Otto Eckmann

In the time in which Eckmann was alive, he was living in a Germany that was rising to power and well on its way to a united German state and a world power like England already was. For much of its history, Germany seemed to be rising with England almost step for step in the Industrial Revolution and even in the world of art progression (Kitchen).

Otto Eckmann was a very versatile artist from Germany. Eckmann was originally born in Munich in the year 1865. During his early artistic career he was focused very much on painting, as most artists in Germany were before Art Nouveau really broke out (Meggs). From the beginning however, Eckmann had always ben interested in and heavily influenced by Japanese woodblock printing, the Japanese term for this style was Ukiyo-e, and the very organic nature of the lines and overall image. This Japanese influence soon became the driving force of art Nouveau.

This emerging art style that is Art Nouveau, Jugendstil in Germany, was developed out of the Arts and Crafts movement (Kunstgewerbe), which was a revolt by the artists against the Industrial Revolution (Meggs). Eckmann, along with others such as Peter Behrens, were driving forces in this artistic movement. This period in time is where Eckmann became more diverse in his artistic explorations. While Eckmann did start out as a painter he eventually became a printer, graphic designer, jewelry designer and type designer.

Eckmann’s use of organic lines and shapes not only paid homage to Japanese woodcuts but also to the swan. As one may be able conclude, the swan was Eckmann’s favorite animal. A quote from Eckmann himself is: “To borrow from the angry swan the rhythmic line and not the swan- that is the problem of ornamental usage” (Weiss). This means that an artists often forgets just how often nature can influence their artwork and how the world around them can really shape their art.

In order to complete the design of his typeface Eckmann joined with Karl Klingspor, owner of a type foundry. In this foundry is where the typeface Eckmann resided until it eventually found its way into the hands of Linotype.


Image from Artstor, of Otto Eckmann’s sketchbook

Kitchen, Martin. 2006. History of Modern Germany, 1800-2000. [N.p.]: Blackwell Pub,   2006. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost (accessed September 19, 2016).

Meggs, Philip B., Alston W. Purvis, and Philip B. Meggs. 2012. Meggs’ history of graphic design. n.p.: Hoboken, N.J. : John Wiley & Sons, c2012., 2012. catalogUSMAI, EBSCOhost (accessed September 20, 2016).

Stein, Laurie. A. “Otto Eckmann.” Oxford Art Online. Accessed September 19, 2016.

Weiss, Peg. 1979. Kandinsky in Munich : the formative Jugendstil years. n.p.: Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1985. catalogUSMAI, EBSCOhost (accessed September 19, 2016).