Archive

Start Over

Curious Creatures

  • Kind of Object:
    Book
  • Name:
    Curious Creatures

    Word Count: 2

  • Creator (Person):
    Erna Pinner
  • Year Start:
    1951
  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    The Scientific Book Club, 121 Charing Cross Road, Soho, London WC2.

  • Language:
    English
  • City:
    London (GB)
  • Introduction:

    Curious Creatures by the émigré artist Erna Pinner was published in 1951 and explores unusual, overlooked and lesser-known curiosities of the animal world.

    Word Count: 22

  • Content:

    The artist Erna Pinner (1890–1987), who emigrated to London in 1935, was already a recognised animal illustrator and travelling artist during the Weimar Republic. She described herself as an “animal painter, naturalist, book illustrator, writer” (Pinner, 1970, in Weidle 1997, 56, translated from German). In 1922 Erna Pinner’s picture book Das Schweinebuch. Ein Schweinemärchen von der Geburt bis zur Wurst (Erich Reiss Verlag), in which she was responsible for both text and illustrations, was published. From 1923 to 1933, she published numerous other books in collaboration and on joint trips with the writer Kasimir Edschmid, including Zur Naturgeschichte der Antilopen (1923, Verlag Die Dachstube), Der Russenzoo. Tierskizzen (1926, Verlag Die Dachstube) and Tiere, Mädchen und Antilopenjagd am Nil (1928, Darmstädter Verlag). Pinner also participated in the art market, exhibiting at Alfred Flechtheim’s gallery and at the Darmstädter Secession.
    When Erna Pinner emigrated due to racial persecution, she was forced to leave behind a large portion of her work in her studio in Frankfurt am Main (Becker 1997, 17). At the age of 45, the artist began a new life in London, settling in Cleve Road in Hampstead. Through contact with the zoologist Julian Huxley, she came in touch with the Zoological Society of London, which led to her first commissioned work. She illustrated the book Animal Favourites (1936, Country Life) for David Seth Smith, curator of mammals and birds at London Zoo and known to a wide public as “The Zoo Man” via a BBC programme. In 1937 she contributed to the official Zoo Guide with a drawing of a world map showing the distribution of animals. She was also responsible for numerous animal illustrations for books such as Felix Salten’s Bambi’s Children (1940, W. Heinemann) and A Book of Animal Verse (1943). Her nature illustrations are executed with both meticulous precision and a clear artistic signature. The results of her observations of animals in the wild as well as at London Zoo include such books as Wonders of Animal Life (1945, Oxford University Press) and Curious Creatures (1951, Jonathan Cape and The Scientific Book Club).
    With her free working method and representation, Erna Pinner differed from British animal painters and draughtsmen of the 19th century such as Edward Lear or Joseph Wolf, who were known for their close-to-nature depictions. In Pinner’s illustrations, artistic freedom and scientific precision overlapped.
    Curious Creatures explores the unusual, overlooked and lesser-known curiosities of the animal world. The book is based on the assumption that animals’ struggle for survival – foraging, reproduction and defence against predators – partly corresponds with curious behaviour or appearance. In a note in the book, Pinner points out that some of the illustrations are based on photographs and others on studies. In the preface, she mentions numerous trips that enabled her to observe unusual animals and their behaviour globally. This might suggest that some of the illustrations were based on drawings and photographs taken on trips with Kasimir Edschmid in the 1920s. Though much of her work from the time before her emigration must be considered lost or destroyed, Pinner presumably had a material archive to fall back on. In addition, she was in possession of an immaterial archive, in the shape of the events and animals she had committed to memory and could draw on to complement her contemporary experiences.
    Pinner was equally responsible for text and illustrations in Curious Creatures. Her black and white illustrations are reproduced on half or full pages and – interspersed with text passages – spread throughout the book. All pictures are captioned and convey knowledge textually and visually. The table of contents also aims at comprehensive knowledge transfer and arouses curiosity with chapters on “Nursing Fathers”, “What Comes Out of an Egg”, “Four-footed Creatures that Fly” and “Birds that Cannot Fly”. The illustration Black-Tailed Python of Celebes and Java (p. 145), which translates the scales of a snake coiled around a tree into an exciting chiaroscuro pattern, is emblematic of the special animal conception between closeness to nature and abstraction, between reduced outlines and differentiated grey values. In contrast to the snake itself, the tree trunk is drawn rudimentarily as a prop to the animal. Gonglyus Gonglyoides posing as a flower (p. 209), on the other hand, is based on outlines with strongly restrained plastic modulations. The majority of the illustrations are characterised by a great wealth of detail, for example in the execution of the fur of the Lowland Gorilla (p. 141). Curious Creatures became Erna Pinner’s most successful book, with translations into French, Danish and German.
    This turn towards plasticity and proximity to nature is probably the most significant departure from Pinner’s strongly reduced works of the 1920s (see Bußmann 2019, 83f.). What remains consistent, however, is the artist’s immense fascination with the individual characteristics of the animals and her joy at discovering what has hitherto been little-noticed and can only become visible through her precise gaze and the use of her artists’ tools. This sense of wonder on the part of the artist and her audience is repeatedly expressed in the book titles, for example in Wonders of Animal-Life, which Erna Pinner published together with Monica Shorten (text) in 1945 as a Puffin Picture Book by Penguin Publishers. The lithographs of a fearsome fish with sharp teeth on the front cover and a flying bat hunting for prey on the back cover describe survival tactics across the animal kingdom. Pinner’s work conveys the message that wonder can be found all around us, in every genus and species, large and small, in every topography and geography: “You can learn about animals if you keep your eyes open, and watch what is going on around you, wherever you may live,” reads the introduction to Wonders of Animal-Life (Pinner/Shorten 1945, n.p.).
    After the war, Erna Pinner made contact with old companions such as her publisher Erich Reiss, who had married the photographer Lotte Jacobi in exile in New York, and the writers Kasimir Edschmid and Gottfried Benn (Becker 2004, 65–70). From 1948, Erna Pinner worked as a science journalist for such publications as Die Tat and Die Weltwoche (both Zurich), and later also for the Naturwissenschaftliche Rundschau (Stuttgart). She did not remigrate, however, but lived in London until her death in 1987.

