Thursday, March 25, 2010

How do you solve a problem like Emil?

In 1937, 1,052 of his works were removed from German museums by the Nazis, more than by any other artist. 29 choice canvases were selected for the infamous exhibition of Degenerate Art; and no doubt many others were destroyed. In 1941 he was expelled from the Reichskunstkammer, the German Artists’ Association, and forbidden not just to exhibit or sell his work, but even to paint. However he continued creating art in secret, stockpiling hundreds of little watercolours, his “Unpainted Pictures”, which sing with vibrant colour.
         So he must be a hero, right?
         If only it weren’t for the inconvenient fact that this persecuted artist was also a keen, fully paid-up member of the Nazi party. He only joined the party in 1934, after Hitler had been elected Chancellor, and it may have been that this was a pragmatic, opportunistic move. Or perhaps he was seduced by Nazi dreams of a renewal of pure German folk culture. Or maybe he was an out-and-out fascist, who had supported the Nazis since the early 1920s. I’ve seen all three arguments put forward.
         His name was Emil Hansen, and he was born in a village on the German-Danish border. That village is now in fact in Denmark, and its name is famous because in 1902 Emil Hansen took it as his own, choosing to call himself Emil Nolde.

Emil Nolde, Untitled woodcut, 1927

Nolde was a prominent member of four ground-breaking artist’s groups—Die Brücke, the Berlin Secession, the New Secession, and Der Blaue Reiter. He seems, though, to have been essentially a loner—a difficult, introspective character, who suffered fits of self-doubt in which he did the Nazis’ work for them by impetuously cutting up and destroying much of his own work. He wrote wistfully in his autobiography, “There are some pictures I destroyed which I sometimes remember like lost moments of happiness.”
         Emil Nolde must equally have regretted his support for Hitler, which earned him no favours from the Nazi regime, and has permanently tarnished his reputation. Many sources seek to defuse the fizzing firecracker of Nolde’s party membership by blanketing it in excuses, or simply overlooking it. Dietmar Elger’s excellent book Expressionism, for instance, says merely that, “When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Nolde fell victim to a misunderstanding.”
         The urge to excuse is strong, because Nolde’s art is so powerful, so full of life force—in fact, so expressive. Perhaps we have simply to accept that, great artistic spirit as he was, Emil Nolde was in the end the architect of his own suffering, and the instigator of his own everlasting shame.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Liberated by Art

One of the great stories about the redemptive power of art can be found in Vasari’s life of Filippo Lippi. Vasari tells how Lippi was captured by Barbary pirates while out sailing off Ancona, and held as a slave in Algeria for 18 months. At his lowest ebb, Filippo Lippi plucked a charred stick from the ashes of a fire, and drew a portrait of his master on the wall—thus earning his freedom through his art.
         There doesn’t seem to be any historical basis for this tale, but of course the truth of a story does not lie in factual accuracy. This episode was bound to appeal to artists themselves, and in 1819 Pierre-Nolasque Bergeret exhibited a painting based on it in the Salon de Paris. The story haunted Bergeret’s imagination, and nearly 20 years later he made an etching of the same subject, titled in the plate Philippo Lippi Esclave à Alger fait le portrait de son Maître qui en récompense lui donna sa liberté. There is also a pen-and-ink drawing of the scene in the Peabody Collection, Maryland (see an illuminating essay on this by Cheryl K. Snay here). The whereabouts of the painting are unknown.

Pierre-Nolasque Bergeret, Filippo Lippi esclave à Alger fait le portrait de son Maître
Etching, 1838

This is one of three etchings I have by Bergeret, the others being a portrait of Andrea del Sarto, probably after a self-portrait by the artist, and a sulky lion guarding a half-gnawed bone. All three were published by the revue L’Artiste in 1864, the year after Bergeret’s death.

Pierre-Nolasque Bergeret, Andrea del Sarto
Etching, date unknown, published 1864

Pierre-Nolasque Bergeret was born in Bordeaux in 1772. He studied in the ateliers of both François-André Vincent and Jacques-Louis David. Bergeret achieved a fair degree of artistic success. His paintings were bought by Napoleon, who also commissoned designs for Sèvres porcelain, and drawings for the bas-reliefs on the colonne Vendôme celebrating his victory at Austerlitz. But although Pierre-Nolasque Bergeret exhibited regularly at the Salon de Paris from 1806 to 1853, he never achieved the status of his fellow-students in David’s studio, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and François Marius Granet. He seems to have ended up bitter and disillusioned about the artistic life.

Pierre-Nolasque Bergeret, Le roi du désert
Etching, date unknown, published 1864

As a printmaker, Pierre-Nolasque Bergeret is remembered as one of the pioneer lithographers, perhaps the first fine artist to really understand the possiblities of the medium. There was an exhibition of The Lithographs of Pierre-Nolasque Bergeret at the Dayton Art Institute in Ohio in 1982. Bergeret’s etchings seem much less known.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Anyone for tennis?

