L'Ami Fritz

Illustrated novel
Authors: Émile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian
Illustrations: Frédéric Back
Published by: Société d'éditions françaises et internationales, Librairie Hachette, Paris, 1947, 244 pages


A popular novel written in 1864, L'Ami Fritz is a lively portrait of 19th century Alsatian bourgeois society seen through the love story of Fritz, a confirmed bachelor, and Süzel, the daughter of his tenant farmer. The version illustrated by Frédéric Back was published in 1947. It featured gouache drawings using gradations of two different colours, one warm and one cool, an economical method of creating relief illustrations. In these landscapes, rural, urban and interior scenes, and depictions of people and animals, his keen sense of observation and careful attention to detail are already apparent.


In 1945, Frédéric Back set off on a long bicycle trip across his native Alsace and came back with so many sketches that a Parisian publisher asked him to illustrate Erckmann and Chatrian's celebrated novel. The key points in the story are highlighted with 32 drawings. It is an early work, about which Frédéric Back is now rather critical, saying "I wanted to show everything. Sometimes it's a bit overdone." However, illustrating the book obviously left its mark on him since he and his wife would later name their daughter Süzel, after its heroine.