"The art of illuminative
might imagine that the word “fraktur” refers to
the painting itself, however; the term is actually referring
to the script and it means “broken lettering.” Interestingly enough though, this
type of artwork is always referred
to as fraktur even if it contains no script. Fraktur
painting is a Pennsylvania German decorative tradition. It
combines calligraphic and pictorial elements embellished to
reflect a deep religious significance for family documents.
It is greatly appreciated for it’s aesthetic, moral,
devotional, genealogical, and sentimental values. Fraktur combines
words and elaborate decoration to express spirituality and
delight in the world around us.
fraktur is a reflection of a very old European tradition of illuminated
manuscripts. The roots of fraktur lie in Central Europe, where
fraktur flourished in the German-speaking lands of Germany, Switzerland,
and Austria—during the 16th and 17th Centuries, the period
immediately preceding the Atlantic migration. Fraktur art
is seen in American history from the time these German settlers
came to “The New World” and on down through the years,
until this individualistic art form eventually gave way with
the rise of the printing press.
America, the two most common types of Fraktur, are the vorschrift
and the taufschein, the "writing
document" and the "birth and baptismal record",
The Taufschein, (baptismal,
and marriage certificates) was practiced mainly by the Lutheran
and German Reformed people in Pennsylvania. Handcrafted
and written in the Germanic Gothic form, these frakturs were
first decorated with beautifully ornate capital letters. When
the Scribner was
finished with his work, he would often embellish it with drawings
of birds, flowers, angels, and other objects of his fancy.
The Vorschrift (writing
examples) flourished from 1760-1860 as a teaching tool and
was practiced by the smaller numbers of Mennonites, Amish and
brethren. These documents were generally written by the
schoolmaster for the use of the students to “copy” his
penmanship or learn a specific passage of Scripture, hymn or
other spiritual truth.
a student was given a Belohnung (reward)
for excellent work and conduct or a perfect recitation in
a school exercise - a schoolmaster’s way of encouraging
the students with his finely drawn pictures of flowers and
of: animals, people, soldiers, flowers, angels, birds, mermaids
(believed to save children from drowning in wells), Bücherzeichen, (which
identified ownership of Bible- catechism- and singing-school
bookplates) as well as that occasional Irrgarten (token
of love) from a young man to his special young lady--these
are all considered frakturs as well, and were not only drawn
by men…women have painted some of the most prized
pieces of fraktur art.
art was painted using ink and watercolors. Pigments produced
for watercolor drawings were derived from plants and trees.
Rag paper and quills made from goose and turkey feathers were
used prior to 1860.
frakturs were usually on the smaller side, as paper was expensive. Families
cherished these beautiful handcrafted documents. Often
a fraktur was folded and placed in the family’s Bible
or pasted to the lid of a dowry chest. Rarely were they
ever hung on a wall.
with a love for the past and a desire to preserve our heritage,
as well as leave a legacy to future generations are persevering
to bring back this beautiful art form as well as add to
it with their own folk-art expressions from the 21st Century.
I hope this
gives the reader a better uderstanding of what fraktur is