This wonderful scene of a self-absorbed tennis player trailed by three adoring acolytes is one of 19 etchings made between 1894 and 1896 by Eugen Kirchner,  a remarkable artist who has had the misfortune of being overshadowed by a younger man with a similar name, the Expressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Die Tennisspieler is usually dated to 1896, but it was probably made the previous year, as the 1895 etching Dame mit Spazierstock (also known as Dame im Zimmer), incorporates the tennis player composition, showing it as a painted panel above a door.

Eugen Kirchner, Die Tennisspieler (The Tennis Player)
Etching with aquatint, 1894-1896

Eugen Kirchner was born in Halle in 1865. A founder member of the Vienna Secession, Eugen Kirchner also exhibited with the Berlin Secession, and contributed to both Pan and Die Graphischen Kunste. He had a major exhibition of drawings, watercolours and etchings in Dresden in 1904. As an etcher, he is particularly noted for his mastery of aquatint, as in Die Tennisspieler. Eugen Kirchner died in 1938.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Adolf Zdrazila

The Art Nouveau painter and printmaker Adolf Zdrazila (sometimes spelled Zdrasila) was born in 1868 in Poruba, in what is now the Moravian-Silesian district of the Czech Republic, but was then part of Austria-Hungary. Zdrazila was ethnically Hungarian but culturally Austrian. Zdrazila's father was a tailor who used to go to Italy for work, and it was seeing the art treasures of Italy that awoke a love of art in the young Adolf. Adolf Zdrazila studied at the fine art academies of Vienna (under Lichtenfels) and Karlsruhe (under Leopold von Kalckreuth, Kallmorgen, and Schönleber). After that he spent some time in Paris, Brussels and Holland, before returning to Silesia. Here he benefited from the patronage of his friend Edmund Wilhelm Braun, director of the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Troppau, who commissioned various decorative schemes. Zdrazila exhibited at the Troppauer Museum in 1897 and in 1902, in which year he also showed at the Salon Pisko in Vienna. Zdrazila's first prints were etchings, but he soon devoted himself to wood engraving, in both black-and-white and colour. He made his first colour wood engraving in 1900; his second was Zur Zeit der Heckenrosen sollt' ich seiner harren!, reproduced below. His colour wood engravings show the influence of Japanese prints. His black-and-white engraving Rübezahl depicts a trickster mountain spirit from Silesian folklore; Zdrazila planned a whole series of illustrations to the folktales about Rübezahl. Other typical motifs in the art of Adolf Zdrazila are pretty girls in romantic outdoor settings (see another charming one here), winter landscapes, and cottage interiors. There are works by Zdrazila in the Troppau Museum, in the Municipal Museum Vienna, and in the Cleveland Museum of Art. Adolf Zdrazila died in Troppau in 1942.

Adolf Zdrasila, Rübezahl
Wood engraving, 1908

Adolf Zdrasila, Zur Zeit der Heckenrosen sollt' ich seiner harren!
Wood engraving, c.1900

Adolf Zdrasila, Landscape with bridge
Wood engraving, 1904

Adolf Zdrasila, Winter
Wood engraving, 1904

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Online journals

A big thank you to Will at art and weird literature blog A Journey Round My Skull for his kind post about Adventures in the Print Trade, which has resulted in a huge increase in readers. Yesterday 753 people visited this blog, as opposed to 320 a week ago. So welcome to all my readers, new and old. I appreciate your comments, additions, and corrections.

Albert Haueisen (German, 1872-1954)
Woodcut, 1904

I began blogging in October 2007, as a means—as it says on the masthead—of sharing my excitement and discoveries in the world of prints. Unless otherwise stated, all the images I post are from original prints that are physically in my possession—the fruits of an obsessive collecting instinct that has led me to become a part-time print dealer, over at my website Idbury Prints.

Joan Galle (Flemish, 1600-1676) after Marten de Vos (Flemish, 1532-1603)
Has ducunt choreas...
Engraving, re-strike 1869

Despite its title (a nod to Dylan Thomas’s Adventures in the Skin Trade), this blog is not about the commercial side of the print world, but about the pleasure of discovery. Because I don’t have an art history background, each new print I acquire sends me on a fresh adventure. Researching the artists and their work is something I find endlessly stimulating.

Georg Jahn (German, 1869-1941)
Engraving, 1904

I began with the idea of confining myself to French prints 1870-1970. “from Impressionism to Pop Art”. But just as categories such as Impressionism and Pop Art have proved porous and unstable, so too I have found myself extending the range of prints I acquire and write about; the images in this post are just a few recent acquisitions. The rate of posting can be sporadic, but I try to make each post accurate, informative, and interesting.

