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New German donation

The Library has recently been presented with a collection of the graphic work of artist Fritz Möser. 44 sets of linoprints by Möser, all in limited editions, are currently being catalogued by German specialist Christian Staufenbiel. They are being treated as a special collection, to be consulted in Rare Books, with the classmark stem CCA-CCF. 61. A collection of about 250 private press books set and illustrated by Fritz Möser will also be given to the Library, and will stand together with the linoprints.

The donors of this collection, Hans-Jörg Modlmayer and Hildegard Modlmayr-Heimath, have close associations with Cambridge. They both taught for the German Department between 1969 and 1973, and it was during this period that Möser’s work was first promoted in England. The very first UK exhibition was mounted by the Modlmayrs in Caius Art Cellar, and an exhibition in Kettle’s Yard followed, Jim Ede having bought prints from Möser’s cycle Die Offenbarung des Johannes. Former Schröder Professor of German Leonard Forster, another very generous donor to the Library, acquired Möser’s Daphnis & Chloe cycle. Partly inspired by the Cambridge reception of Möser’s work, the Goethe-Institute organised a travelling exhibition across North America.

Fritz Möser was born in Czechoslovakia, the son of a master printer. In 1947 the family settles in Memmingen in Bavaria, where Möser still lives. Initially he spent time as a swineherd, an experience later reflected in the humorously designed little pigs in his cycle Der verlorene Sohn/The prodigal son. Apprenticed as a typesetter in his father’s workshop, Möser was soon being asked by publishers who had their books printed in Memmingen if he would illustrate and embellish their works.

Möser has taken his main inspirations from the worlds of literature, film, ballet, music and wine. Apart from approximately 300 books and calendars, Möser has created about 50 graphic cycles exploring the Bible, classical myth and 20th century poetry. For Fritz Möser complete artistic freedom has always been very important, and none of his cycles were commissioned works.

The Modlmayrs first acquisition of Möser’s work was the large format volume Linolschnitte which the Swiss publisher Sinwel Verlag of Bern brought out in 1962. The 50 prints in this collection inspired Hans-Jörg Modlmayr to write poems to accompany each image, and this was the start of a long and fruitful collaboration. Fritz Möser has illustrated and printed several collections of Modlmayr’s verse, and has also taken inspiration from the poetry of Paul Celan, Peter Huchel and Johannes Bobrowski. The resulting cycles of prints revealed an astute analytical perception of the texts which Möser has translated into powerful idiosyncratic metaphors.

To date there have been about 300 exhibitions of Möser’s work, with many of which the generous donors of this material, Hans-Jörg Modlmayr and Hildegard Modlmayr-Heimath, have been closely involved. An exhibition at the University Library will follow in due course, once all the collection has been acquired and processed.

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