måndag 23 december 2013

A not so Merry Christmas at all

As is the case in many of Hans Christian Andersen's so called fairy tales, The Little Match Girl is a tragic story, not at all suitable for small children. The poor girl is forced by her parents to sell matches in the street a freezing Christmas Eve. Nobody buys from her but she doesn't dare top go home. To keep warm she lights one after of the matches and sees the loveliest sights, hallucinating from cold, until she freezes to death in a corner, while people are hasting by on their way home to their families. Now there's a nice goodnight tale for your toddler!
Little Match Girl, Grosset and Dunlap 1944
Anyway, in 1944 Gustaf Tenggren illustrated this story for Grosset and Dunlap. When I first saw this book, I was not surprised that the end was changed: the little girl doesn't die at all, she gets rescued and wakes up in a warm bed in a rich house where she could stay. Of course, that's natural; a commecial book company simply can't give children the brutal facts of cruel poverty.
The little match girl gets rescued and wakes up in a warm bed
with a caring old lady that wants her as her grandchild.
The very last image of the book where The Little Match Girl is lying
on a cushion, but still in her raggedy beggar's clothes. The painting is ambiguous;
is she really sleeping or is she in fact dead after all?
But I hadn't expected Gustaf Tenggren to produce such a lame ending, since he was a stern and realistic artist and with a deep respect towards the literature classics. I always suspected that Tenggren was unwillingly forced to change the ending; at least I hoped so.
That's why I was quite pleased when I browsed through the dummy for Little Match Girl in The Kerlan Collection - there it was, the real end illustration. Gustaf had meant to illustrate the actual story as it was, in all its sadness. But naturally, the drawing had been rejected. So here they are, both of the endings. You choose.
Gustaf's suggestion from the book dummy for the last image.
This is a dead Little Match Girl, no doubt about it; Gustaf has even written so in the text above.
The last picture in the actual book bears a certain similarity to this one.
Kerlan collection of the University of Minnesota Libraries
with permissions from the Archives and Special Collections.

tisdag 10 december 2013

Grimm's Fairy Tales illustration

An interesting Tenggren painting is sold at Bonhams, NY tomorrow Wednesday Dec 11.
This is an alternative for one of the illustrations in the Grimm's Fairy Tales that was published first time in Sweden 1922 and in Denmark 1923. A later edition was published in Germany as Grimm's Märchenschatz, but with the same set of prints as in all editions.
Original Tenggren watercolor illustration, 1918-19
Tenggren worked on the total of thirty illustrations from 1918 - 1920 and actually delivered the last four of them after he had moved to the USA. Tenggren's original Grimm painting are very seldom to appear and this is a unique opportunity to acquire a spectacular Tenggren piece in his early fantasy style.

Print from Grimm's Fairy Tales.

Sven the Wise and Svea the Kind

Here's another wonderful example of the Tenggren treasures of Kerlan Collection: an original drawing from Sven the Wise and Svea the Kind. I wanted to show it in all it's misery, yellowed and spotted with age; let's call it patina.
Original drawing for Sven the Wise and Svea the Kind.
The Siren of the Woods is being tormented by the Vittra
The book was published in 1932 by Harper and Brothers. It is a compilation of Swedish folk fairy tales rewritten by Alicia O'reardon Overbeck, and contains some of the most outstanding illustrations by Gustaf Tenggren. 
One of the color plates. The Siren of the Woods is luring the young Lapland boy.
 There are two color plates and 14 line b-w drawings. This is Tenggren at his very best, with all the penmanship you see throughout his twenties and thirties. Too bad there's only one single illustration left in the collection, but it's a great one!