By Ken Giese
As personal papers and archival collections are increasingly sought after by librarians and collectors, we have accordingly been conducting a fair bit of original cataloguing of various special collections materials in order to keep up with the demand. I’ve thus become better at identifying and describing the papers and ephemera of obscure authors and artists, and even a few famous punk rockers unknown only to me; but every now and then I am confronted with anonymous or original materials of considerable interest which I cannot identify, despite my best efforts. Here for example is a hand-painted illustration from the 1930s signed “AM”.
Can anyone identify this Unknown Woman? We have two other versions, one with her eyes open, and the other with the background in gold. Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 novella “Dream Story” comes to mind, as does Stefan Zweig’s 1922 novella “Letter from an Unknown Woman,” but I only know that I like this lady, and that is all I know.
This particular suite of three illustrations is one of nine portfolio collections of 106 works (87 hand-painted color illustrations and 19 linocut prints) by the same artist. Most are signed with the monogram “AM” in paint or pencil, about half have been dated from 1937, and about half have short captions by the artist (mostly on laid-in note cards) that identify the literary figures and scenes depicted. Here is an example of what appears to be a scene from the opera Salome by Richard Strauss.
I have thus been able to more easily identify many illustrations and roughly collate them into nine portfolio collections by subject: Hamlet; Le Morte D’Arthur; Tennyson I; Tennyson II; Salome; The Snow Queen; Egyptian Dieties; The Crusades and the Magic Mountain; and The Unknown Woman. I’ve also been able to identify the artist’s name from an unpublished illustrated manuscript for The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam (sold by us two years ago), that includes an illustrated title with the name “Anne Marie,” and the New York imprint of Ben Abramson. However, “AM” or Anne Marie remains a mystery. Our only clue is this: In  Ben Abramson published “Hafiz in Quatrains, A Transfusion, Presenting the Spirit of the Persian Poet” by Clarence K. Streit, and with “decorations by Annemarie Bonnet.” Might this be our Woman?
She has a bold and attractive style, and many of her designs are notable for their layering of dark colors, often with gold and silver, which gives them a three-dimensional and jewel-like luminosity reminiscent of Persian miniature paintings. The Tennyson and Magic Mountain portfolios include many landscapes, and she also was a fine printmaker. Here is a linocut portrait of Guinevere from Le Morte D’Arthur.
Her works appear to have been commissioned for publication, but I have not yet been able to positively identify “Anne Marie” or determine if any of these works were published. Her entire oeuvre can be viewed here. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated!
(Posted in the Between the Covers Blog. Presented here by permission of Between the Covers.)