Friedrich August Moritz Retzsch (1779-1857)

"Shakespeare's Apotheosis," the frontispiece to Retzsch's Gallery. The engraving is approximately 6.5 x 8.5 inches.

Moritz Retzsch's outline engravings were quite popular in England, widely imitated by other artists, and even pirated in his native Germany. His initial outline series illustrated scenes from Goethe and Schiller, and in 1828 he published his first work on Shakespeare, Umrisse zu Hamlet, a set of sixteen outline scenes and a frontispiece. Retzsch followed Hamlet with outlines for seven more plays, listed below with their dates.

At about the time the "outline style" was losing popularity in Germany, it was beginning to influence English artists, most notably Richard Dadd, Daniel Maclise, D. G. Rossetti and Ford Madox Brown, who created his own series of drawings for King Lear. In a chapter entitled "F. A. M. Retzsch and the Outline Style," William Vaughan describes the work of Retzsch and its influence on English art (123-54); he notes that the work of Retzsch was published in England as late as the 1890's, decades after the original German editions.

The copy of Retzsch's outlines I have used collects all the series in one volume, Gallery to Shakspeare's Dramatic Works in Outlines (New York: Westermann Brothers, 1849). The illustrations are accompanied by explanatory notes in both English and German by Ernst Fleischer and others, the collection having been published in Leipzig two years earlier in 1847.

I have reproduced from this volume one or two outlines from each of the series:

(While I was examining this collection of Retzsch's outlines, a colleague stopped by my office and asked me if I was now studying Shakespeare coloring books. I answered him with a withering look.)