Jean Larcher is one of the world’s great calligraphers. His skills and expertise in creating wonderful letter-forms is shown in many of his works, which always have an enviable liveliness and vibrancy. He is also extremely generous. When I used to run a charity for children, schools and carers interested in all forms of letters and lettering, he kindly sent me a large package of his publications which stood me in good stead for prizes for children’s competitions for a long time! It was Jean’s wonderfully vibrant lettering that was used on the outside of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, UK, for the Calligraphy Today exhibition that I co-curated in 2011-12.
Jean has now published a collection of his lettering – Character Traits. It is a huge book, both in width and height, but also in number of pages, over 600 of them! The books is simply wonderful in so many ways. The obvious care with which it has been designed – by Jean’s equally talented wife Katharina Pieper – the way in which the pieces are set out on the page, and the details for each piece make this book a must-have for anyone interested in calligraphy and lettering. Jean is studying the huge pile of pages on the right above. Photographs from Jean’s website.
Many of the pieces of calligraphy are to do with lettering, and Jean’s versatility is shown here, with the same text as that used on the poster outside the Fitzwilliam Museum.
Other pieces show different writing styles. This one is based on early writing styles. It is notoriously difficult to justify hand-written letters to create an even left margin and an even right margin. Yet here Jean has achieved that. In addition to this, though, the texture is remarkably even (make your eyes slightly blurred) yet with only four lines in thirteen needing a word to be split. This is a real tour-de-force.
And a remarkably restrained piece, but with wonderful free and distinctive joins between letters s and following letters, creating a repetitive pattern within an even texture.
Having proved that he is a supreme master in pen control and letter-form, Jean also shows that free lettering is another style in which he excels. This has an almost graffiti style, but I would hazard a guess that there would be few people who would protest if something as beautiful as this was written on walls in our towns! The shape of the lettering, with the small lettered insertions, and the red sections as well is an intriguing but most pleasing design.
These few examples give something of the flavour of this wonderful book and I can recommend it no more highly.