Animal Studies 5 – Watercolor Bird Sketch


Another sketch of a bird by Svend Keller. This one is unsigned and undated, so I don’t know exactly when it was made, but it is probably, like the others, from 1947 or 1948 I don’t know the species here, maybe some reader knows more. Like the other sketches of this kind, a grey rough paper was used, reflecting the economic hardships of the time when quality paper was not available.

The top of the paper was used to wipe excess paint from the brush or to test the colors. This would have been cut off or covered by a passepartout.

It pays off here to click on the image to get an enlarged version since there is a lot of detail. I am even imagining one can see a refelction of the artist in the eye, but that might be my imagination.

The sketch is unfinished. When you enlarge it you will see that the outlines of the bird’s feet are there as a preparatory drawing, probably made with a pencil, but they have not been colored.


Animal Studies 4 – Argus Pheasant


Another animal study by Svend Keller, a drawing showing an argus pheasant.

The caption reads:

Argusianus Argus L
Siam, Malakka, Sumatra
Naturwissensch. Sammlung

(Argus pheasant, Arusianus Argus L, Siam, Malakka, Sumatra, July 6th. 48, scientific collection).

The specimen shown here seems to be from some museum- or university collection. The name of the species refers to the giant Argos in Greek mythology who was covered with eyes on his whole body. Linnaeus obviously chose the name because of the many eye like spots used by the male bird as part of a mating display.

The drawing, made with blue ink and pastels, was drawn on a large piece of rough grey paper. Since the paper turned out not to be large enough, another stripe was attached at the side. In 1948, when Svend Keller did his apprenticeship as a graphics artist, paper was still rationed in Germany and good paper was hard to get. Some other examples of his drawing exercises from those days are also made on pieces of scrap paper, e.g. on the back sides of what seems to be test prints of some other graphics, and this paper also seems to have been some rest.

Animal Studies 3 – Great Egret

4I continue the series of animal studies by Svend Keller with another bird, this time a great egret. It is a pen (blue ink) and black chalk drawing, probably made in 1947 or 1948. It was made on a piece of drawing board, the size is 27 cm x 24 cm. On the same sheet there is a small pencil sektch showing two more birds. The caption gives the German name of the bird (“Silberreiher”) and the scientific name then in use (Egretta alba alba, i.e. the European subspecies. Today the species is more commonly called Ardea alba). The birds develop the long tail feathers shown here during the breeding season.

Animal Studies 2 – Falcons


Two more animal studies made by Svend Keller, this time showing showing falcons. The first one was made with pencil and watercolors. The caption reads “Wanderfalken” (“Peregrine Falcons”). The date is “26.III”. Unfortunately, the year has been cut off. On one other animal study (not yet published here) I have seen the year 1947. If we assume that he had to do all these animal studies at the same time of his apprenticeship as a grafic artist, we may assign this one, as well as the other animal studies, to that year, so they would be from the early phase of Svend Keller’s apprenticeship, when he was just learning to draw. These studies where probably made after photographs.

FalkeThe second drawing is a pencil drawing, the caption reads “Falke” (“Falcon”). Compared with the first one, it seems to show some progress in the developments of the young artist’s drawing skills, so it might have been made later than the first one.

Animal Studies 1 – Ruff


 A pen and pastel drawing of a ruff, undated. Caption: “Kampfläufer Philomachus pugnax Sommerkleid” (“Ruff Philomachus pugnax, summer dress”). During his apprenticeship as a graphics artist, Svend Keller had to make a couple of animal studies, using different techniques. Probably he made them from photographs. This is the first one I am posting here.

The ruff (in German “Kampfläufer” which means “fighting runner”) is a wading bird. The male birds develop a “collar” of feathers in the summer to impress the females as well as each other (during fights).

Abi Shek in THE BOX, Düsseldorf

Abi Shek. Without title. Woodcut with ink on canvas, 150 cm x 116 cm. Picture courtesy of Abi Shek.

THE BOX, a Gallery in Düsseldorf (see, opened a new exhibition this evenig showing some works of Abi Shek. Not only do I like Abi’s art a lot, his family and my own are also connected by several ties of friendship, so it was a special pleasure for me to attend the opening of the exhibition. The author, essayist and poet Frank Schablewski, a friend of Abi, delivered an interesting opening address, providing his own interpretation of Abi Shek’s works.

A central topic of Abi’s work is animals. The works shown here are large woodcuts, really large compared to typical print sizes. They are printed with printer’s ink on stretched, gessoed, painting size canvases. In some cases, like in the example shown above, additional picture elements have been painted using blue-violet ink.

Abi’s works are abstracted to black, filled contours on white ground, reduced to two dimensions. They are partially inspired by living animals, partially by ancient cultures, especially pre-historic rock art. They hover on the border between abstract and figurative art, distilling the animals into archetypal shapes that evoke resonances of animal fables and emotional encounters with nature.

The exhibition also includes a number of small metal sheet sculptures, showing animals as well. These also start with two-dimensional contours cut out of the metal sheets, but regain the third dimension by bending the sheets. As a result, they inhabit a border area between the two-dimensional and the three-dimensional, between graphic art and sculpture. Abi Shek originally studied sculpture with Micha Ullman. These sculptures indicate how Abi’s graphic art is connected to his origins in three-dimensional art. In a way, his wooden printing blocks are sculptural as well, reliefs that are then used as printing blocks.

For more information on Abi Shek see

THE BOX. Duisburger Str. 97, 40479 Düsseldorf, Germany.

May 2nd, 2014 to May 18th, 2014.

Opening times: Mo. 7 PM to 10 PM, Tue. 6 PM to 21 PM, Fr. 6 PM to 8 PM or uppon arrangement.