In the early 90's, Crumb collaborated with author David Mairowitz to create an "Introducing Kafka" book. However, the original watercolor illustration that Crumb painted for the cover of the book (he sent to England where the publisher was located) was never returned, and has been missing since. This wonderful portrait was used for the first several editions, but subsequently never used again as the publisher went out of business and succeeding publishers had neither the artwork nor films to use that portrait again. I had always admired the skill and beauty of the portrait, but given the book's small size, a reproduction would be nearly impossible. Surely a photographic reproduction (for instance, a giclee print) would only enlarge the mechanical dots that were created in the offset printing process when the book was printed.
But I have taken the many, many hours necessary to enlarge, trace and manipulate (with Photoshop and by hand) all the different shades of green and grey required to recreate this beautiful watercolor into a serigraph edition. 34 colors were used to capture Crumb's watercolor portrait, creating an edition of 120 prints, all numbered, dated and signed by Crumb. He has also titled each piece, under the center of the portrait, "Kafka."
The cream archival rag paper is 11 inches by 16.5 inches.The image size is 8.25" x 10.25". Each print comes with our unconditional guarantee for your complete satisfaction or your money back.
Crumb talks about the illustration:
This portrait of Franz Kafka was done originally in the early 1990s for the cover of a book called Kafka for Beginners, written by my friend David Mairowitz, profusely illustrated by me, and published by Icon Books in England as one in a long series of “for Beginners” books. These books were meant to be an introduction to historically significant figures such as Carl Marx, Sigmund Freud, Charles Darwin, Voltaire and so on. All the books were profusely illustrated by various artists, with minimal text. When Mairowitz first approached me with the proposal that I illustrate his text for the book, I had never read anything by Kafka. I knew nothing about him or his writings. I agreed to take it on mainly because of the $10,000 dollar advance being offered by the publisher. I needed the money, plain and simple.
Then I started reading Kafka, the short stories, the novels. I got deep into it and found myself profoundly identifying with the author. I felt a kinship, a closeness with him, though he died in 1924. It was strange, eerie even, but it made illustrating his work and scenes from his life a much more enjoyable occupation than it might have been otherwise.
In the process of getting so close, so tight with Kafka while graphically interpreting his work, I developed my own theory about his writing. Well who knows? It’s possible that Kafka scholars have come up with the same theory. How would I know? Kafka had a full time desk job in an insurance company office and did his writing mostly at night. He lived at home with his parents, had to get up early to go to work. He was constantly sleep deprived. In his best writing “K” stumbles through a dreamlike world. I think Kafka was probably often very drowsy while he sat at his desk late in the night. He was half asleep, in the hypnagogic state as he wrote. I imagine his head nodding forward, his eyelids heavy, forcing himself to keep writing, the text getting stranger and stranger. The conscious mind when fully awake simply doesn’t allow this kind of free association. Kafka was hip enough to recognize this hypnagogic writing as a good thing, and obviously let it stand as he had written it. Part of what’s called “genius” by society is just the quirky, odd-ball gift some people have of trusting what comes out of their subconscious minds. Not a good quality for getting through life, but good for the art.
- R. Crumb Southern France October, 2013