Tate Kids


Karl Weschke, Fire-Eater (with Spectators), 1984-86

The German artist Karl Weschke came to England during the Second World War as a Prisoner of War in 1945. When he was released he decided to become an artist, and came to live in Cornwall in 1955.

Weschke’s work is often based on his own experiences. This painting shows a fire-eater he saw performing in the street in Frankfurt. What do you think the people watching the fire-eater are thinking?

11 stories about “Karl Weschke, Fire-Eater (with Spectators), 1984-86”

  1. Dale, age 11, from England

    It was a hot day as the sun beamed down on the town of Frankfurt as I started my show, playing with fire, it was a hard life you got hardly any money and if you made a mistake it burns and here is how I found that out.

    I was doing my final stunt it was going well until someone chucked a piece of fruit at me, I looked round to find out who it was when the fire went straightdown my back.

    I went to the hospital where the doctor told me I wouldn’t be able to perform for a whole month, worse still it was the best payed month of the year.

    1 year on…

    And that’s my tale to tell.

  2. David, age 6, from North Shields, UK

    There, in the middle of the street stood a monster. People screamed! Someone ran for the police but the monster disappeared before they got there. The people had a competition about whoever could make a good name for the monster. They decided to call him “The Fire-Eater”. The End

  3. Jade, age 9, from England

    The fire eater called Joshua was standing in the street doing his famous fire tricks. When suddenly he found he had no money. Then a little boy and his father came along and gave him some money each week. Several years passed and he got richer and richer. Soon he was as rich as the world. He was very happy.

  4. Sam and Adgie, age 10, from Spain

    “Well”, I thought, ‘there is no going back now, ” as I prepared the enormous flame of oranges and reds. I started to think if it would miss and burn to a crisp, the audience was staring right at me, they almost looked like a Victorian wardrobe the way they were standing.

    For some sort of reason I started to think of my old dog, the way he used to leap around when we fed him. I tried to put that to the back of my mind.

    So it was now time, I took a deep breath, and glanced at the looming audience, the fire ball at the top looked boiling I held the torch in the one hand while it was lit.

    Then I held the lit torch upside down, opened my mouth and placed the fire ball in my mouth and swallowed, AHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

  5. Kyla, age 10, from Spain

    The Fire-Breather

    Yes, that’s me. The fire-breather. And I’m going to tell you about the day I nearly died.

    I was doing my usual act in front of a group of people.
    Then, suddenly, this man came out with a wooden club and set it alight. “Stick that down your throat! ” He cried, and shoved it down my windpipe. I was gasping for air, feeling my throat blister.

    You could easily guess that he was the lunatic that had escaped a few weeks ago. I had travelled, for many miles, doing this trick. And this is all I got. For living on £5 a month, from Norway to France, stowing away on a private plane, all for nothing.

    I fell back, collapsing. I could feel my insides burning, and then blistering badly. I knew I was dying. Slowly, painfully, my heart stopped beating. I woke up and thought I was dead, and in heaven.

    But wait, where was that beeping noise coming from? I suddenly felt heavy. Something was pinning me down, stopping me float. I looked down. I wasn’t dead!!!! I was lying in hospital, with tubes down my throat, expelling a liquor-like medicine. I was safe!

    All I had to do now is get home.

    But, how? One of the nurses came over and gave me my bill. What?! The bill came to £1000. She said that they had given me their best medicine, Aceromorphen, commonly known as Calpol. It helped but it was for CHILDREN!! I have had to take it for the last 15 years. Now, I am 40, a multimillionaire, and I have a beautiful wife, Melissa, 40.

  6. Matthew, age 10, from Spain

    Fire Eater

    “WOW! This man is amazing! I have never seen anything like it in my life!” I yelled. He threw the stick up into the air and the smoke from the flame drifted up into the sky, the stick came flying down from the air and jolted into his mouth. He started to gag and gag.
    Then the ambulance came and put him in the back of it, it went off at about 100mph! Two hours later I heard that he made it to the hospital before the stick fell down his throat.
    Another fire eater took his place, his stick flew into the air but missed his mouth and hit the ground and set on fire, luckily there were fire extinguishers.


