Looking back over many decades, Eric Carle described the day that made him an artist like this: In the middle of the Second World War, his art teacher, a Mr. Krauss, invited the twelve or thirteen year old student to his home.
He appreciated "the impartiality and sketchiness of my work", said the teacher, and that he regretted the obligation "to teach us naturalism and realism and to criticize tendencies as they are visible in my drawings."
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Then came the awakening experience. Mr. Krauss pulled out a box from a hiding place containing reproductions by artists who are officially considered “degenerate” such as Picasso, Klee or Braque. The words of the teacher, who had to be very sure of his pupil in order to take such a risk, should not be forgotten by Carle into old age: “Just look at the impartial, the generosity of these pictures and - ah! - the beauty! The Nazis have no idea what art is, these charlatans! "
A little later Carle was evacuated due to the war, even later he was evacuated to the "Westwall" under low-level fire. After all, he was supposed to defend Stuttgart against the Allies with the Panzerfaust, which his mother, thank God, knew how to prevent. The father is missing at the end of the war. A lot for a sixteen year old. But the art teacher's lesson bore fruit, perhaps most beautifully in the volume “The Artist and the Blue Horse” from 2011, in whose epilogue Carle remembers Mr. Krauss gratefully: “My green lion, the brightly dotted donkey and the other animals, that I painted in the 'wrong' colors were actually created on that day seventy years ago. "
That this came about at all is due to a number of biographical coincidences. Carle's father, born as the son of a Stuttgart customs officer, actually wanted to become an artist, which his father thwarted, and finally left Europe for America, where he made his way as a washing machine painter. His sweetheart followed him to Syracuse, New York State, where the couple married in 1928. Eric Carle was born a year later. Euphoric reports from relatives who remained in Germany about the situation in their old homeland led the Carles to move back to Stuttgart in 1935.
That Eric had artistic talent had already been established in the American elementary school, which he attended only briefly. The young man, who had good reasons to hate the German school, had been studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart since 1946 and returned to the United States in 1952 to work as a graphic designer for the New York Times - he got the job Mediation of the great American illustrator Leo Leonni, whose classic children's book "Frederic" was published in 1967.