Karl Uhlemann – FNT covers

December 14, 2011

Meas na Filíochta, Odhrán Ó Duáin OFM, FNT, (1968). Cover design: Karl Uhlemann

Sladmhargadh, Donach de Róiste, FNT, (1968). Cover design: Karl Uhlemann

Ó Rabharta Go Mallmhuir, Seán ‘ac Fhionnlaoich, FNT, (1975). Cover design: Karl Uhlemann

Fir Chlaímh, Seán Ó Mulláin, FNT, (1976). Cover design: Karl Uhlemann

Slán Leis an gComhluadar, Mícheál Ó hOdhráin, FNT, (1961). Cover design: Karl Uhlemann

Feoil an Gheimhridh, Colm Ó Baoill, FNT, (1980). Cover design: Karl Uhlemann

Is Glas na Cnoic, Seán ‘ac Fhionnlaoich, FNT, (1977). Cover design: Karl Uhlemann

 

Foilseacháin Náisiúnta Teoranta (FNT) (National Publications Limited) published Irish language books until 1988 and, despite the very formal moniker, it wasn’t a State run publisher but in fact a commercial enterprise (although it did receive some subsidies over the years). The company was incorporated in Westport in 1947 when it bought the printing works of the Mayo News. It continued to publish that paper but it’s main focus was the Irish language newspaper Inniu which had been founded by Ciarán Ó Nualláin and Proinsias Mac an Bheatha’s Glúin na Bua (a breakway from Conradh na Gaeilge) in 1943. Ciarán Ó Nualláin was Flann O’Brien’ brother and, more importantly from our point of view, also the brother of Mícheál Ó Nualláin whose design work we have featured previously.

FNT’s book publishing activity started as a sideline to the newspaper business but the number of titles grew steadily over the years. Karl Uhlemann was FNT’s main cover artist for a considerable portion of its existence. Above are examples of his work for them over a twenty year period from 1961 to 1980. It is interesting to see how his skills developed with time, particularly when comparing his treatment of the Traveller’s caravans in the covers from 1961, Slán Leis an gComhluadar, and 1975, Fir Chlaímh.

My favourites are Meas na Filíochta, with its Japanese feel, and the pop art sci-fi explosion of Sladmhargadh. You can see more of Mr Uhlemann’s work and what little I’ve been able to ascertain of his biography in these two earlier posts.

Ioldánas: Irish Crafts Exhibition, Irish Section World Crafts Council (1970). Design: unknown

Transportation in Dublin, An Foras Forbartha (1973). Design: Dara Ó Lochlainn Associates

Here are two booklet covers from the early Seventies. The first is a catalogue for an exhibition of Irish Crafts and the second is a report on transportation in Dublin.

The Ioldánas Irish Crafts Exhibition was organised by the Irish section of the World Crafts Council to coincide with the fourth general assembly of the World Crafts Council in Dublin, 1970. Despite Ireland’s impressive craft lineage (the cover image is a 3,500 year old gold lunula), Ida Grehan in The Irish Times was disparaging of the whole endeavour asking “will it be up to the high standard of Trinity College Library where Picasso, Lurçat and a succession of international artists have been exhibited?” (The Irish Times, May 27, 1970). Nevertheless, the exhibition was a success and directly led to the establishment of the Crafts Council of Ireland the following year.

The font on the cover is Helvetica, still a fresh and modern face in 1970. The rest of the catalogue utilises the beautiful Colmcille typeface, designed by Colm Ó Lochlainn with Karl Uhlemann at the Sign of the Three Candles.

The second cover, Transportation in Dublin, was designed by Colm Ó Lochlainn’s son Dara’s design agency. Although it is from 1973 it feels very sixties. This is no doubt due to the use of  Sans Serif No 7 (the digitised version is more commonly called Bureau Grotesque) by Stephenson Blake, a quintessentially British typeface popular in the 1960s. Also, the cars in the photo look a little out of date. I have a feeling the photo is from a few years earlier although it may be a reflection of the recession of the seventies beginning to bite with motorists making do with the old car rather than splashing out on a new model.

Many of the recommendations in the report were implemented, including the East Link bridge and the M50 motorway. The “Possible Underground System” has yet to materialise.

Karl Uhlemann II

August 8, 2010

Faoi Rún Go hÉirinn, Seán Ó Ciardhuáin, FNT, 1972. Design: Karl Uhlemann

Sléibhte Mhaigh Eo, Mícheál Ó hOdhráin, FNT, 1964. Design: Karl Uhlemann

Crumbling Castle, Patricia Lavelle, Clonmore & Reynolds, 1949. Design: Karl Uhlemann

Old Celtic Romances, P.W. Joyce, Talbot Press, 1963. Design: Karl Uhlemann

An Doras Grianlasta, Lorcán Ó Treasaigh, FNT, 1983. Design: Karl Uhlemann

Since I last posted on the work of Karl Uhlemann I’ve managed to dig up some more nice examples of his work but more importantly I’m now able to fill in some biographical detail. Theo Snoddy’s very informative Dictionary of Irish Artists: 20th Century tells us that Karl Uhlemann Jnr was born in 1912. His father Karl Snr was a landscape painter born near Leipzig. I still can’t say for definite if he was born in Ireland but we do know that his father was resident in Dublin from 1915 when he first exhibited at the R.H.A. Karl Snr obviously had an influence on his son’s choice of career and the creative streak in the family continued with Karl Jnr’s son Rai. I will feature some of Rai’s work in a future post.

These examples of Karl Uhlemann’s work are from dates between the late forties and the early eighties – almost 35 years. Crumbling Castle is the earliest example and although it is uncredited, the KU in the lower left hand side and the similarity to other covers by him leave us in no doubt.

My favourite of these covers is Faoi Rún Go hÉirinn. The moonlit illustration, which raps around to the back cover, is beautifully rendered and doesn’t suffer a bit from the rough print job. An Doras Grianlasta is the least successful. The typography feels like an after thought and there has been no attempt to tie it in with the illustration. It is a good example of how design quality suffered as a result of technological ‘advances’ in the late seventies and into the eighties.

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