Charles Klabunde

Charles Klabunde: Master Printmaker, Painter and Fine ArtistCharles S. Klabunde, "La Grande Execution de Robespierre"

April 1983
Published by Arts Magazine

Recent denizens of the Franz Bader Gallery include floating clowns, dancing pigs, and a web-footed fishlike monster with a well-trimmed moustache. These creatures, at once charming and grotesque, are the creations of Charles Klabunde. Recalling the work of Bosch, Brueghel, Durer, and H.G. Wells, Klabunde’s black-and-white or color etchings feature dense, highly complex, and fascinating imagery. What seem at first to be simple fantasy pictures are, in fact, much more.

For example, The Wedding depicts a couple (labeled Adam and Eve) displayed in traditional niches. However, a closer inspection reveals Eve as a blonde bombshell wearing only a pair of elaborate boots and flirting with a fugitive from a medieval bestiary. Meanwhile Adam, clad in striped trousers, embroidered shirt, and stovepipe hat, holds a mask to his face. Additional characters include the inevitable serpent and a pair of pigs from outer space dressed in blue and white pajamas. Similarly, in Automaton, a clockwork man runs a highly eccentric shop filled with wonderfully detailed antique furniture, marionettes, and pocket watches, a shop in which distorted human faces seem to emerge, mysteriously, from every available surface.

Typically, the artist’s etchings are full of “Gothick” elements (Hellmouths, gargoyles, and elaborate tracery) and fantastic details (acrobats dangling from ropes presumably suspended on skyhooks, and cablecars with dragons on their roofs.) These technically astounding scenes require several viewings to appreciate fully. However, Klabunde’s best prints are his least fussy ones, works such as Icarus and The Puppeteer which feature unexpected arrangements of a limited number of figures. (Franz Bader, January 5-22 (1983)