The day is short and the work long
Fré Cohen

Frederika Sophia (Fré) Cohen (1903-1943) was a graphic artist and designed at the behest of private individuals and diverse public authorities, including Amsterdam City Council.

In an ex libris of the Thirties, designed by Fré Cohen, we see a farmer ploughing the land with above him a dark threatening sky. At the edge of the woodcut there is a Hebrew text from the classical Jewish anthology Spreuken der Vaderen (Proverbs from the Fathers): ‘The day is short and the work long’. With hindsight about the period when the ex libris was created, the stamp appears to be a sinister portent – ‘a blueprint’ – of the time to come. At the same time, this aphorism may be read as a symbolic allusion to Fré Cohen’s brief life.

MS

Photo

‘The day is short and the work long’, column, 80cm x 80cm x 40cm.

Figuration source

Collection: Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam

Biography

Frederika Sophia (Fré) Cohen (1903-1943) was a Dutch graphic artist and designed for private individuals and diverse public authorities, including Amsterdam City Council. For example, she provided the design for the Girobook, postcards for the Stadsreinigingsdienst (Public Cleansing Service) and printed matter for council services such as the Handelsinrichtingen (Commercial Institutes), the Energiebedrijf (Energy Company) and the Stadschouwburg (City Theatre). With her interest in typography, Fré Cohen also made several ex libris stamps. Fré Cohen ended her own life after she was captured by the Germans in 1943.

Artwork: You Are Here
Artist: Martijn Sandberg
Material: concrete
Measurements: (lxwxh) 80cm x 80cm x 40cm
Project: Legacy of the Twentieth Century
Realisation and completion: 2019
Location: Oranje Vrijstaatkade, Oostpoort, Amsterdam
Commissioned by: Amsterdam Municipality, District Oost