With his first illustrations of the Bible, painter Ernst Fuchs hopes to surpass the heretofore best-known Bible illustrators of this century: his friend Salvador Dali, and painter Marc Chagall. "I want to create a gold ingot," says Fuchs as he begins work on this unique edition of the so-called Book of Books.
In accordance with the 67-year-old artist's design, the book will be bound in calfskin and covered with a gold folium. This is to emphasize the value of this "most valuable treasure of humanity". "With this, I am transforming the profane covetousness of men for gold into a yearning for what is holy, into reverence for the great Mystery," explains Fuchs to the Associated Press. A total of 80 oil paintings, drawings, and etchings with Biblical motifs are being put together by the master, who has for years been hailed as our time's "prince of painters." In spite of intensive work, the Fuchs Bible, to be published by the Pattloch Publishing House in Augsburg, will not be finished until after the book fair in Frankfurt in October. God created the world in seven days, says Fuchs, but it took him a little longer to create the Bible. As the son of a Jewish father, Fuchs has been familiar with the Bible's themes since childhood.
"I consider this Bible to be my crowning achievement," says the well-known founder of the Vienna school of fantastic realism. "What will be collected in this book is the sum of my artistic achievement," adds Fuchs, who became a student at the Fine Arts Academy in Vienna at the early age of 15. As a painter in the classical tradition, his paintings have fantastic and surrealistic elements, as will be evident in the Bible.
Deluxe Edition to be Exhibited in the United States
"This Deluxe Edition of the Holy Scriptures is bookmaking of the highest art," says Richard Hartmann, Fuchs's German graphic art publisher in Munich. As a supplement to the bound Fuchs Bible, Hartmann is putting together a series of 60 different signed original prints for exhibitions in Germany, Switzerland, and Austria. In America, the Fuchs Bible, along with the series of prints, will be exhibited next year at the United States Museum of European Art in New York state, according to museum director John Zavrel.
The Fuchs Bible is more than just an attraction for the devout, says Hartmann. "It is also a splendid collector's piece for the eye. If one reads it as well, then that is an additional personal gain." The book, approximately 29 x 20 centimeters in format, will appear in a gold decorated slipcase that has been hand-worked. International circulation of the deluxe edition will be about 20,000 copies, reports Hartmann.
This number is small in view of the fact that the normal edition of the Holy Scriptures is, with several hundred million treasured copies in 257 languages, the most published book on every continent.
Copyright 1999 Museum of European Art