Preaching to the Birds

Eichenberg--Preaching to the Birds.jpg
EichenbergFritz - Preaching to the Birds.JPG

Dublin Core



This work displays a man suspended off the ground, surrounded by a variety of birds. The man himself looks to be St. Francis. The birds surrounding him are varied, with different species and sizes. The etching is darkly colored, primarily using blacks and whites. Behind the subject, the background is almost entirely black. Elements of circular halos can be seen surrounding the man, and rays of light are emanating from his head.

About the Artist: Born in Cologne, Germany to a Jewish family, Eichenberg moved to Berlin where he worked ten years for Ullstein Publications, one of the country’s largest publishers. He fled to New York in 1933 amidst the rise of Nazism. One of Eichenberg’s first jobs in the US was creating illustrations for The Nation and he taught art lessons at The New School for five years; later, he founded the Pratt Center for Contemporary Printmaking. Recalling this challenging decade, Eichberg spoke fondly of WPA support for artists like him: “I went there with a few of my wooden engravings, or prints and asked him what I could do. It was just as simple as that. He said, ‘Oh, this is marvelous work. Go ahead and do what you want to do.’ It was that simple. There were no strings attached to it... I got box wood, which is very hard to get—the WPA had kind of a supply room and everything we needed. You had to say what you needed, and you got it. They bought the tools. They bought the gravers and they sharpened the gravers and you took your material home with you. You just picked it up there—beautiful wood blocks, any size” (Oral History Interview). Eichenberg became a sought-after illustrator for more than a hundred books—Poe, Dostoyevsky, Turgenev, Swift, the Brontës, numerous children’s stories—but he was especially moved by a request to create prints for Dorthy Day’s Catholic Worker magazine: “She said she had seen clippings of my work in the hovels of coal miners and so on, people in all parts of the world; people who could not read the Catholic Worker but they understood my very simple images of saints and portraits of people important in the Catholic worker movement.” Eichenberg was a witty commentator on current affairs; his print at the NDG references both St. Francis’s sermon to the birds and the pretensions of high-altitude balloon flights during the 1930s, like those undertaken at the Century of Progress in 1933. In later life he contributed talks, essays, and books on his medium, including The Art of the Print (1976) and The Wood and the Engraver  (1977). Oral history interviews in 1964 and 1979. 12 works at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 19 works at Smithsonian Museum of American Art. 105 works at Harvard Art Museum. 9 more images at FAP, including companions to his lithograph at NDG: “Preaching to the Animals,” “Preaching to the Fishes.”


Eichenberg, Fritz, 1901-1990








Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format


Physical Dimensions

6 x 8 in.
Condition: surface dirt on glass