    Word Count: 1021

  • Signature Image:
    Erna Pinner. Curious Creatures. The Scientific Book Club, 1951, cover (Original © Erna Pinner).
  • Media:
    Erna Pinner. Curious Creatures. The Scientific Book Club, 1951, bastard title (Original © Erna Pinner).
    Erna Pinner. Curious Creatures. The Scientific Book Club, 1951, p. 61: “Nursing Fathers” (Original © Erna Pinner).
    Erna Pinner. Curious Creatures. The Scientific Book Club, 1951, p. 141: Lowland Gorilla (Original © Erna Pinner).
    Erna Pinner. Curious Creatures. The Scientific Book Club, 1951, p. 145: Black-tailed Python of Celebes and Java (Original © Erna Pinner).
    Erna Pinner. Curious Creatures. The Scientific Book Club, 1951, pp. 156–157: “Living Upside Down” (Original © Erna Pinner).
    Erna Pinner. Curious Creatures. The Scientific Book Club, 1951, p. 209: “Insects of Strange Habits” (Original © Erna Pinner).
    Erna Pinner. Wonders of Animal-Life. Text by Monica Shorten. Puffin Picture Books, Penguin, 1945, cover (Original © Erna Pinner).
    Erna Pinner. Wonders of Animal-Life. Text by Monica Shorten. Puffin Picture Books, Penguin, 1945, back cover (Original © Erna Pinner).
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Becker, Eva D. “Erna Pinners halbes Leben im Exil.” Exil, no. 2, 2004, pp. 61–74.

    Becker, Lutz. “Von der Kunst zur Wissenschaft. Der erstaunliche Lebensweg der Erna Pinner.” Ich reise durch die Welt. Die Zeichnerin und Publizistin Erna Pinner (Schriftenreihe Verein August Macke Haus, Bonn, 23), exh. cat. August Macke Haus, Bonn, 1997, pp. 11–19.

    Bußmann, Annette. “‘Das Leben ist eine Metamorphose’: Erna Pinner als Mittlerin zwischen den Kulturen im britischen Exil.” Vermittler*innen zwischen den Kulturen, edited by Inge Hansen-Schaberg et al., special issue of Zeitschrift für Museum und Bildung, no. 86–87, 2019, pp. 76–90.

    Ich reise durch die Welt. Die Zeichnerin und Publizistin Erna Pinner (Schriftenreihe Verein August Macke Haus, Bonn, 23), exh. cat. August Macke Haus, Bonn, 1997.

