Advertising booklet for Johs. Larsen, St. Magleby featuring Bramming's famous elves (1937)

Frederik Bramming was a Danish illustrator, sports cartoonist and comic artist. He began his career in animation in the 1930s, but worked for newspapers, magazines and books from the 1940s through the 1980s. He is the creator of comic strips like 'Frederik' (1946-1948), 'Chas' (1950-1952) and 'Motorskatten' (1954), but is best-known for his jolly Christmas elves which appeared on calendars, cards and paper decorations.

Early life and animation career
Frederik Bramming was born in 1911 in Frederikshavn, on the northeast coast of Jutland. In 1922 the family moved to Copenhagen, where he got his artistic education at the private art school of Danish painter Folmer Bonnén. By 1925 he was hired by the Bergenholz Advertising Agency, where he took the spot of famous Danish animator Jørgen Myller, who went to work with a cartoon company in London. Bramming remained with Bergenholz until Myller's return in 1938. He worked on several animated advertising films, including one starring the Danish magician Erik Truxa. One of the assistants in his unit was a young Børge Ring. Bramming developed a personal drawing style, which showed influences from the American Disney studios.

Elves
From the 1930s on, Bramming was also active as an illustrator, among others for the Grafisk Institut from 1938 to 1946. He became especially known for his drawings of elves for Christmas calendars, promotional publications and booklets, such as Bergenholz's annual promotional booklet 'Julegaven' (1935-1971), which also featured artwork by Kaj Engholm and Henning Dahl Mikkelsen. Bramming's elves gained more fame when they were used as so-called "Kravlenisse", the literal translation meaning as much as "Crawl Elves". The jolly elves, equipped with balance flaps, were printed on sheets, from which they could either be cut or punched out and used as Christmas decorations. Bramming's first set of elves with their typical Christmas hats was released in 1947 by Kunstforlaget Alliance in a print run of 80,000 copies. An instant hit, the publisher desperately tried to protect the name, but the request was rejected in 1949. Since then, several artists have produced "crawl elves" for other companies, such as Aage Dam, Illa Winkelhorn and Iben Clante, but the ones by Bramming remained the most famous. At first, the elves appeared on print sheets which could be purchased from bookstores, but later they also came with free promotional books and weekly magazines.

Another notorious production by Frederik Bramming was a set of clipboard "jumping jacks" for self-assembly with caricatures of Nazi leaders Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Hermann Göring and Joachim von Ribbentrop. Despite popular belief, the satirical paper puppets were not produced during the war. They were released for Christmas 1945 by the publishing house of Carl Stenders.

Politikens Forlag
Frederik Bramming's pantomime comic strip 'Frederik' (1946-1948) appeared in FRI, the "magazine for girls and boys" from its first issue in April 1946. From the following year on, Bramming was employed by the publishing house of the daily newspaper Politiken. He made sports cartoons for the paper until the 1960s, and provided illustrations to the publisher's 'Hvem Hvad Hvor' annuals (1948-1951), which gave an overview the major news events. He also made the illustrations for Paul W. Svendsen's book about soccer rules, 'Var der Frispark' (Politikens Forlag, 1949). From 1949 to 1956, Bramming was one of the regular artists for Idrætsbladet, Politiken's separate sports weekly. Besides cartoons and illustrations, Bramming also made the pantomime comic about sports photographer 'Chas' (1950-1952), who also served as a sort of mascot for the magazine. In 1952 he made 'Sporty & Søn', a promotional comic strip starring a father and son, about the virtues of sports. The strip had captions in rhyme written underneath the images.

Other magazine work
Bramming was additionally present in Motorjournalen with the comic strip 'Motorskatten' (1954), about an inventive young lady and her small sports car. The plots were written in cooperation with journalist Wilhelm Grandt. He furthermore made many humorous drawings for collection books published by the Danmarks coffee surrogate factory.

He turned freelance in 1956, and spent the next decades working for magazines like Familie-Journalen and Toldtidende. In the mid 1980s, health issues forced Bramming to stop drawing. He passed away in Copenhagen at the age of 79 on 19 April 1991. Frederik Bramming lives on the regular reprints of his 'Kravlenisse'.

Books about Frederik Bramming
Anders Hjorth-Jørgensen compiled a book about the man's life and career called 'Frederik Bramming : nisser og andet godtfolk' (1996). Forlaget desAHJn released collections of Bramming's comic strips 'Frederik' and 'Chas' in 2015.

Frederik Bramming on www.tegnefilmhistorie.dk

Series and books by Frederik Bramming in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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