Following a career as an officer in the royal-imperial cavalry, Ferdinand von Reznicek moves to Munich in 1888 to study at the Academy of Fine Arts. He gathers experience illustrating news items for the weekly publication Fliegende Blätter; his artistic breakthrough, however, comes with his involvement with the satirical magazine Simplicissimus. From its establishment in 1896 to von Reznicek’s death in 1909, the magazine publishes almost 600 of his drawings, as well as seven collections of work. This makes the artist one of its most popular and active contributors; he is succeeded by Ernst Heilemann, Marcello Dudovich and Brynolf Wennerberg.
In contrast to fellow contributors like Olaf Gulbransson, Thomas Theodor Heine or Bruno Paul, von Reznicek’s work does not engage with political material or social outrages. He sets his work in the world of nobility and nouveau riche, as well as the decadent demimonde. Boudoirs, private chambers and ballrooms form the backdrop of many a hilarious scene, which often deals with double standards or erotic encounters between men and women. The titles or captions added by the magazine’s editors render the images positively hysterical.
Other than most contributors of Simplicissimus von Reznicek forgoes visual exaggeration and distortion, resulting in drawings barely considered caricature. His submissions use mainly watercolour, pen and gouache, and are distinguished through the fluid elegance of their lines, keen sensibility for colour and a pictorial composition of the scenes. The artist pays particular attention to the representation of dress, his delicate brushstroke creates finely structured pleats and patterns. Subtle gradation of colour or monochrome shading lend von Reznicek’s work an air of grand painting, which may explain their vast popularity.