HENSON, Bill (1955 - ); RÜCKERT, Friedrich (1788 - 1866); MAHLER, Gustav (1860 - 1911)
Kindertotenlieder : Mahler, Henson, Rückert
London : Stanley/Barker, 2017. Quarto (381 x 305 mm), decorated black cloth, 16 pages letterpress text by Rückert, 64 pages offset with 32 photographs by Henson, housed in a foil stamped black slipcase containing a 12″ vinyl record of the music of Mahler. Published in a limited edition of 150 numbered copies each signed by Bill Henson.
In an outpouring of grief after the death of his children from scarlet fever in 1833, German poet Friedrich Rückert wrote 428 poems on the deaths of children. Seventy years later the composer Gustav Mahler was so moved by these poems he began work on a song cycle, eventually scoring five of the poems. Although chastised by his wife Alma for tempting fate as they had two young daughters of their own, Mahler completed the cycle in the summer of 1904. Three years later – a year of ‘sorrow and dread’, as Alma Mahler described 1907 – Mahler’s eldest daughter died from scarlet fever during the summer holidays at their house in Maiernigg. Mahler closed up the house and fled, never to return.
In 1976 Bill Henson began work on a series of works inspired by Rückert’s poems and by Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder. He continued to work on this series for 40 years, drawing together evocative dreamscapes of the forest and lake at Maiernigg, the composing hut Mahler had built deep in the forest, and the family’s house on the shores of the Wörthersee, combining these works with the spectre of a young girl. Together these images present a beautiful and sustained meditation on longing and loss.
Presented as a limited edition hand-bound in a slipcase, Kindertotenlieder includes a volume of Henson’s photographs and Rückert’s poems printed with a letter press, as well as a 12” record of the Mahler song cycle performed by the Israel Philharmonic with Janet Baker, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.
Published in London in 2017 in a very limited edition of 150 copies, most of the edition sold out immediately. The final 20 copies were secured by Douglas Stewart Fine Books for an Australian launch at our bookshop on July 5, 2018, with the artist in attendance.