Children's book art by Freud's niece Tom
December 18, 2011 5:24 PM   Subscribe

The Rabbit Dreams of Dr. Freud's Niece - An illustrator of children's books, Sigmund Freud's niece Martha went by the name Tom, wore men's clothing, and died by her own hand in her late 30s, a year after her husband's suicide. BibliOdyssey recently featured some of her early work from Das Baby-Liederbuch, noting that because she was Jewish, many of her books were destroyed in the Nazi era and are scarce in the book trade. More about the artist and her work at Tom Seidmann-Freud.
posted by madamjujujive (13 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
I love the white space used in her illustrations. It's very flat by design, which I appreciate.
posted by xingcat at 5:38 PM on December 18, 2011

wow, she was very talented.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 6:06 PM on December 18, 2011

Thanks for sharing! The artwork is really great.
posted by Danithegirl at 6:23 PM on December 18, 2011

Did we break it? I'm getting an error message for the first link:
Das Baby-Liederbuch
posted by Librarygeek at 7:03 PM on December 18, 2011

Hmmm. Don't know, Librarygeek - the blog is there but I can't find that post. Paging peacay in aisle 3.

Well here are some Flickr images that were in the post.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:18 PM on December 18, 2011

It's fixed now Librarygeek. Sorry, I was trying to update the post to add Will's entry and there's a new blogger interface and they made me press the draft button and the dog ate my homework and that's where babies come from. All better now ;- )

Thanks MJJ !
posted by peacay at 7:21 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ahha peacay and the timing turned out just right :P

Yep, it's up now thanks for sharing this.
I didn't know anything about Martha/Tom. It must have been hell to be any form of gender queer in those days.
posted by Librarygeek at 7:28 PM on December 18, 2011

Thanks, peacay - you have had some awesome posts lately. ;-)

I'd love to know what's going on in the 3rd illustration down with the hyena.

If anyone speaks German, I think this is the related story.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:38 PM on December 18, 2011

This is, I think, a cautionary tale about Modern Dance.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:52 AM on December 19, 2011

Wow, these are wonderful. I like the glass paintings a lot! It's such a confluence of coincidence that she would be a little queer, apparently very depressed, and an artist working with what seem like rich and dreamy metaphors, and be related to the famous doc himself.

Tell me there's a novelization of her life out there?
posted by emilycardigan at 7:14 AM on December 19, 2011

I'd love to know what's going on in the 3rd illustration down with the hyena.

If anyone speaks German, I think this is the related story.

The illustrated scene is showing several things that happened in sequence in the story, rather than simultaneously. It's basically a re-telling of the Br'er Rabbit and the Tar Baby story. Here's my translation (NB: I have translated several words as "puppet" because the original uses some words that, translated literally, would be ethnic slurs):

A long time ago, grandfather Hyena went to his neighbors, the rabbits, who didn't have a single drop of water to drink. The Hyena said to the Rabbit, "I don't have any water to drink, either. If you want to come with me, we can dig a well." The Rabbit shook his head, "No, Hyena, when I'm thirsty in the morning I drink the dew on the grass, and during the day I drink the cows' scent [? this may be euphemism]" So grandfather Hyena dug his well alone.

One morning, as he went to fetch water, he saw that there were rabbit tracks all around the well. He scratched his head and called out, "Brother, I will catch you." He ran and got his tools and made a large puppet out of laurel wood. He tarred it until it was black, like a [person] from Guinea. As the sun went down, the Hyena ran to the well to set up his puppet.

That night the moon shone brightly as the Rabbit came to fetch water with his bucket. As he saw the puppet, he stopped and bent over and looked at it carefully. "What kind of animal is this?" he called, but the puppet didn't move or answer. The Rabbit came a little closer and called out again, but the puppet still didn't answer. Emboldened, he walked right up to the well. He looked into the well and so did the puppet. The Rabbit was starting to get angry.

"Puppet, if you look in the well I will punch you in the throat!" He bent down and noticed how the puppet looked at him. He raised his right hand and struck. Whack! His hand was stuck.

"Let me go, puppet, or I'll punch you in the eyes with my other hand." He struck. Whack! His left hand was stuck, too.

The Rabbit raised his right foot. "Little puppet, do you see this foot? If I kick you, you'll think it was a horse." He kicked. Smack! The foot got stuck.

Rabbit raised his other foot. "Do you see this foot? If I hit you with it, you'll think you've been hit by a bolt of lightning." He kicked. Smack! That foot got stuck, too. The Rabbit was stuck hard to the puppet!

"By the holy guinea [lit. the English coin?]! I've hit many people with my forehead. If I hit you, your head will break into a thousand little pieces." He hit its head with all his might. Oh he was stuck good now!

After the sun had gone down, the Hyena came to fetch water. "Ha ha Brother Rabbit, what are you doing there? I mean, you told me you drank the dew from the grass and the water from the scent of the cows. I will punish you for drinking my water." Hyena ran into the forest, gathered a bundle of brush wood, lit it, and grabbed the Rabbit to burn him.

He dragged him by the shoulder to a nearby briar patch, where he met his daughter Bélédie, who was riding by. "Father Hyena, why don't you throw that terrible Rabbit into the briars?"

Brother Rabbit quietly pricked up his ears. "No, no, Hyena, don't throw me in the briar patch, the stickers will tear my eyes. Throw me in the fire instead!"

"So, you rogue, you don't want to go in the briar patch? Gut, then that's where I'll throw you!"

The Rabbit rolled out of the briar patch and laughed: "Ha ha ha, Brother Hyena, you couldn't have thrown me in a better place. It's where I was born."
posted by jedicus at 2:58 PM on December 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Brilliant find, as usual, madamjujujive! So interesting!

Sad she died so young. Wonder if the had schizotypal personality disorder.

The Rabbit Dreams images remind me a bit of the outsider art of Henry Darger, childlike and adult at the same time, simple yet a complex story and unexpected emotions.
posted by nickyskye at 8:14 PM on December 19, 2011

Oh jedicus, thank you so much, really - how sweet of you to take the time. How interesting that the illustration is showing things in sequence like that. But yikes, it looked curious but sweet and benign, only to be a dark tale filled with racism and violence! I never would have associated it with Brer Rabbit, the hyena threw me off, but now it does makes sense. I went looking to see if I could find the original Brer Rabbit of similar vintage - the only one I remembered was a Disney version. With a giant "racism" alert, here is Joel Chandler Harris' Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings: The Folk-Lore of the Old Plantation With Illustrations by Frederick S. Church and James H. Moser. It's unreadable, really. But the illustrations are interesting by way of comparison.

nickyskye, that is an excellent association with the Henry Darger work - what a good observation - thanks for that!
posted by madamjujujive at 9:35 PM on December 19, 2011

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