On my site I wrote: A degree of artisanship is clearly inseparable from the creative process. A mosaic is the end result of a myriad of choices and manipulations none of which should be left to chance or to a third party. Some mosaic manufacturers choose to commission a design (also called a cartoon) and to outsource its execution to Mexico, China or Peru. I do not consider those works of art.
Sensing that this statement was too radical, I added:
This is not to be confused with a mosaic that interprets a painting, in which the choices made by the mosaicist can be of more interest than the source. The same can be said of the close association of a painter-cartoonist with a mosaic artist who become equal partners in authoring and signing their mosaics as did Hans Unger and Eberhard Schulze.
I have not been able to find out much about them and what I did find is not verified, but here it is anyway. Unger and Schulze created mosaics roughly from 1960 to 1974. Unger died in 1975. I do not know if Schulze kept creating mosaics, but soon after Unger's death, a spinal injury forced him to quit mosaics. He then launched a very successful second career as an aquarist, becoming England’s leading discus fish specialist.
We have all seen endless mosaics depicting fish. Few designs are easier. This one goes beyond the representation of a fish to create an atmosphere in a way that shouts "Mosaics!". I find it spectacular. The sectioning, the colors, the andamento, and the irregular cuts of the material are just magnificent. (Click on any of the images to see an enlargement).
The man on the right is another example of the artists' talent. The design is highly stylized and simplified (I do not know the title of this piece, but I see it as Moses). Nor have I seen the cartoon, but it is clear that Unger's design was created with an eye to its translation into a mosaic and that Schulze's interpretation draws on his artistic mastery of mosaic techniques.
Here are two more examples of this remarkable collaboration.
Another artistic trait of Unger and Schulze's creations is their backgrounds. They are not, as is unfortunately often the case, just fillers added once the motif is completed. As much skill and thought goes into them as in the motif. It is often hard to decide which is main motif and which is background. And certainly, without the "background" the work would not have the same impact.
Conversely, to set off their main motif without cluttering the mosaic, the artists opted for paint on highly textured wood.
No longer a hidden component, the visible substrate becomes part of the final work, and its painted grain functions like another tessera.
The same goes for the rustic frame. Rather than being an add-on or an afterthought, it is an integral component of the mosaic.
For another giant mosaic with Schulze's own commentary look here.
There will be a second part to this post, featuring the work of mosaic artist Lynn Moor