    Pinner, Erna. Wonders of Animal-Life. Text by Monica Shorten. Puffin Picture Books, Penguin, 1945.

    Pinner, Erna. Curious Creatures. Jonathan Cape, 1951.

    Weidle, Barbara. “Berlin, Johannesburg, La Paz: Ein Jahrzehnt im Künstlerleben der Erna Pinner.” Ich reise durch die Welt. Die Zeichnerin und Publizistin Erna Pinner (Schriftenreihe Verein August Macke Haus, Bonn, 23), exh. cat. August Macke Haus, Bonn, 1997, pp. 25–59.

    Word Count: 169

  • Archives and Sources:

    Jüdisches Museum, Frankfurt am Main.

    Word Count: 6

  • Acknowledgements:

    My deepest thanks go to Frances Kitson, Jacky Oldham and Peter Oldham, who gave me permission to reproduce the works of Erna Pinner.

    Word Count: 23

  • Author:
    Burcu Dogramaci
  • Metropolis:
    London
  • Entry in process:
    no
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "Curious Creatures." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/1470/object/5140-11258638, last modified: 26-04-2021.
  • Julian Huxley
    ZoologistPhilosopherWriter

    Julian Huxley was the director of London Zoo from 1935 to 1942 and worked closely with emigrant photographers, artists and architects, including Berthold Lubetkin, Erna Pinner and Wolf Suschitzky.

    Word Count: 27

    Editorial by Julian Huxley in the first issue of Animal and Zoo Magazine, no. 1, 1936, p. 6 (METROMOD Archive).
    Charlotte Wolff. Studies in Hand-Reading. Chatto & Windus, 1936, p. 77: Reading Julian and Aldous Huxley’s hands (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main).Charlotte Wolff. “The Form and Dermatoglyphs of the Hands and Feet of certain Anthropoid Apes”. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, Series A, 1937, Part 3, 347 + Plate (Library of the Zoological Institute, University of Hamburg). At the zoo’s behest, Charlotte Wolff applied chirology to the primates at London Zoo.“Young Artists in the Zoo” reads the headline to this photo essay on the Animal Art Studio at London Zoo, published in the Animal and Zoo Magazine, vol. 2, no. 11, 1938, p. 18–19 (METROMOD Archive).Julian Huxley and Ludwig Koch. Animal Language. Photographs by Ylla. Country Life, 1938, cover (METROMOD Archive). Two records of animal voices were included with this sound book.Erna Pinner. “Map of geographical distribution.” Julian S. Huxley. Zoo. Official Guide to the Gardens and Aquarium of the Zoological Society of London, 1937, pp. 102–103 (ZSL Library, London, Original © Erna Pinner).Julian Huxley and Wolf Suschitzky. Kingdom of the Beasts. Thames & Hudson, 1956, pp. 157–158 (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky)László Moholy-Nagy, Bill of Fare, farewell dinner menu for Walter Gropius, London, March 1937: List of Toasts naming Julian Huxley as chairman of the event (Pritchard Papers, University of East Anglia, @ László Moholy-Nagy).
    London
    Lotte Jacobi
    Photographer

    In October 1935 the German émigré photographer Lotte Jacobi, together with her sister Ruth Jacobi, opened a photo studio on 57th Street. The two sisters had to leave their parents' photo studio in Berlin in the 1930s and emigrated to New York.

    Word Count: 41

    Lotte Jacobi, Self-portrait, New York, 1937 (© 2020. University of New Hampshire).
    Lotte Jacobi, Central Park, New York, 1936 (© 2020. University of New Hampshire).Lotte Jacobi, New York Stock Exchange, New York, 1938 (© 2020. University of New Hampshire).Lotte Jacobi, Ernst Fuhrmann, New York, 1942 (© 2021. University of New Hampshire).Lotte Jacobi, Hanya Holm dancing with troup, 1937 (© 2020. University of New Hampshire).Flyer for Lotte Jacobi’s exhibition at the Norlyst Gallery, 1948 (© 2020. University of New Hampshire).Willi Wolfradt. "Lichtbild-Schöpfungen." Aufbau, 15 October 1948, p. 19.Lotte Jacobi, Werner Wolff, 1943, New York (© 2021. University of New Hampshire).Lotte Jacobi, Ruth Bernhard, 1945, New York (© 2021. University of New Hampshire).
    New York