Wednesday, December 19th, 2012...2:51 pm
Wild Egon Wilden
Dedicated collectors gather materials in many different ways: they may buy a single specific work; they may acquire a “box of stuff” which they know includes one or more items they want as well as other materials which don’t interest them. Occasionally they even buy unseen an entire collection from someone who was known to have similar interests, in hopes of finding this or that in the midst. A collector might then keep the unintentionally acquired “stuff,” or sell it on, trade it, or pass it on in some other manner.
John M. Ward amassed his collection in all of these ways and more, and he often kept the rest of the “stuff” and generously donated it to us along with his treasured books and scores. Consequently opening new boxes for cataloging can be a heady experience, since those unintended purchases (sometimes therefore not listed in detail by the donor) can be stunning in their own right and completely unexpected. In this particular case I ran across some sheet music covers designed by the little-known German artist Egon Wilden (1894-1931).
Wilden’s work was almost completely unknown until his nieces gave a major collection of his paintings and graphic works to the Kunstmuseum Ahlen in 2005. Since that time there have been several exhibitions in Germany, and now there is a stunning catalogue raisonné which can be consulted for more information.
At the time of the publication of this sheet music in 1920, Wilden was in Düsseldorf studying at the Kunstakademie, and working as a set designer at the Schauspeilhaus. Many artists undertake cover work early in their careers for extra cash, and perhaps these covers for the Musik-Verlag Trias fell into that category. In any event, they are notable for having a style of their own within the range of Wilden’s work.
You can read a bit more about Wilden at the August Macke Haus website, and view a small selection of his work from the Macke Haus’s recent exhibition. Wilden’s work is still undiscovered territory, and how exciting to watch the beginning of its dissemination into the art world. I never would have heard of him, if not for Ward’s unintended purchase!
[Thanks to Andrea Cawelti, Ward Music Cataloger, for contributing this post.]