Heinz Edelmann 1934-2009


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Heinz Edelmann, March 2006

I’m very sad to write that one of the truly great illustrators of the 20th century passed away today: Heinz Edelmann.

Most famous for his design of the Yellow Submarine characters and conception of a number of key scenes in the film, Heinz had a truly remarkable career as an image maker spanning the early 1960s until just a couple years ago. His talent lay in combining rigorous conceptual thinking with gestural mark making and a late modernist, playful sense of graphic design. He could draw in a delicate outline or a slashing brushstroke, but whatever it was was always adapted to the individual problem he was trying to solve. In this his guiding lights were Picasso and Steinberg, and his peers in late 20th century illustration include Milton Glaser and Tadanori Yokoo, though he surely would have dismissed such a comparison as overly generous. Amongst his achievements are an amazing series of posters he both drew and designed, hundreds of book cover designs, and scores of illustrations for the German edition of JRR Tolkien’s books. The latter series was excerpted in The Ganzfeld 7 and a sampling of the former can be seen here. He was also a very well regarded teacher at Stuttgart’s Academy of Fine Arts. One of his finest pupils, the illustrator/designer Christoph Niemann, wrote a great tribute for Graphis some years back.

Illustration for Twen, circa 1968

Newspaper illustration, circa early 1990s.

In 2006 I spent a couple of wonderful days in Amsterdam interviewing Heinz about his life and work. He was a true gentleman with a delightfully wry sense of humor and an honest humility. I had a great weekend with him and his wife Anna, as well as their daughter Valentine. They welcomed me so warmly and allowed almost a dozen hours of Heinz’s time. Heinz had a lot to say about his work, the medium in general, and the history of image making in the 20th century. Those conversations will see print one of these days, though now I of course wish it had been much sooner. He was never less than brilliant. I’ll miss knowing he was out there — a beacon of intelligence, morality and aesthetic quality. Rest in peace, Heinz.

Early 1970s ad for Tolkien books.


One Response to “Heinz Edelmann 1934-2009”
  1. Anonymous says:

    If you have any more of Heinz Edelmann's pages from Twen, I would love to see them.

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