Carl Otto Czeschka (1878 — 1960) was an Austrian painter and graphic designer associated with the Wiener Werkstätte.
In 1901 publisher Martin Gerlach started Gerlachs Jugendbücherei—a young adult book series that answered to the modern principles of art education. Accordingly, they set out to present their young readership with relevant and enticing content and visuals meant to inspire, educate, and delight.1 The most skilled artists were commissioned to contribute to the series.
After the first volumes of Gerlachs Jugendbücherei were published in February 1902, original drawings of the illustrations were presented alongside paintings by acclaimed artists like Gustav Klimt at the thirteenth Secessionist exhibition in Vienna, XIII Kunstausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreich. Even within this fine art context, these small format graphic drawings were regarded as important works of art.
For volume 22, Carl Otto Czeschka (1878-1960) created the artistic highlight of the series: a group of illustrations for Die Nibelungen dem deutschen Volke (The Nibelungs). His eight magnificent two-sided drawings convey Franz Keim’s abridged version of the heroic medieval epic.
Czeschka’s illustrations, however, transcend the limitations of Keim’s text: augmented by bold geometric borders and modernized blackletter type by Otto Eckmann, they are incredibly visually commanding despite their small scale. The book cover, endpapers, initials, vignettes and the binding were also designed by Czeschka, culminating in a highly sophisticated total work that was vibrant, lavish and dynamic yet concise. It is a quintessential representation of the most celebrated tenants of art and design of the period.