Orla Jacobsen Muff

We begin with a happy, but politically incorrect cover. It was created in 1919 by the 16-year old Orla Muff. Probably with his father’s help. The drawing puts us in a good mood. Nothing like a jazzy, swinging tune to accompany our next story.

'Albion Jazz'
Albion Jazz‘, music by Georg Rygaard. Illustration by C(hristian?) & Orla Jacobsen Muff (Kobenhavn, 1919).
Detail and signature on the sheet music cover: the ‘C.’ in the signature suggests that Orla Muff’s father, the lithographer Christian Jacobsen, probably helped his son with one of his first assignments.

The Danish artist Orla Muff (1903-1984) was born in Copenhagen as Orla Andreas Heinrik Jacobsen. At fourteen Muff won a drawing competition and subsequently saw his series of postcards published and reprinted several times. When he entered the technical school (1917-1921) he started to call himself Muff. At the same time he worked as an apprentice of Carl Lund, a designer of stage sets.

Orla Muff’s winning postcard of a 1918 drawing contest. He was then 14 years old (source: Danske Postkortkunstnere).

Muff started his professional career by drawing sets and costumes for different theaters in Denmark. He also worked as a set designer for the Mayol Theatre in Oslo. From the photographs of Norwegian singer Kirsten Flagstad we can imagine the kind of artwork Muff created for the operette costumes during the early twenties.

Kirsten Flagstad's costumes for operettes at the MAyol Theatre. (source: DigitaltMuseum Norway)
Kirsten Flagstad’s costumes for operettes at the Mayol Theatre (source: DigitaltMuseum Norway)

Later on Muff worked for Ernst Rolf’s revues in Stockholm and at Max Reinhardt’s theatre in Berlin. He designed posters, made drawings for magazines and illustrated the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen.

Illustration by Orla Muff for Andersen's fairy tales.
Muff’s illustration for the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen (source: Fleson Postkortgalleri)

On a collector’s website we found almost two hundred of Muff’s Christmas postcards! Was it a lucrative job since his early days, or had he a penchant for sleighs, bells, gnomes, geese and snowmen? We made the following selection.

Christmas postcard, illustrated by Orla Muff (source: Fleson Postkortgalleri)Happy New Year postcard, illustrated by Orla Muff.

New Year postcard, illustrated by Orla Muff (source: Fleson Postkortgalleri)

Collage of Muff's themes if Christmas postcards.
We couldn’t resist making a collage of Muff’s themes from his Christmas cards (source: Fleson Postkortgalleri)

In the early thirties Orla Muff started with oil paintings: portraits, mythologically inspired scenes, stylised figures and even abstract compositions in light colours. Not really our thing.

Muff’s sheet music covers were commissioned by the above mentioned Ernst Rolf, but also by the Swedish publishers Skandinaviska Musikförlaget and Musikaliska Knuten. The following images are proof that Orla Muff is the cream of the crop amongst Art Deco graphic artists. Almost nothing has been published on Muff and it is hard to find examples of his work. Our post partly fills the gap. We hope it is a nudge for a deeper study or monograph on this creative Scandinavian designer. Meanwhile, enjoy looking at the following covers!

Femina‘, music by Sven Rüno (1923)
Bal Album, Band I‘ (s.d.); ‘Whispering Foxtrot’ (1920)
'If you love me', music by Jules Sylvain (1924)
If you love me‘, music by Jules Sylvain (1924)
My Sister‘ (s.d.); ‘Bal Album, Band III‘ (1923)
'På galej',
På galej‘, music by Rudolph Nelson (1924)
'My Sister' (s.d.); 'Bal Album, Band III' (1923) - click on image to enlarge
Bal Album, Band IV‘ (1924); ‘Flickan ifrån Mittens rike‘ (1921)
'I min bar', music by Rudolph Nelson (1924 - click image to enlarge
I min bar‘, music by Rudolph Nelson (1924)
'Mr. Wu' (1922); 'Elastic' (1921)
Mr. Wu‘ (1922); ‘Elastic‘ (1921)
'Han är så söt och rar', music by Harald Mortensen (1925) - click on image to enlarge
Han är så söt och rar‘, music by Harald Mortensen (1925)
Four lookalikes by Orla Mutt
Sappho‘ (1923); ‘Ständigt jag minns‘ (1922); ‘Inga Lill‘ (1923); ‘Sonja‘ (1920)
'Smaragden', music by Einar Cronhammar (1923) - click image to enlarge
Smaragden‘, music by Einar Cronhammar (1923)