations, which have a darker color scheme and differ from the vibrant and joyful visuals in Edelmann’s earlier picturebook. The images display the artist’s masterful handling of different artistic techniques and styles, ranging from photographic realism, Far Eastern brushwork, reference to primitivism, and illustrations that imitate childish scrawl to delicate drawings in the manner of the classical tradition (Grasser 1973, 119).

Ill. 7: Professor Oberburger in his office. Illustration by Heinz Edelmann from Fredric Brown, Maicki Astromaus, transl. Uwe Friesel, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve, 1970.

23A typical image from this book is of Professor Oberburger, shown in profile and sitting on a chair (ill. 7). His body consists of a smooth surface colored in a brilliant blue reminiscent of the paintings of Yves Klein. Only his face with the whiskers and the glasses and part of one ear are rendered in a pinkish color. The background is colored in unmodulated green without any references to furniture or a room. The upper third of this image shows a lighter green surface onto which crude brushstrokes in yellow, white, and orange appear. This illustration reminds us of the famous paintings by Pop Art artist David Hockney depicts Professor Oberburger contemplating his imminent research project, while the sunbeams announce the arrival of a new day.

  • 15 Timothy, Scott Brown, West Germany and the Global Sixties: The Anti-authoritarian Revolt, 1962-1978 (...)

24The ensuing images vary regarding the use of artistic styles with references to mass culture, the Pop Art artworks by Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol, and natural scientific drawings, thus creating a picturebook that combines diverse techniques in a collage-like manner. The humorous story about Maicki is complemented by illustrations that emphasize the critical message of the text. While media, advertising, and consumption dominate life on earth, the aliens in outer space represent an advanced species that surpasses the intellectual and moral capacities of mankind in various respects. The close connection to the anti-authoritarian movement in Germany at the end of the 1960s is evident, as this picturebook encourages the child reader to reflect critically on the norms and demands dictated by society.15

Ill. 8: book cover of Peter Hacks, Kathrinchen ging spazieren, ills. Heinz Edelmann, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1973.

  • 16 Peter Hacks, Kathrinchen ging spazieren, ill. Heinz Edelmann, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 19 (...)

25Kathrinchen ging spazieren (Little Kate Went for a Walk, 1973),16 with verses by the renowned GDR playwright Peter Hacks (1928-2003), is another nonsensical story for which Edelmann provided illustrations that stress the grotesque character of the plot (ill. 8). The girl Kathrinchen wanders through a strange landscape populated by weird insects and small animals. She accidentally frees a magician from a pea in which he was imprisoned. As a reward the magician grants the girl twelve wishes. The events follow Kathrinchen’s wishes, for instance, hats to grow on trees, to run as fast as a hare, a coal-scuttle to walk, a female statue having a beard, to attend a crocodile’s wedding in Africa (ill. 9), and to fly to the moon.

Ill. 9: Kathrinchen attends a crocodile’s wedding. Illustration by Heinz Edelmann from Peter Hacks, Kathrinchen ging spazieren, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1973.

26This absurd chain of events comes to a close when Kathrinchen wishes to be at home again, finally to be found snuggled in her bed. While this ending may indicate that the whole story just represents the girl’s vivid dream, the closing scene in which scholars muse about the strange beard of the female statue on the market square challenges this assumption. The story blends familiar elements from fairy tales with absurd occurrences, culminating in the girl’s trip to the moon. In this eerie place she realizes the fragility of the earth and the interdependence between the preservation of nature and the viability of mankind.

Ill. 10: Kathrinchen on the moon. Illustration by Heinz Edelmann from Peter Hacks, Kathrinchen ging spazieren, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1973.

  • 17 See Lawrence Alloway, (1997), 170.

27The oblong format of the picturebook shows a sequence of two to six pictures on each doublespread with the verses printed underneath. Edelmann here uses strategies borrowed from comics and films by stringing the pictures together in a panel-like structure as well as applying different camera perspectives, such as zoom, long shot, and close-up shot. Moreover, Edelmann uses an artistic strategy that occasionally occurs in Pop Art picturebooks by serially arranging the same or similar objects or figures on the same page. This concept goes back to Andy Warhol’s well-known paintings that show objects or celebrities in repetition. This main aesthetic principle of Pop Art is inspired by the so-called “aesthetics of boredom”,17 which refers to the pictures’ monotony, the serialization of the same objects, and the depiction of mundane objects. However, Edelmann has applied the principle of serialization to his picturebook in order to build up a contrast between the serial concept and the strange depiction and nonsensical behavior of the animals and figures.

