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About Karl Gerich

About Karl Gerich.

Karl Gerich  on the cards…

KARL GERICH'S DESIGNS, like music or poetry, show where the artist finds beauty… in nature, in women, in abstract shapes. Karl has also been inspired by playing card designs of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and has re-worked these in his own individualistic style.

Karl assumes the role of artist, designer and the man behind the machine (craftsman) in that he performs all the stages of production himself.

Although playing cards in general rarely rise above the level of industrial art - a minor craft - the richness of the goldsmith or illuminator are often imitated on paper and Karl’s skill as an engraver can amaze and beguile us.

In general Karl leans towards humanity in his designs, and he gives a distinctive gothic flavour to his subjects. He reveals a feeling for natural beauty and artistic rhythmical movement.

But what unconscious forces or romantic ideals inspire him? What is the lyricism which comes through the playing card designs?

We see chimera monsters, mermaids and satyrs, phoenixes, playful lovers and cupids, sea dragons and serpents, the mystique of orientalism, tricksters and jesters…

The variety of design sources brings a certain originality into Karl’s work, a mixture of individuality, grotesqueness and quaintness, which suits the medium of the playing card.

The romance of distant lands finds expression in the exotic blend of Turkish and Hindu fantasies (Patience Indien No.16*, Cartes Turques No.18, Cartes Indiennes No.35), whilst the theme of sea-borne trade and adventure, suggesting contact with remote civilisations, is again carried further (Four Corners No.10, Triton No.31 and The Dragon).

The simple pleasures are abundantly reflected in his designs involving women holding flowers, fans or birds, and sometimes the theme of innocent temptation recurs, perhaps suggesting that fate is always ready to recruit new souls. By looking at these playing card designs we see into the soul of the designer… with it’s torments, illusions, dreams and hopes.

No 10: The Four Corners (1984)

Above: No.10 'Four Corners' (1984). Part of uncut sheet, printed from copperplate etching on one sheet of Daler Ford cover paper, on the reverse a pink wash. Hand coloured, pips added by stencil.

This is a double-ended copy of Dondorf's "Four Corners of the Earth" pack of 1870. The courts show exotically dressed figures from around the world. Each card measures: 75 x 44 mm.

No 18: Cartes Turques (1991)

Above: No.18 'Cartes Turques'. Partially coloured uncut proof sheet, printed from copperplate etching onto goatskin parchment paper. Dated 12/85 and 5/86.

No 28: Mayday (1989)

Above: Queen of Diamonds and a Joker from Karl's pack No.28 'Mayday' (1989). Printed from copperplate etching on Daler Ford cover paper. Hand coloured.

Each card measures: 72 x 40 mm.

Karl Gerich 4/9/92
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By Simon Wintle

Member since February 01, 1996

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Curator and editor of the World of Playing Cards since 1996. He is a former committee member of the IPCS and was graphics editor of The Playing-Card journal for many years. He has lived at various times in Chile, England and Wales and is currently living in Extremadura, Spain. Simon's first limited edition pack of playing cards was a replica of a seventeenth century traditional English pack, which he produced from woodblocks and stencils.


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