Who is Gustav Olms?
When I first encountered this battered book, literally falling apart at the seams, I had no idea. And neither did the internet. What I did know was that it was excellent, fascinating work. The kind of work that I have long admired and yet created by an artist who was utterly unknown to me. And what’s more, I’d never heard my brilliant colleagues (Steve Hickman, Mike Kaluta and Charles Vess, et al.) even mention him. So I scanned the whole book and prepared to send them the files… only to discover that the assembled compendium was too big to send. So it sat on my desktop. For 2 years.
One of the greatest things about the internet, one of the greatest miracles that is opening itself up to us is the ability to meet and to better understand artists that we’ve never heard of and never had occasion to encounter in our lives.
Richard Hescox in particular is doing us the great favor of introducing amazing talent such as William Joy, Gaston Bussiere, Maximilian Pirner, Frank Dicksee, Henry Meynell Rheam, Edward Frederick Brewtnall, Norman Lindsay, and John Bauer. And that is just from the last few weeks!
While I now know the works of Norman Lindsay and John Bauer that Hescox features, it’s sobering to think how long it took me to find out about them.
Excerpts hilariously translated by Google from the German website on Olms:
“(…) And if I still maintain that he was one of the most important artists of Düsseldorf, Düsseldorf, so shake yourself some head because he is still quite unknown to them.” (Willy Sparrow)
Painter – so called Olms officially, and with that title gives no indication as to what he in fact earned his livelihood. In fact, he worked as a graphic designer (he designed addition to the aforementioned illustrations and packaging for chocolate Tengelmann) and worked mainly for publishers. He moved to a certain extent as part of a family tradition, but he came from (the ninth child born as a book printer) Hildesheimer a printer and publishing dynasty.
The craftsmanship of his work as a service, it will always been conscious, and he’s probably the illustrating of children’s school books and not seen as art. The contradiction between free and applied art at that time may have been felt even more blatant, been bridged completely, he is not even today, at least in part, but has an awareness and appreciation for graphics and illustration established as an independent art form. Olms and also for posterity has been preserved primarily by his excellent illustrations.
“And so this book is in itself a particularly cordial atmosphere dedicated to the memory of this man, alone and abandoned, misunderstood and much loved, much hardship and suffering in his earthly existence lived, who was a man, honest and faithful in all, an artist full of passion and big, strong skills, as which he will long live up to what he made of his contemporaries, – the suffering, but it, and perhaps most recently collapsed because it was not given the chance to all become what he in lowest was appointed. ” With those stirring words of the publisher William Steiger initiated from Moers 1930 his book Niederrheinisches say. Gustav Olms, whose last work, the book was brought, died shortly before.
So here I must shake myself some head at Gustav Olms’ big, strong skills.