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Fritz Wegner’s Christmas Plates

December 27, 2018
by the gentle author

I discovered my delight in the work of illustrator Fritz Wegner (1924-2015) in primary school through his drawings for Fattypuffs & Thinifers by Andrew Maurois. Throughout my childhood, I cherished his book illustrations whenever I came across them and the love of his charismatically idiosyncratic sketchy line has stayed with me ever since.

Only recently have I learnt that Fritz Wegner was born into a Jewish family in Vienna and severely beaten by a Nazi-supporting teacher for a caricature he drew of Adolf Hitler at the age of thirteen. To escape, his family sent him alone to London in August 1938 where he was offered a scholarship at St Martin’s School of Art at fourteen years old, even though he could barely speak English.

A few years ago, I came across this set of small souvenir Christmas plates Fritz Wegner designed for Fleetwood of Wyoming between 1980 and 1983 in limited editions, which I acquired for almost nothing. They are crudely produced, not unlike those ceramics sold in copyshops with photographic transfers, yet this cheap mass-produced quality endears them to me and I set them out on the dresser every Christmas with fondness.

Journey to Bethlehem, 1983

The Shepherds, 1982

The Holy Child, 1981

The Magi, 1980

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Charles Keeping, Illustrator

8 Responses leave one →
  1. Maureen Dew permalink
    December 27, 2018

    Stunning illustrations and a fascinating story. How much more of his life story is known?

  2. Julia harrison permalink
    December 27, 2018

    I picked up an old copy of Fattypuffs recently in a pile of books a neighbour was throwing out. I remember his work from Puffin Club days and am so interested to hear about his background.

  3. Mike Nicholson permalink
    December 27, 2018

    Good to see these.
    Like generations of such, I was a fortunate illustration student of Fritz’s at St Martins back in the early 1980s, from which he finally disconnected probably around 1984.
    He was a wise, kind man in the studio and rather took me under his wing. We remained in touch for several years and – even while I was still in my student flat in grotty Finsbury Park – he would head south east from his own house on Swain’s Lane in Highgate, collect me in his ancient French car and whisk us off to the Chelsea Arts Club, offering gentle and funny conversation throughout.
    I seem to recall his tipple was a single G & T.
    The first time we visited Laurie Lee was on a stool at the bar, he pointed out.
    While (never) replaced by the trend-setter illustration tutors of the day, Fritz’s sage turn as a considerate and informed judge of my work kept me on a straight tack towards graduation, for which I am forever grateful.

  4. Richard Sparks permalink
    December 27, 2018

    A most wonderful man – with both skill and humility in equal measure.

    He went on to return and become Tutor at St. Martins College of Art (Charing Cross Road days) – in the 1970’s … and I, as a student of illustration, had the pleasure of his tutelage, humour and charismatic discernment.

    Fritz evolved a particular style of his own and encouraged an individualism in others: none more so than with Sara Midda (also a St. Martin’s graduate) – from whose partnership evolved her delightful illustrations, publications and books, not least: ‘In and Out of the Garden’, ‘South of France’ and ‘Growing Up and other Vices’.

    Truly: A Gentle Man.

  5. Ellen Whittle permalink
    December 27, 2018

    In the late 40s, early 50s, my mother worked for his father who had a wholesale belt and button company, actually a couple of rooms in an upstair rooms in Soho. She would visit local sweat shops that existed in Soho those days making clothes trying to get them to buy his goods for the clothes they were making .Her very close friend was Trudy Horth , was Fritz’s sister. They were both members of the communist party in Ilford and great activists out selling the Daily Worker on Saturdays. I never knew he was so famous until the year when he designed the Christmas stamps ( not sure when that was ). Never met him unfortunately.

  6. Jennifer Newbold permalink
    December 27, 2018

    What a find! I’d take these over a set of Lenox ‘Christmas Tree’ plates any time. Thank you for sharing them!

  7. mlaiuppa permalink
    December 27, 2018

    Thank you for this post. It appears that Fritz Wegner illustrated quite a few children’s books. I collect illustrated children’s books so I’ll be purchasing a few, just from seeing his work on these plates.

    And a Happy Christmas to you and Mr. Schroedinger.

  8. Margaret Mcdermott permalink
    January 6, 2019


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