Each artist in the Acadia University collections has a very interesting story that illustrates their journey to the spotlight – in particular, Willy Seiler’s past shares very little, but gives us a sample of his artistic past. A renowned German artist, Seiler was born and studied art in Dresden, Germany and later continued his art studies in Munich. He left Germany in 1928 and never returned, mainly because of the war and the conditions on the continent. He traveled to over 44 countries, but eventually settled in Japan when WWII ended, where he spent over twenty years of his career producing etchings of his surroundings and the people he encountered. Seiler’s patrons were Americans, and he catered to their imaginations and desires by creating picturesque scenes of Japan and its culture based on the ideas and conceptualizations the Western World had of the Eastern World. While in Japan, he also worked as an art instructor for the American Army College in Tokyo. Next to his etchings, he is best known for his “Willy Seiler Dolls”. These adorable, authentically costumed little figures representing everyday characters of Japan, Korea and Okinawa.
Seiler has exhibited in Rome, Paris, Jerusalem, Teheran, San Francisco, Mexico City, and many other locations on his globe-circling travels. His work has been widely received all over the world by individuals including princes and leading officials. It is believed that most of his etchings were published as limited editions and signed/numbered by hand, and can be found at auction or in private collections. Not much else is known about Willy Seiler, however, his beautiful etchings speak volumes about his life experiences and talent.
The following work is called Farmer’s Beauty, nd. This work was displayed in our student-led exhibition, Face Value, which took place May 24th-June 11th, 2017. The student who chose this piece used it to explore the traditional and modern relationships between Japanese women and the workforce.
If you have any comments or have additional information about Willy Seiler you would like to share, join the conversation below!
Alexandra Pulchny (Collections and Outreach Assistant, Summer 2017)
Acadia University Art Gallery Artist Files
Wanczura, Dieter. “Willy Seiler – 1903 – ?” Artelino. N.d. Accessed May 20, 2017.