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Fritz Wegner’s Christmas Plates

December 23, 2020
by the gentle author

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.

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.

Journey to Bethlehem, 1983

The Shepherds, 1982

The Holy Child, 1981

The Magi, 1980

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15 Responses leave one →
  1. Annie S permalink
    December 23, 2020

    Lovely images and a very interesting background story of the artist, he must have been a very talented young man.
    With sadness, I’m wondering if his family survived the war.

  2. December 23, 2020

    Dear Gentle Author,
    I have been receiving your daily offering since a kind friend told me about you and have been hoarding them in a USB to enjoy at leisure.
    Today’s offering is apt to this season (at a time when we so badly need it) .
    The Fritz Weger plates are absolute charming and can understand how they will grace wherever they are displayed.

  3. December 23, 2020

    I love thinking of you putting out these special plates each Christmas. Fritz Wegner for me means ‘The Strange Affair of Adelaide Harris’ by Leon Garfield. I read that Fritz Wegner was taken in by the family of one of his tutors, George Mansell, with whom he lived in Hampstead Garden Suburb. He set him on his way in life, and Fritz learned his craft in George Mansell’s studio. Thank you for reminding me of his extraordinary life.

  4. Mike Nicholson permalink
    December 23, 2020

    Good to see your enthusiasm for Fritz’s work.
    To generations of illustrators who attended St Martins School of Art – now known as the amalgamated Central St Martins – Fritz was a valued and generous tutor.
    His gentle but clear guidance was a gift that kept giving.
    During the time I was there (’82 – ’85) Fritz finally retired, feeling a little out of place in the company of the bright, young 1980s illustrative things that taught alongside him. He was – thankfully – an informal mentor for me. I kept in touch with him for a number of years, briefly visiting his house at the bottom of Swain’s Lane in Highgate, and enjoying a visit to the Chelsea Arts Club on another. This sweet, amusing man came to my grotty post-student flat in Finsbury Park in his old Citroen, picked me up and drove across town to the club, where he enjoyed a large G&T I think, listening to my hopes and woes with equal good humour and common sense advice. Then drove me back. Truly, a gentle man, borne out of such awful early experiences. Much missed.

  5. Donald M Thomasco permalink
    December 23, 2020

    These are gorgeous. I would love to have a set of them. Thanks so much for sharing.

    And a Happy Happy Christmas!

  6. Pamela Traves permalink
    December 23, 2020

    Such Beautiful Christmas Plates!! Fritz Wegner is Amazing!! I wish they were mine!!???????⛄?

  7. Andy Altmann permalink
    December 23, 2020

    Fritz taught illustration when I was at St Martins School of Art in the early 1980’s. Although I was studying Graphic Design I was lucky enough to spend some time with him. A lovely, warm human being and a very gifted illustrator. My girlfriends late father, Morrie Tabak also received a scholarship to St Martins a couple of years earlier when he was 13. It now seems quite extraordinary that students were taken on at such a young age. Another contemporary to also get a scholarship aged 13 around that time was the multi talented Lionel Bart, best known for creating the book, music and lyrics for Oliver!

  8. Ken sequin permalink
    December 23, 2020

    I well recall his work for the Radio Times and met him through a friend who taught part time at St Martins – a very nice man

  9. December 23, 2020

    What a lovely find. No wonder you treasure them. Christmas blessings on you, especially for helping us through these past difficult months where we are badly in need of some good distractions.

  10. Linda Granfield permalink
    December 23, 2020

    The plates are wonderful! And equally so are the comments made by those who knew/studied with Mr. Wegner.
    One of the many gifts of “Spitalfields Life” is the ‘further education’ that comes via the others who read the blog and share their own memories.

    Merry Christmas to you, GA. Thank you for bringing a spot of joy to me every morning of this pandemic year.

  11. Sheila Crowson permalink
    December 23, 2020

    Lovely plates. Enjoyed seeing animals in each plate, so well drawn.

  12. gkbowood permalink
    December 23, 2020

    These are beautiful- Lucky you! Finding any scrap of joy in this year is a feat.

  13. M D West permalink
    December 24, 2020

    Yes, a lovely find, those plates…they have a medieval feel to them.Seasons Greetings to all.

  14. Cherub permalink
    December 24, 2020

    A lovely story about having things that are just for show at Christmas. I own a few things that I store and unwrap every year at this time. I take other things down from shelves to display them. One is a snow globe my husband bought me 35 years ago, inside is Santa holding a small Christmas tree. My other favourite is a small religious etching I bought years ago from a gallery I worked in. I had it framed and to me it is very precious as the artist is long dead.

  15. mlaiuppa permalink
    December 30, 2020

    Those are quite charming. They reflect an older illustration style.

    I have a fairy tale book printed in the 50s by an illustrator that has the same sort of what I call “old world charm”, an older illustration style. Adrienne Segur. The Golden Book of Fairy Tales. It is one of my prized possessions.

    Thank you for bringing Fritz Wenger to my attention.

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