Revealing Elizabeth Friedlander

Guest post by Sophie Nash-Jones

The Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft presents an in-depth exhibition of Elizabeth Friedlander, the first devoted entirely to her work. This show, open until April, presents the story of Friedlander’s work, an artist, designer and typographer whose work is instantly recognisable as mid-20th century design. Included in the show are thousands of cards, books and advertisements she designed throughout her career. 

Friedlander is best known for her classic volumes of the 1950s and 1960s Penguin book covers, or the Bauer Type Foundry typeface ‘Elizabeth’. The exhibition touches on her escape from Nazi Germany in 1936, where she took three treasures with her; two portfolios of her work and an early 18th-century Klotz violin that was her mother's. These belongings, which will be on display for the first time as part of the exhibition, stayed with her throughout her working life in England, before she travelled to her final home in Ireland.

There will be rarely-seen works from the artist's fascinating career on show, including wood engravings, type designs, decorative book papers, maps and commercial designs. The exhibition also turns to her friendship with her sponsor, poet and printer Sir Francis Meynell, who recently unveiled some of Friedlander’s little-known story by writing and producing Elizabeth, a short film about the artist. 

Friedlander came to England on a Domestic Servant visa, which is where she took her portfolio to Sir Meynell. He gave her invaluable networking connections, leading to her work with the wartime propaganda unit where she produced items such as the forged Nazi rubber stamps and ration books, on display at the exhibition. There is little known about Friedlander’s involvement with this propaganda unit, however included in the artefacts on display is a letter from the PIO indicating that she had resigned. These tiny shreds provide us with illuminating evidence that Friedlander was indeed part of the propaganda unit...

If you're interested in what textiles meant to the war effort during World War II, turn to the current issue of Selvedge to discover how basketry made it to the front line...

Elizabeth Friedlander, 6 January - 29 April 2018

Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, Lodge Hill Lane, Ditchling, East Sussex, BN6 8SP

The Ditchling Museum also brings us the One Year Natural Dyeing Course; an opportunity to learn from Jenny Dean. To find out more about the course or to book a space, you can visit the website here.

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