28Moreover, what attracts the reader’s attention are the small pictures inserted within the larger pictures, as can be seen in the illustration that depicts Kathrinchen in a white dress (her first wish) surrounded by oddly dressed bugs, bumblebees, and butterflies, who are attracted by the light color of the dress – as the accompanying verses explains. As in the precedent and subsequent images, Kathrinchen is constantly shown with one leg lifted to emphasize her striding forward movement. Her smiling face indicates that she is not at all frightened by the dancing insects, although they are about half as big as the girl. In the left corner a small image is inserted which depicts a grasshopper with a tiny bumblebee on horseback. While Kathrinchen and most of the dancing insects seem to move in the direction of the right, the grasshopper and the bumblebee have turned their face to the left. It is not clear in which way these two insects are connected with the story about Kathrinchen. They possibly belong to the group of insects that are enticed by the girl. Seen in a sequence, these small pictures seem to tell a second story about the silliness of Kathrinchen’s wishes in relation to the cycle of nature. Instead of considering the utility of her potential wishes, the girl is driven by her immediate desires. None of her wishes grant other people relief or support, quite the contrary; they contribute to the same people’s confusion and even fright. Tellingly, Kathrinchen experiences an immense power, which she uses to satisfy her liking for unforeseen and funny things to happen. The only exception is her trip to the moon, because she then realizes that she does not know anything about the cosmos and the causes for the changing times of the day. After having been instructed about these issues by a light show that resembles a natural science experiment, Kathrinchen yearns to be home and reserves her final two wishes to make this wish come true.

29It is interesting to note that this picturebook was never published in the GDR, although the author, who grew up in West Germany and moved to the GDR in 1955, is one of the best known East German dramatists of the postwar era, whose plays have been performed in West German as well as East German theaters. Peter Hacks also wrote a number of children’s novels and children’s poems, inspired by the nonsense tradition. While the majority of his works for children came out in both German states, Kathrinchen ging spazieren seems to be an exception to this rule. One may ask whether this was by accident or whether East German censors and publishers rejected this picturebook due to the fantastical story and the Pop Art aesthetics. Considering the strict travel restrictions and the shortage of commodities in the GDR, one might speculate whether the responsible authorities in the publishing sector may have taken offence at the little girl’s liberty to wish for whatever she wants and even to travel to the moon.

The Many Facets of Pop Art in Edelmann’s Picturebooks

30As this survey has demonstrated, Heinz Edelmann was a prolific picturebook illustrator, creating three picturebooks in close collaboration with various authors. In terms of the artistic techniques and styles, Edelmann converted his artistic ideas in an astoundingly wide-ranging manner. As a skilled graphic designer, he let his poster art inform the picturebook illustrations. Moreover, he inserts intervisual references to popular Pop Art artists, such as David Hockey, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein. At the same time, he switched between collage, watercolor illustrations, black-and-white drawings, and airbrush. These combinations of different artistic techniques as well as the color scheme, consisting of a mixture of bold and unmodulated colors with blurred and light colors, and the serialization of objects and figures were aesthetic concepts that referred to the then popular Pop Art style. On the whole, Edelmann’s illustrations are characterized by a clash of opposites which was his forte. This impression is achieved by the blend of tender and weird elements in the pictures, which find their complement in the texts.

  • 18 For the concept of radical children’s literature, see Kimberley, Reynolds, Radical Children’s Liter (...)
  • 19 Exceptions to this rule are Heinz Edelmann, Leo Leonhardt, Alfred von Meysenbug, and Jürgen Spohn.
  • 20 To my knowledge, at that time in Germany Burkhard Vernunft picked up this topic in the picturebook (...)

