Thursday, July 12, 2012


I know, it sounds like one of those magic words from Bedknobs & Broomsticks.

Simplicissimus was a satirical German weekly magazine, that ran from 1896 until 1967, with a hiatus from 1944-1954. 
Many famous graphic artists contributed stunning illustrations with themes that commented on social/political issues of the times. You might have heard of Heinrich Kley, George Grosz and Kaethe Kollwitz, but other contributors were artists like the incredible Karl Arnold, Olaf Gulbransson and Edward Thoeny.
I just love looking at this kind of art. Whenever I am designing characters, and I catch myself falling back on to old formulas, I look at pages from Simplicissimus. The types of people represented in the illustrations are so rich in character, the designs are super inventive…no formulas here!
And do you know who else referred to these artists and admired them ? Our friend Joe Grant  from Disney. He collected the magazines when they were issued way back. I had many conversations with Joe about these graphic gems, we both found them very inspiring.

I am not including any text or commentary, just look at the quality of drawing, caricature and staging.
There are plenty of formulaic animated characters populating the screens today. I'd love to see inspired alternatives, wether they are based on a source like this one or any other graphic style, it's time to break the mold. An exciting prospect!

 Bruno Paul 1906

Olaf Gulbransson 1909

 Rudolf Wilke 1908

 Olaf Gulbransson 1908

 G. Hertting 1910

 Karl Arnold 1911

 Olaf Gulbransson 1905

 Blix 1907

 Olaf Gulbransson 1916

 Olaf Gulbransson 1916

 Karl Arnold 1924

 E. Thoeny 1920

 Karl Arnold 1921

 Karl Arnold 1922

 Olaf Gulbransson 1923

 Karl Arnold 1927

 Herbert Marxem 1929

 Karl Arnold 1930

Karl Arnold 1930


  1. they look so fresh and new !! few and accurate lines and much expression!

  2. I couldn't agree more. All of the animation studios use the same style on their films these days. It's just boring, you feel like you watch the same film again and again.
    I really hope someone will be brave enough to do something new. Oh, I miss the good old Disney's Hand drawn days, when every film had its very own style..

  3. So cool! :D Now if magazine drawings could move...

  4. totally loved this, looking back to keep moving forward

  5. In Munich, Bavaria, Türkenstrasse 57, you will find on old pub, Alter Simpl, "Old Idiot", which was the meeting point and hangout of these great artists.
    You will still find a lot of their original artwork, photographs and prints on those greasy walls.
    Liebe Grüsse aus Hamburg, Harald

    1. Next time I'm in Munich I will stop by there for a beer.

  6. Someone once tell me that Olaf Gulbransson was a important influence on the Al hirschfeld work.

  7. All great, but Olaf Gulbransson amazing!! I'm not sure if I've seen his work before, but!!

  8. This is one of my absolute favorites. I have a fairly complete run of Simplicissimus during its golden era. Le Rire and the French caricature journals are great too.

  9. By the way, the tribute book to Wilke is fantastic. If you don't already have it, keep your eyes peeled for it.