You’ve probably heard of Lucian Freud, Sigmund Freud’s grandson, and a master of 20th-century painting, but he wasn’t the first member of the famous clan with visual acumen. The famous psychoanalyst‘s niece, Martha, who went by the name Tom Seidmann-Freud (1892-1930), was an imaginative illustrator and author whose work from the 1920s is avidly collected today.
Rendered in fanciful colors and bold graphic lines, Freud’s illustrations—a dream-world setting where children frolic with gentle rabbits and giant fish—are ahead of their time, with inspiration coming from as varied sources as Paul Klee, Japanese prints, and Victorian illustration. Freud eschewed decorative surface in favor of a modern vision, suggesting an infinite, somewhat surreal space. Contributing images for her own multilingual texts, as well as to those of other authors, the artist worked in pochoir, a technique that combines stenciling and painting to produce an unusual and rich tonal depth.
With her husband, Yankel Seidmann and the famed Hebrew poet, Hayim Nahman Bialik, Freud established Ophir, a publishing company which produced Hebrew children’s books. Ophir’s bankruptcy led to Yankel’s suicide, worsening Freud’s own debilitated mental state. She ended her own life four months later, at the age of 38.