“Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft presents the story of outstanding artist, designer and typographer Elizabeth Friedlander. The work of Friedlander (1903-1984) is instantly recognisable as mid-20th century design at its best, but few will know the name behind the art. Best known for her Penguin book covers and Bauer Type Foundry typeface ‘Elizabeth’, the exhibition touches on her escape to London from 1930s Nazi Germany, friendship with her sponsor – poet and printer Francis Meynell – and her work with a wartime British black propaganda unit. The show includes rarely-seen works from the artist’s compelling career including type design, wood engravings, decorative book papers, maps and commercial work.
The exhibition is co-curated by video artist and author Katharine Meynell, grand-daughter of Francis Meynell, who recently shone a light on Friedlander’s little-known story by writing and producing ‘Elizabeth’, a film about the artist.”
Johnathan was at primary school with our sons and taught my husband on one of his printmaking courses some years ago. Lovely to see some of his work on sale here at Ditchling.
If I lived in or near Sussex I’d buy the lot!
After a light lunch and more tea, of course, served in the cafe/shop i.e. surrounded by beautiful things and interesting looking books, we headed for the Friedlander ‘area’.
Elizabeth Friedlander left Nazi Germany in 1936 with her mother’s 1703 Klotz violin and her portfolio. She worked her way through Europe spending two years in Milan before the political situation in Italy forced her to move on and she arrived in England with a ‘domestic service’ visa.
The Klotz violin is on display at Ditchling alongside copies of many of her music score covers
“Elizabeth Friedlander left Germany with few possessions; amongst those she brought to England was this violin belonging to her mother, made by Mattias Klotz in 1703. The violin was left to the Cork School of Music by Sheila and Gerald Goldberg, and is occasionally played by prodigious students of the school.”
In London she introduced herself to Francis Meynell who found design work for her in advertising and publishing. During the war she freelanced for Penguin and Thames & Hudson, amongst others. Due to her skills and background she was also able to assist The Political Intelligence Department forging Whermacht and Nazi Party rubber stamps.
We studied the display cabinets first and were amazed to see many examples of her work such as The Times masthead and beautifully detailed and elegant personal greeting cards.
“Friedlander’s fine hand and eye for detail is showcased beautifully in her greetings cards and bookplates which she produced for commercial and personal reasons.”
Then we moved into the room showing the ‘Elizabeth’ film made by Katherine Meynell (as mentioned above). I found this film rather disconcerting and not particularly enlightening about Friedlander’s life and work but talking with Fran afterwards we worked out the Desert Island Discs connection (which one item would you save?) i.e. the Klotz violin she brought with her out of Germany. A beautifully made but rather esoteric film that I found difficult to relate to.
Elizabeth Friedlander retired to Kinsale in County Cork, Ireland where she continued to work freelance until her deteriorating eyesight lead her to retire completely in 1973. She had a wide and varied social life and developed friendships with both Irish authors Elizabeth Bowen and Mollie Keane. She was also very close to the Mayor of Cork, Gerald Goldberg, and his wife Sheila (who nursed Elizabeth through her final illness in 1983). Her archive and the Klotz violin were left to the Goldbergs who later donated them to The University College Cork Boole Library Archive and the Cork School of Music, respectively.
We managed a quick look round the church and graveyard and this artists’ village before leaving.
Kinsale is on my ‘list’ for a visit when I’m in County Cork in July. I’ll see what Friedlander connections I can find there and maybe even in Cork.