31While the picturebooks Andromedar SR1 and Maicki Astromaus have texts written in prose, Kathrinchen ging spazieren includes verses. However, these three picturebooks develop a second level of meaning by either inserting short texts that describe the illustrations or by including smaller pictures within the illustrations. These texts and smaller pictures tell another story, which is loosely connected with the main stories, but encourage the reader to reflect on the hidden meaning of the picturebook narratives. Despite the absurd storyline and the nonsensical wordplays and verses, the texts adopt a critical stance towards current economical and social issues, mainly in relation to consumerism, the exploitation of nature, and scientific arrogance. The fairytale-like character of the stories turns into a subversive narrative, which engage with political debates in the wake of the 1968 upheaval. In these ways, Edelmann’s picturebooks were in line with the radical children’s literature that emerged at the end of the 1960s/beginning of the 1970s in Germany.18 This was a fruitful period for authors and illustrators driven by anti-authoritarian ideas, who advocated a new political children’s literature. They aspired to radically shift from mainstream children’s books, which they felt failed to engage with the current political, societal, and cultural situations. These new books addressed taboo topics, such as the exploitation of workmen in factories and parental negligence, pointed to current political issues, such as the evolving impact of global institutions on the economic development and the war in Vietnam, and referred to Avant-garde movements, mostly Surrealism, New Realism, and Concept art, whereas Pop Art was not so popular with German illustrators.19 It was not only in this final respect that Edelmann deviated from his peers. He was probably the only German artist to show a deep interest in the relationship between the cosmos and mankind, and to point to the potential dangers the exploitation of the universe may have with regard to ecological, political, and ethical issues.20

  • 21 Humor is a significant issue in children’s literature, however, it has not been investigated in ful (...)
  • 22 Sandra Beckett, Crossover Picturebooks: A Genre for All Ages, New York, Routledge, 2012.

32The anticlimactic and open endings of his picturebook stories emphasize that the alternation between familiarity and alienation is an overarching aesthetic concept of both visuals and texts. In line with other artists who created sophisticated Pop Art picturebooks, such as Nicole Claveloux, Étienne Delessert, Peter Max, and Jürgen Spohn, Edelmann and his co-authors considered the picturebook to be a suitable medium to convey their time-sensitive ideas to a child audience. At the same time, Edelmann’s picturebooks were attractive for adult readers as well, as their subliminal intertextual and interpictorial references most probably transcended children’s world knowledge. In order to convey political issues to a child audience, the authors mixed factual information with fantastic figures and events commonly connected with the fairy tale. Moreover, the funny wordplays and nonsensical story elements added a humorous note to the otherwise sober stories.21 At first glance, then, these picturebooks tell amusing and also somewhat odd stories, on closer examination, they reveal a surprising profundity, that contributes to their crossover appeal. Considering the fact that Edelmann’s picturebooks address taboo topics and appeal to children as well as adults, they match with the criteria of crossover picturebooks, as suggested by Sandra Beckett.22

33On a final note, Edelmann’s picturebooks vividly demonstrate that illustrations in the manner of Pop Art in combination with texts that – despite their nonsensical approach – clearly point to social, economic, and moral issues may foster readers’ political awareness. The unusualness of both the visuals and narratives challenge the reader by asking them to reflect on the underlying messages that govern the picturebook stories. The obvious “strangeness” of these picturebooks creates an effect of alienation, which prevents the reader from getting too immersed in the story, instead forcing them to consider the impact of the subjects addressed in the books on people’s lives.

  • 23 Günter Herburger, Birne kann alles, Neuwied: Luchterhand, 1969.
  • 24 Paul Maar, Eine Woche voller Samstage, Hamburg: Oetinger, 1973.
  • 25 Christine Nöstlinger, Wir pfeifen auf den Gurkenkönig, Weinheim, Basel: Beltz, 1972.
  • 26 Hans Stempel, Martin Ripkens, Andromedar SR1, ill. Heinz Edelmann, New York: Harlin Quist, 1971; Fr (...)

34While just a couple of the anti-authoritarian German books influenced by the 1968-movement became children’s classics, such as Günther Herburger’s Birne kann alles (Pear Can Do Everything, 1971),23 Paul Maar’s Eine Woche voller Samstage (A Week Full of Saturdays, 1973),24 and Christine Nöstlinger’s Wir pfeifen auf den Gurkenkönig (The Cucumber King, 1972),25 many other works are out of print for a long time and fell into oblivion. This also happens with Edelmann’s picturebooks, although Andromedar SR1 and Maicki Astromaus have been showered with awards and came out in English translation with the publisher Harlin Quist.26

  • 27 On the importance of postmodern picturebooks, see Lawrence R. Sipe, Silvia Pantaleo (eds), Postmode (...)

