Olaf Gulbransson, a Bear of a Satirist
Most of you will not know the name or the work of the early-20th-century Norwegian satirical cartoonist Olaf Gulbransson (1873–1958), who made his mark(s) in Germany. This big bald bear of a man, whose minimalist drafting prefigured the modernist notions of economy and whose style impacted many others, including the American Al Hirschfeld (himself known to some as the American Gulbransson), was a key figure in Simplicissimus, Germany’s most influential satiric journal, as well as an early visual critic of Adolf Hitler.
Well, it’s time for you to know his work. If you are in Tegernsee, Germany, where Gulbransson settled after World War II, you can visit the Olaf Gulbransson Museum for Graphics and Caricature.
His fluid line was a synthesis of Art Nouveau’s formal sinuous qualities and the informality of a sketch. I own a sketch that he made for a champagne advertisement. Gulbransson drew it on rag bond so light and delicate as to be almost invisible. This light quality goes counter not just to his monumental bulk of a body but to the weight of his work. A fascinating artist and thinker he was.