Friday, July 26, 2013

American Folk Art: Index Card a Day 2013

This week for ICAD, I am featuring
Pennsylvania Dutch motifs from 
Frakturs.  Fraktur-schrift, as it was 
termed in Germany, was a form of calligraphy
named after the 16th century typeface called Fraktur.
(When I learned calligraphy in high school, we
called this style Old English.)  Frakturs were illuminated
documents such as birth and baptismal certificates,
book plates, house blessings and valentines.

Frakturs were highly ornamental, hand drawn and colored,
and usually executed by the schoolmaster
or clergyman, though itinerant artists
were also sometimes available.
The schoolmaster was expected to prepare important 
documents, and also teach his students how to write.
Sometimes the schoolmaster would use an example
of his calligraphy as a reward and token of regard,
presented to one of his students. 

Promising students would copy their schoolmaster's
calligraphy models, but usually with a few changes of
their own, thus developing their own style.
This week's index cards feature motifs that would
be just one small design within the very complex Fraktur.

Highly stylized decorative flowers and birds
were favorite motifs, as was the heart.  Animals
were also sometimes included, such as stags and 
unicorns.  Some Frakturs feature angels or mermaids.

When you consider that the artist was using a 
dip pen, these detailed art works are even
more impressive. Dipping a pen nib into an ink bottle,
 controlling the pressure and direction of each stroke,
 with an eye to the spacing, form
and shape of each letter is quite an intricate task.
Sadly, the increasing popularity of the printing press
decreased the demand for hand-lettered documents.
Fortunately, the highest grade of cotton rag paper
created by Pennsylvania papermakers has
helped these records survive for us to enjoy today.

Source: Treasury of American Design, Vol. 2;
by C. P. Hornung; Abrams Publishing,  c. 1973.


  1. Wait a minute, Dianne. You made these cards?! Holy moly.
    These are so delicate and beautiful. I love the orange flower one. But they are all so pretty.

  2. These are fabulous!

  3. oh, these are great!! very nice.

  4. Thanks for the wonderful visual history lesson...gorgeous!! Thanks for sharing your wonderful work!

    Hugs Giggles

  5. You put my ICs to shame. I can tell how much time and effort you put into each of your cards. And this style is right up your alley. I love that you chose to make all of them in a single week, and that the week's theme was "doodles." My dear friend, you have put the word "doodles" to shame. These are simply incredible.

  6. These are simply gorgeous! Love the history, too......... but your work is beautiful!

  7. Oh how I love Frakturs and seeing your creations is truly a delight! Very nice indeed.

  8. Oh these cards are just so beautiful. I am so happy to have stopped by this morning.

  9. What a group of stunning cards!! I absolutely love the motifs. You obviously have a wonderfully steady hand! Thank you for the lesson as well--so interesting! And thank you for your very kind comment on my ICADs xx

  10. Oh, these are lovely! I remember some of these designs from a trip to Pennsylvania when I was young.


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