Masterful: Roland Foundation art award for Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse and Hermann Zapf

RS Kunstpreis Zapf 2016 Gutenberg-Museum.001

By Andreas Weber | Click for German version

Something like this does not happen every day. And in this way especially, can never be repeated. In the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, the Ike and Berthold Roland Foundation honoured calligrapher couple Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse and (posthumously) Prof Hermann Zapf, who passed away on June 4, 2015. Managing Director Thomas Metz, Kulturelles Erbe (GDKE) Rheinland-Pfalz, was particularly pleased and full of admiration as he welcomed an illustrious crowd of guests. As a reminder: Both award-winners were born in 1918, almost a century ago. Yet the modernity or better yet, the timelessness of their work is stronger than ever. It obviously does the Gutenberg Museum good to combine the heritage of the art of printing, to which it is so passionately devoted, with the culture of calligraphy & type design. It was no problem at all for Director Dr Annette Ludwig to arrange a small, but exquisite ad hoc exhibition featuring works of the two award-winners from its own collections to round off her laudatory speech at the art award presentation ceremony.

Founder Dr Berthold Roland benefited from the print-calligraphy-type-design link already back in the 1960s. Three of his books then were designed by Hermann Zapf and even won awards. The accomplished, masterfully staged form puts printed content on the winners’ podium — practically a motto for the work of the two award winners. As world-class typeface designers and calligraphers, Zapf&Zapf were not “competitors”, but rather a dream team, the best that can be imagined. Hermann Zapf saw it that way, too, telling me personally that the artistic creation of his wife was significantly more extensive than his own. Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse has a perfectly pronounced artistic talent coupled with the highest level of technical craftsmanship, such as can be seen in her freestyle works.


Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse has been able to keep pace, even today, with the precision of a top Swiss watchmaker or fine goldsmith. Her bookbindings are unique works of art, the likes of which are seldom seen elsewhere. Her hand-written books are milestones in book design – at first glance it is hard to believe that they have not been produced with perfect typefaces. Her watercolours, full of calligraphy, are mesmerising. Her works have been shown on the international stage since 1952, garnering praise, recognition and admiration from all sides. Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse has been closely connected up to now primarily with the Schreibwerkstatt Klingspor Offenbach. Her works are carefully preserved and displayed in her home in Darmstadt. Subtle, but brilliant. Those who have the privilege of being there will never cease to be amazed!

Hermann Zapf, whose obituary I wrote with humble admiration, was a happy man. Up until the day he died. He was able to continuously bask in the shadow of his beloved wife. His whole life long. And yet he was always in the spotlight. Except today, in Mainz, at the art award presentation ceremony that was so cordially and superbly organised by Oliver Roland, Managing Director of the Ike and Berthold Roland Foundation. This time, in the Gutenberg Museum, the spotlight was on Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse. With pure joy and gratitude for the man by her side, whom she misses but who will always be close to her.



Video of the art award ceremony speech and presentation of the award to Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse by Oliver Roland, Managing Director of the Ike and Berthold Roland Foundation on March 6, 2016 (in german language).

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