Raoul Dufy (French, 1877-1953)
Le Dauphin
Woodcut, 1911

“Blog” must be about the ugliest word in the English language, but blogging as a phenomenon fascinates me. In the right hands, the blog is developing into a new art form, and one that is surprisingly resistant to being converted into existing forms, such as the book.

Lucien Pissarro (French/British, 1863-1944)
Little May
Woodcut, c.1890

Anyway, as a nod of thanks to supporters of this blog such as Will at A Journey Round My Skull and PK at the mighty Bibliodyssey (the first person ever to link to me), here’s a list of six of my favourite blogs:

Stefan Filipkiewicz (Polish, 1879-1944)
Woodcut, 1908

Clive’s Art and the Aesthete may be the only blog out there by someone even more obsessed with prints and printmakers than I am.

Richard Lux (German, 1877-1939)
Strasse in Stein a. d. Donau
Etching, 1914

Jane Librizzi has been a friend of this blog from the start. She sheds the highly-sensitive light of her Blue Lantern onto a wide range of forgotten and overlooked artists.

Norman Janes (English, 1892-1980)
Coke Ovens
Wood engraving, 1935

Philip Wilkinson’s fascinating English Buildings inspired me to start this blog. It’s not just about architecture, but history and landscape, and the quirky details that bring all three of these subjects to life.

Andreas Gering (German, 1874-1956)
Lithograph, 1916

What can I say about Roxana’s Floating Bridge of Dreams, except that it lives up to its beautiful title? Roxana has the uncanny ability to seemingly photograph spacetime, or to strip away everything from an image but the fading pulse of an emotion.

Joseph Crawhall (English, 1821-1896)
I'll not resolve one thing or other, until I've first consulted Mother
Woodcut, 1889

Spitalfields Life by the gentle author is my latest discovery—an utterly addictive daily slice of East End cultural and social history, and its vibrant contemporary life.

Ludwig Michalek (Austrian, 1859-1942)
Bildnis des Schriftsellers Karl M. Kuzmany
Etching, 1912

And last but not least, of all the literature blogs I have come across, I think the best is Wuthering Expectations, from that inspired title through to the daft challenges that Amateur Reader sets himself and his readers.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The wanderer

The Dutch graphic artist Wijnand Otto Jan van Nieuwenkamp was born in Amsterdam in 1874. He is celebrated particularly for his scenes in Java, Bali, and Lombok, which show a subtle sensitivity to Indonesian culture. 

Wijnand van Nieuwenkamp, Arabische Viertel in Semarang auf Java
Etching, pre-1915

Having first travelled to Indonesia in 1898, W.O.J. van Nieuwenkamp made repeated visits to the area, including long trips to Bali in 1904, 1906-7, 1917-19, 1935 and 1937. Travelling on foot, on horseback, and by bike, Wijnand van Nieuwenkamp made an important record of Balinese art in drawings and prints, and books such as Bali en Lombok (1906-1910); he also gathered together a huge collection of Indonesian art and artefacts. 

Wijnand van Nieuwenkamp, Rhenen
Woodcut, 1911

Van Nieuwenkamp also depicted European landscapes, as in these three woodcuts of Rhenen in the Netherlands, Le Puy-en-Velay in southern France, and Mechelen in Belgium (Mecheln is the German spelling). In these European scenes he allows himself an Expressionist vigour (noticeable in the skies of Rhenen, or the waters of Mechelen), whereas the Indonesian subjects tend to be marked by a restrained realism and a respect for the aesthetic values of the local culture.

Wijnand van Nieuwenkamp, Le Puy in Velay (Südfrankreich)
Woodcut, pre-1915
Wijnand van Nieuwenkamp, Brücke in Mecheln
Woodcut, 1899

Although nicknamed "the Wanderer", after the name of his houseboat De Zwerver, Wijnand Otto Jan van Nieuwenkamp settled in the 1920s in the Villa Nieuwenkamp in Fiesole, just outside Florence, where he died in 1950.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Entranced by water

The author of the two colour woodcuts in this post was Carl Theodor Thiemann (1881-1966). Thiemann produced paintings, etchings, and lithographs as well as woodcuts, but it is almost entirely as a woodcut artist that he is remembered. My two are typical in the way they luxuriate in the idea of light and form reflected off water.

Carl Thiemann, Schwan
Woodcut, 1908

Carl Thiemann, Bach im Winter
Woodcut, 1915

Carl Thiemann (sometimes known as Karl Thiemann) was born in Karlovy Vary (Karlsbad), in Western Bohemia. He studied at the Prague Academy, and also under Franz Thiele. He died in Deutenhofen in Bavaria.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

High wire act

These high wire performers walking a tightrope across a Bavarian town square are perhaps emblematic of the risky lot of all artists. The public is enjoying the show in complete indifference to the man plunging from the rope on the right, or the two corpses being carried away by undertakers in top hat and tails at the bottom left... and yet still the artists doggedly climb the ladder to try their luck.