35Nowadays Edelmann’s picturebooks are rare and highly estimated collectibles due to their unusual book format, typography, and attractive illustrations. They testify the pedagogical zeal to introduce children as the future generation to the political as well as artistic aspirations of their time. In the same line, Edelmann and his co-authors successfully achieved to avoid any condescending attitudes; quite the contrary, they regarded children on a par with adults as far as their potential political, ethical and societal awareness is concerned. By deviating from common expectations of what a “good” children’s book should look like, Pop Art picturebooks point to potential novel ways of thinking about the significance and effects of children’s literature. How this procedure possibly has been achieved, has not been fully investigated yet. In this regard, the singular picturebooks by Edelmann deserve an in-depth research, as they had been trailblazers for the surge of the postmodern picturebooks in the 1980s and 1990s.27

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Notes

1 On Edelmann’s graphic design and book covers, see Wolfgang Kermer (ed), Zwischen Buch-Kunst und Buch-Design: Buchgestalter der Akademie und ehemaligen Kunstgewerbeschule in Stuttgart: Werkbeispiele und Texte, Ostfildern, Edition Cantz, 1996.

2 The artistic style of the movie is similar to the specific style developed by Push Pin studio. While one may speculate whether Push Pin had an impact on Edelmann’s artistic development, Art Chantrey maintains that Edelmann “was working in that style even before Push Pin”, see Monica René-Rochester (ed), Art Chantrey Speaks: A Heretic’s History of 20th Century Graphic Design, Port Townsend, Washington, Feral House, 2015, p. 185.

3 Horst Künnemann briefly mentions Edelmann in his survey on contemporary picturebooks; see Horst Künnemann, “Zur Gegenwartssituation”, Klaus Doderer, Helmut Müller (eds), Das Bilderbuch. Geschichte und Entwicklung des Bilderbuchs von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, Basel, Beltz, 1973, p. 395-436.

4 Gertraud Middelhauve sold the publishing house in 1990. The original illustrations are stored in the picturebook museum in Troisdorf, while the copyrights of some books remain with the publisher Beltz & Gelberg.

5 On the German picturebook market, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag opened the door for the sophisticated picturebooks created by the American as well as French artists that appeared in the American publishing house but also in the French branch led by François Ruy-Vidal.

6 Marco Livingstone, Pop Art: A Continuing History, London, Thames and Hudson, 2000; esp. p. 15ff.

7 See Lawrence Alloway, “Popular Culture and Pop Art”, Steven Henry Madoff (ed), Pop Art. A Critical History, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997 (first published 1969), p. 167-174.

8 Werner Spies, From Pop Art to the Present, New York, Abrams, 2011.

9 Hans Stempel, Martin Ripkens, Andromedar SR1, ill. Heinz Edelmann, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1970.

10 See Manuel Gasser, “Heinz Edelmann”, Graphis 166 (1973), p. 118-138.

11 As for strangeness as a minor aesthetic category in Pop Art picturebooks, see Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer, Jörg Meibauer, “On the Strangeness of Pop Art Picturebooks: Pictures, Texts, Paratexts”, New Review of Children’s Literature and Librarianship 72.2 (2011), p. 103-121.

12 Fredric Brown, Maicki Astromaus, transl. Uwe Friesel, ill. Heinz Edelmann, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1970.

13 On this picturebook, see also Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer, “Just what is it that makes Pop Art picturebooks so different, so appealing?”, Elina Druker, Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer (eds), Children’s Literature and the Avant-Garde, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2015, p. 241-265.

14 See Manuel Gasser, (1973), p. 120.

15 Timothy, Scott Brown, West Germany and the Global Sixties: The Anti-authoritarian Revolt, 1962-1978, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013.

16 Peter Hacks, Kathrinchen ging spazieren, ill. Heinz Edelmann, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1973.

17 See Lawrence Alloway, (1997), 170.

18 For the concept of radical children’s literature, see Kimberley, Reynolds, Radical Children’s Literature. Future Visions and Aesthetic Transformations in Juvenile Fiction, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

19 Exceptions to this rule are Heinz Edelmann, Leo Leonhardt, Alfred von Meysenbug, and Jürgen Spohn.

20 To my knowledge, at that time in Germany Burkhard Vernunft picked up this topic in the picturebook Ringelmann schaut sich die Erde an (Ringelmann is Watching the Earth), Hamburg: Broschek Verlag, 1969. The cosmological subject is also in the focus of the picturebooks created by the American Pop Art artist Peter Max, beginning with The Land of Yellow, New York: Franklin Watt, 1970.

