Illustrators

The Magician of Images – Klaus Ensikat

The illustrator Klaus Ensikat (Photo: Klaus Ensikat)The illustrator Klaus Ensikat (Photo: Klaus Ensikat) With the technique of an Old Master and subtle humour, the award-winning graphic designer and illustrator Klaus Ensikat has for fifty years produced ingenious illustrations for literary classics and children’s books.

The graphics and illustrations of the artist Klaus Ensikat, born in 1937 in the eastern part of Berlin, are masterpieces of the draughtsman’s art. The trained advertising artist developed early on a fine, remarkably complex use of line, which is oriented to line illustrations of the nineteenth century, particularly the engravings of the Romantics, in its technique of hatching.

This high level of technical virtuosity quickly made Ensikat one of the most renowned illustrators of former East Germany. In the West, too, he was soon honoured with the most prestigious awards. In 1991 he received the “Golden Apple” of the BIB (Biennial of Illustrations, Bratislava), and in 1995 the Special Prize for Illustrators of the German Youth Literature Award. In 1996, with the award of the Hans Christian Andersen Prize, he joined the international nobility of illustration artists.

We sometime read that Ensikat’s Old Masters’ style is to be understood as an adaptation to the specific working conditions of the former GDR. Because it was not possible to improve significantly the quality of paper until the 1970s, graphic techniques gained the upper hand against those of painting. That artists such as Ensikat worked intensely with the specific properties of paper may be seen in the quality of certain books marked for export, which were generally printed on higher quality paper with a lower proportion of wood fibres. “By no means always to their advantage”, as the artist observed in an early interview.


Despite the high degree of objectivity and accuracy characteristic of Ensikat’s work, and its precision particularly as regards architectural details (sometimes approaching that of a design drawing), his pictures are nevertheless often marked by a subtle tendency to alienation and hyperbole. This combination has proven to be uncommonly fruitful, especially for the visualization of literary texts, which remains one of the main fields of Ensikat’s œuvre. The life of the author, the reader and the story itself appears to be woven into a single brilliant tableau.
Klaus Lüber
is a cultural and media scholar and works as a freelance author for “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, “Die Zeit”, “Die Welt” and other journals.

Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
May 2013

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