  7. Peter, age 10, from England

    one day there was a magician who new a dangerous spell which could make him breath fire he would have to get a gem from a tree it would be in the stomach of a fire breathing dragon and five other dragons.

    He set of with a bow and arrow and a sword and shield he got to his first dragon and stalked up on him and stabbed him in the heart blood the colour of a brick came out.

    As he was walking he caught a glimse of the dragon and his gem he ran and through his sword at another dragon he ran and got his sword as he was going up he dropped his sword. He got his bow and an arrow and killed them he kiled three more and grabbed the gem an audiance watched him breath fire when he got home

  8. Guy, age 10, from England

    There was a man called Fred and ever since he was four he had wanted to be a fire eater. He started when he was six and when he was eleven he did his own show. Now in this picture at the age of thirtynine he was fire eating when. He was on his second go and he counculated it wrong and the fire came down in his face, his hair set alight and he was badly scared but he still carried on and became world champion!

  9. Ellen and Charlotte, age 10, from England


    Amazed spectators, looking at what looked like a man half human half dragon, fire eating. It all started an eternity ago in the land of wajimacallit.

    In this land a dragon lived peacefully until a group of violent humans came to live there too. As time went by the humans got so annoying that the dragon had enough. He decided to attack the group of humans at the dead of night while they where all sleeping.

    But while he was in the village a man, 2 metres tall, came up to the dragon, bravely speared him with a sword. He then ate the dragan and inherited the dragon’s fire breathing powers.

    This power has been passed on to all his male descendants who now perform at circuses and on the streets.

    The End

  10. Kitty, age 9, from England

    There was once a man who had no ambition whatsoever. He was unfit, he had no qualifications and to make it worse, everyone in the little village that he lived in hated him. He never went out of the house, instead his dog always went and got him a newspaper and some mouldy food that he found off the street.
    One day, there was a large crowd gathering round something.

    ‘Aye, aye,’ he said softly to himself, ‘what’s going on around there?’

    It must have been important bacause the villagers had never been that interested before! So, the man heaved himself across the small room and stretched to get his dusty coat from the high hook. Once outside, the man took a great gulp of air, and stared out at the village that he only saw out of the window of his small house.

    The village was a pretty one, with old Mock-Tudor houses dotted here and there. There was the good old ‘Bunch of Grapes inn’, with the rusty doorsign bearing the text, ‘the bunch of grapes’, and a bunch of lime-green grapes next to some shiny purple coloured grapes. He had many memories of watching terrible fights with people coming out of the inn, drunk, through his old window.

    He carried on walking slowly toward the crowd. He finally got there and pushed his way through, ignoring the angry buzz of muttering. In front, there was an interesting view. There was an unusual man there, and he was doing the most extraordinary thing. He was EATING FIRE!!!

    Suddenly the man felt a tingling sensation in himself, and he realised what it was. He had found an ambition! He was so excited that he couldn’t stop himself shouting,’Please can I have a go?!’

    ‘Why, yes, of course,’ the man said,’IF you tell me your name.

    Well, um my name is Rick,’Rick said.

    ‘Great, well, Rick! I’d love to have some company performing!’ He answered.
    And that is the end. How the man found his ambition, even if it was a bit late!

  11. Jack, age 12, from England

    This was the last man left on Earth. Everyone elso had been eaten by a prickly black box. Nobody knew how old it was and how it had got to Earth but once there it could not be defeated.

    This man lost his family, his home and all of his friends. He ran and ran and then one day he thought why bother running? If I have to die I will chose the time and the place.

    So he tracked the box, actually it was closing in on him, and he stuck his hand right down inside the blackness. It was surprisngly cold and clammy. The box thingy was surprised and unprepared.
    The box survived , even after being taken aback by the man’s attack, and the man died just like all the others, but for one thing. As he gasped his last breath he let a small bright funnel of light escape from his lips and for one moment he could be seen everyone.

    This would have been remarkable had there been anyone left alive on Earth to see it.