21 Humor is a significant issue in children’s literature, however, it has not been investigated in full detail. For a comprehensive survey, see Julie Cross, Humor in Contemporary Junior Literature, New York: Routledge, 2010.

22 Sandra Beckett, Crossover Picturebooks: A Genre for All Ages, New York, Routledge, 2012.

23 Günter Herburger, Birne kann alles, Neuwied: Luchterhand, 1969.

24 Paul Maar, Eine Woche voller Samstage, Hamburg: Oetinger, 1973.

25 Christine Nöstlinger, Wir pfeifen auf den Gurkenkönig, Weinheim, Basel: Beltz, 1972.

26 Hans Stempel, Martin Ripkens, Andromedar SR1, ill. Heinz Edelmann, New York: Harlin Quist, 1971; Frederic Brown, Mitkey Astromouse, ill. Heinz Edelmann, New York: Harlin Quist, 1971.

27 On the importance of postmodern picturebooks, see Lawrence R. Sipe, Silvia Pantaleo (eds), Postmodern Picturebooks. Play, Parody, and Self-Referentiality, New York: Routledge, 2008; Cherie Allan, Playing with Picturebooks. Postmodernism and the Postmodernesque, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

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Table des illustrations

Légende Ill. 1: Book cover of Hans Stempel, Martin Ripkens, Andromedar SR1, ill. Heinz Edelmann, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1970.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1913/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 244k
Légende Ill. 2: The octopus sends the two astronauts on a mission to the planet Mars. Illustration by Heinz Edelmann from Hans Stempel, Martin Ripkens, Andromedar SR1, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1970.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1913/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 1,6M
Légende Ill. 3: The Mars mice and their king welcome the two astronauts. Illustration by Heinz Edelmann from Hans Stempel, Martin Ripkens, Andromedar SR1, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1970.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1913/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 328k
Légende Ill. 4: The two astronauts in their space shuttle. This image shows the influence of the Yellow Submarine movie as well as Japanese graphic art. Illustration by Heinz Edelmann from Hans Stempel, Martin Ripkens, Andromedar SR1, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1970.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1913/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 212k
Légende Ill. 5: book cover of Fredric Brown, Maicki Astromaus, transl. Uwe Friesel, ill. Heinz Edelmann, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1970.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1913/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 196k
Légende Ill. 6: Maicki vanishes into the mouse hole. Illustration by Heinz Edelmann from Fredric Brown, Maicki Astromaus, transl. Uwe Friesel, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve, 1970.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1913/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
Légende Ill. 7: Professor Oberburger in his office. Illustration by Heinz Edelmann from Fredric Brown, Maicki Astromaus, transl. Uwe Friesel, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve, 1970.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1913/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Légende Ill. 8: book cover of Peter Hacks, Kathrinchen ging spazieren, ills. Heinz Edelmann, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1973.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1913/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 148k
Légende Ill. 9: Kathrinchen attends a crocodile’s wedding. Illustration by Heinz Edelmann from Peter Hacks, Kathrinchen ging spazieren, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1973.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1913/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 144k
Légende Ill. 10: Kathrinchen on the moon. Illustration by Heinz Edelmann from Peter Hacks, Kathrinchen ging spazieren, Köln, Gertraud Middelhauve Verlag, 1973.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/docannexe/image/1913/img-10.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 118k
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Référence électronique

Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer, « Mixing Pop Art and Political Criticism: Heinz Edelmann’s Artwork for Children  », Strenæ [En ligne], 13 | 2018, mis en ligne le 15 mai 2018, consulté le 27 mai 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/strenae/1913 ; DOI : 10.4000/strenae.1913

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Auteur

Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer

Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer is a professor in the German Department at the University of Tübingen, Germany. She has been a guest professor at the University of Växjö, Sweden, and the University of Vienna. She has written four books, (co)edited 17 volumes, and published more than 100 articles in the realms of children’s literature, picturebook research, literacy studies, and film studies. She is a co-editor of the book series “Children’s Literature, Culture and Cognition” (John Benjamins) and “Studies in European Children’s and Young Adult Literature” (Universitätsverlag Winter). Her most recent publications are Canon Change and Canon Constitution in Children’s Literature (with A. Müller, Routledge, 2017), Maps and Mapping in Children’s Literature (with N. Goga, John Benjamins, 2017), and The Routledge Companion to Picturebooks (Routledge, 2018).

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