• Meet the Author: Ernst Kreidolf

    by  • 1 December 2017 • Authors, Children's Books, Ernst Kreidolf • 0 Comments

    You may have noticed our latest wintry tale, The Gnomes’ Winter Journey in a bookshop near you. But the author, a renowned Swiss artist, has a fascinating story of his own. Often hailed as the father of the modern picture book, just who was Ernst Kreidolf?




    Early Life

    Konrad Ernst Theophil Kreidolf (1863-1956) was born on 9th February in Bern, Switzerland, the second eldest of seven children. When he was 5, his family moved to Konstanz in Germany, where his father opened a toy shop. Ernst, however, grew up with his grandparents in Tägerwilen, Switzerland so that he could learn the workings of the farm he was expected to inherit.


    In 1879, Ernst began an apprenticeship in lithography at Lithografische Anstalt Schmidt-Pecht in Konstanz. His father’s business had suffered bankruptcy, and Kreidolf had to support the family financially. This twist of fate was to launch his artistic career when he sold his first lithograph, Tägerwilen.

    He studied at the Munich School of Arts and Crafts, and was later taught by renowned German artists Paul Nauen and Ludwig von Loeffz. However, ill health forced him to abandon his studies in the winter of 1889. Ernst didn’t let this get in the way of his creativity. During his convalescence he produced many pictures relating to myths, legends and fairy tales. He even had a royal apprentice, teaching landscape painting to the Princess of Shaumberg-Lippe.

    Children’s Books

    On his recovery, he hosted his first exhibition at the Gallery Arnold in Dresden. His watercolours attracted the interest of several publishers, however, none could commit to publishing his work. It was only thanks to a loan from his former student, Princess Marie of Shaumberg-Lippe, that the illustrations eventually became his first book, Blumenmaerchen (Flower Fairy Tale) in 1898.

    The book was a success, and the following years saw the publication of some of Kreidolf’s best-known picture books, including Die Schlafenden Bäume (The Sleeping Trees), Die Wiesenwerge (The Meadow Dwarves), Alte Kinderreime (Old Nursery Rhymes) and Der Gartentraum (The Garden Dream).

    Ernst was fascinated by mythology. Though all his illustrations were based closely on real plants and animals, in his picture books he created his own magical world in which plants become anthropomorphised and gardens are inhabited by fairies and gnomes.

    On his return to Switzerland in 1917, Ernst met Emil Roniger, founder of the Rotapfel publishing house. He went on to publish several more of Kreidolf’s picture books including Ein Wintermaerchen, now published for the first time in English as The Gnomes’ Winter Journey. His art was exhibited across Europe, but he is best remembered for his imaginative work for children’s books. His final book for children, Die Himmelreich-Wiese (The Kingdom of Heaven Meadow), was published in 1934.

    Kreidolf died on 12 August 1956 in his native Bern. Celebrated in German-speaking countries as the founder of the modern picture book, his works for children are still as popular today as they ever were.

    Available in English for the first time, The Gnomes’ Winter Journey is a classic and magical winter story. It is beautifully illustrated by renowned Swiss artist Ernst Kreidolf in a style reminiscent of Sybille von Olfers.

    You might also like these wonderful books:



    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *