Saturday, 19 October 2013

Walter Helfenbein: Birds from Dresden Zoo

Walter Helfenbein

German graphic artist, 
 woodblock printmaker, lithographer, ex-libris maker and etcher. 

Helfenbein started his career as a self taught artist but later was a student at the Kunstgewerbeschule (Arts and Crafts School) in Dresden.

In the past year or so several bird prints printed "a la manière de" Martin Erich Philipp (1887-1978) surfaced and have been auctioned and sold in German Ebay. There's no doubt he was more then just inspired by but learned the art (craft) from MEPH. When I saw the first one I even was under the impression Philipp may have created prints under a pseudonym. 

Maybe Walter was a close friend or they've met in the Arts and Craft School or possibly even at Dresden Zoo's Aviary where Helfenbein choose probably the same (group of) birds, in several of his prints like the above "Kardinäle" and "Webervögel" (Cardinals and Weaverbirds) but on the other hand Helfenbein was even more attracted to the more spectacular and extremely feathered species in Dresden Zoo Aviary. 

Besides their love for birds both men shared their skills as animal sketchers, and both were drawn towards drawing, etching the female nude in all glory as they were drawn towards printing erotic, you may say slightly pornographic scenes. In the end Helfenbein was best remembered for the numerous ex-libris he created. I will show examples of Helfenbein's other graphic work in a following posting.  

A species of Fork Tailed Hummingbird (Kolibri)

A species of Paradise Bird (Paradiesvogel)

"Prachtdrossel" (Pitta or Passerine bird) 

"Weidehopf" (Hoopu)

Comparing these birdprints I believe MEPH was the more artistic and original printmaker but technically their skills matched. Even Philipps wife Else Staps (I have no biographical data) joined the men in the Aviary and created several bird prints in her husbands specific style. I must remember to look up the species she choose one day. Although the birds look exotic the flowering trees seem to be "ordinary" Forsytia and a blossoming apple-tree (?) 

Else Staps also choose "common" birds from her garden, like her husband did, and printed this lovely titmouse with rose-hips in winter from 5 or 6 blocks. 

All pictures borrowed freely from the www for educational and non commercial use only.  


  1. I have no idea why this posting was read over 200 times within 5 days other then it was a welcome addition in knowledge and pictures. I'm happy to share but consuming on this scale without leaving a single (!) comment is has set a sad record and I can assure you, kills all enthusiasm. I'm afraid the days of the Linosaurus will be over soon.

  2. Hi Gerrie,
    I didn't know you were back blogging until I checked just now. These prints are glorious, especially the first one. I think your use of the term "Dresden Zoo" must have brought the traffic. Glad you're back and I'll check in more often.

    1. Yes I am, thank you Karen. I'm glad you liked them too. It's great fun discovering these connections in the past that seem to have stayed either unrecorded and unnoticed or were simply forgotten. Until I came along. It's like finding footsteps in the sand much like Robinson Crusoe (which happens to be one of my favorite books btw.)