Today I would like to share the work of one my favorite illustrators: Eduard Thöny! His ability to design the most complex, but at the same time the most simple, pictures has left me speechless for years.
Thöny was a German illustrator born in Brixen in 1866 and studied at The Art Academy in Munich. He later contributed illustrations to Münchner Humoristische Blätter and Der Jugend, but is most well known for the thousands of pictures he did for the satirical magazine Simplicissimus from 1896-1944. In addition to being a contributing artist for Simplicissimus, he was an editor. In 1906, he and several other staff members persuaded the leadership to change the magazine into a joint stock company which gave the staff and artists even more control of the direction of the content.
Thöny did not write his own captions; they were added later by the editors after the image was submitted. He was especially known for his pictures on military, students, and social life. He turned in his originals in black and white, and worked with the art team to color them with the now famous limited palettes.
Eduard is known for his ink work, which is the medium he primarily used. With that said, he also utilized pencil and pasted on patterns to add texture to his inked imagery.
Thöny died in 1950 at 84 years of age. He was immensely prolific and created anywhere between 3,000-4,500 illustrations in his career (I’ve found varied reports). That means you should have no problem finding new Thöny pieces for many more years to come via the internet, books, galleries, etc – he just created so dang many. What kills me is that they are consistently brilliant!
Speaking of books, I’d like to recommend this book:
It’s his emphasis on loose linework, bold exaggerated shapes, savvy picture making, and exceptional texture that really stands out to me. Yes, his craft is exciting, but it’s how he takes this very interesting process and arranges it into exciting pictures that squarely positions him into legendary status.
Thanks to George Pratt for introducing Thöny to me when I was an art student. Speaking of Pratt, he has been exploring the Thöny technique for years and has brought it into his own work. Additionally, I have to mention how Edward Kinsella is also keeping the Thöny spirit alive!