German natural history artist Claus Caspari was born in Munich in 1911 and raised in the Bavarian Highlands at Marquartstein. He became interested in botanical illustration at an early age, through the influence of his mother; his father was also an artist—a successful landscape painter—but had died when Claus was only two years old. He also loved minerals, and began collecting rocks and minerals as a small boy.
Following high school Claus worked for the German art firm of Hanfstaengl, a maker of art prints, selling the artwork of other artists from 1930 to 1941. After the war he and his mother ran a translation service for a short while, but in 1947 he quit to become a full-time artist. A chance meeting in 1948 with entomologist Prof. Dr. Hans Krieg, Director of the scientific collections of the State of Bavaria, resulted in his first major commissions in 1949-1951: mostly Alpine plant illustrations but two plates of mineral specimens as well.
During the 1950's Caspari took regular mineral collecting trips to the mountains. In 1953 he was approached by the publisher Erich Cramer, and for many years thereafter produced paintings of plants, minerals and mushrooms for publication. Caspari specialized in highly detailed and realistic scientific illustrations painted in the style of James Sowerby—the specimen floating on a white background. About scientific illustration he once said: "An artist in our métier must dance at two weddings at once. He must be a good artist and meet the artistic requirements, but he must also have sufficient knowledge about the scientific details of the subject."
Caspari's botanical guidebook, Der grosse BLV Pflanzenführer, contains over 1500 watercolor illustrations of blooming plants of Middle Europe; his book Der BLV Pflanzenführer für Unterwegs consists of 1150 paintings of flowers, grasses, trees and bushes; and his 1963 book on Middle European mushrooms contains 180 of his paintings. His most important mineralogical work was the "Mineralien" volume of the Sammlung naturkundlicher Tafeln series, containing 7.5 x 10.5-inch unbound prints of 162 paintings of mineral specimens selected from the Mineralogische Staatssammlung in Munich and other well-known mineral collections. Caspari also provided the 154 mineral illustrations for A Collector's Guide to Minerals and Gemstones (1971) and The Studio Handbook of Minerals (1972) by Hellmuth Boegel. Very few of his originals have ever been sold.
To see examples of his mineral art click here..
ROBINSON, S. (1987) Mineral art today. Rocks & Minerals, 62 (5), 328-343.
LAWRENCE, G. (1971) Unpublished interview with Claus Caspari. A manuscript copy of an English translation of the interview is on file in the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Pittsburgh.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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(Karlheinz Gerl collection)