 Adolf Schinnerer, Die Künstler
Etching, 1927

The etching, printed on Japan paper by Heinrich Wetteroth, Munich, and hand-signed by the artist, comes from the edition of 250 published in Jahresmappe der Freunde Graphischer Künst, Nuremberg 1927. Adolf Ferdinand Schinnerer was born in 1876 in Schwarzenbach. Schinnerer studied at the Karlsruhe Academy under Ludwig Schmid-Reutte, Walter Conz, and Wilhelm Trübner; he won the Prix de Rome in 1909. In 1929 Adolf Schinnerer was one of those selected for inclusion in a prestigious exhibition of German painter-etchers at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. He died in 1949.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Jugendstil bookplates

The bookplate or ex libris has put bread and butter on many an artist’s table, and over the course of time has developed into a flourishing art form all of its own. I don’t pretend to know very much about the history and development of ex libris, but seem to have acquired some anyway. I think this little group of Austrian, Czech and German bookplates of the Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) period are particularly charming. They come from the Vienna art revue Die Graphischen Künste, from the years 1911, 1912, and 1914.

Maximilian Liebenwein (Austrian, 1869-1926)
Ex libris Josef Kundrat
Lithograph, 1910

Maximilian Liebenwein
Ex libris Karl Stark
Lithograph, 1910

Maximilian Liebenwein
Ex libris der Verbindung von Wiener Kunstakademikern “Athenaia”
Lithograph, 1910

Alfred Cossmann (Austrian, 1870-1951)
Ex libris Arthur Graf
Etching, c.1912

Alfred Cossman
Ex libris Franz J. Kaiser
Etching. c.1912

Alois Kolb (Austrian, 1875-1942)
Ex libris Gertrud Kolb
Etching, c.1914

Rudolf Junk (Austrian, 1880-1943)
Ex libris Rudolf Junk
Lithograph, c.1914

Arnošt Hofbauer (Czech, 1869-1944)
Ex libris Leopold Heyrovsky
Lithograph, c.1914

Emil Orlik (Czech, 1870-1932)
Ex libris Martha Poensgen
Lithograph, c.1914

Martha Hofrichter (Czech, 1872-1960)
Ex libris Anna Boeck
Lithograph, c.1914

Otokar Štáfl (Czech, 1884-1947)
Ex libris Otokar Štáfl
Lithograph, c.1914

Felix Hollenberg (German, 1868-1945)
Ex libris Albert Gussmann
Etching, c.1914

Julius Diez (German, 1870-1957)
Ex libris Toni Stadler
Lithograph, c.1914

Monday, March 1, 2010

Czech graphic artists before WWI

As demonstrated in my last two posts, most Czech artists before WWI went on to further studies in Germany or Austria. Therefore the influence of teachers such as Doris Raab (Munich), William Unger (Vienna), Peter Halm (Munich) and Alois Kolb (Leipzig), is strongly felt in their work.
Czech interest in the graphic arts was reaching a peak in the years before WWI. If none of the selection of Czech artists who follow achieved the international renown of their compatriots Alfons Mucha (1860-1939) and František Kupka (1871-1957), their work is nonetheless full of interest.

Hermine Laukota, Der Mikroskopiker
Etching, 1892

Hermine Laukota, Interior of a Synagogue
Etching, 1906

Hermine Laukota, Kinderköpfchen
Etching, 1907

The only woman among them, Hermine Laukota (1853-1931), was born in Prague. Hermine Laukota studied etching under Doris Raab and William Unger. Her early career went well, and she exhibited in Vienna in 1889 and in Berlin in 1891. After her return to Prague, her story becomes less easy to track. I’m not even sure if Hermine Laukota was Jewish, though the choice of the interior of a synagogue as the subject of one of my etchings suggests so.

Joža Úprka, Pfingstreiter
Etching, 1907

The painter and printmaker Joža Úprka (1861-1940) was born in Knĕždub and died in Hroznova. He studied at the Prague Academy (where he learned etching from Eduard Karel), and the Munich Academy. His brother Franta Úprka was a noted sculptor.

Rudolf Jettmar, Nacht und Träume
Etching with aquatint, 1907

Rudolf Jettmar (1869-1939) was born in Zawodzie, and died in Vienna. He studied at the academies in Vienna and Karlsruhe, therefore coming under the influence of teachers such as William Unger and Leopold von Kalckreuth. Rudolf Jettmar was a member of the Vienna Secession from 1898. The luxurious decadence of my etching by Jettmar (which comes from the series Stunden der Nacht) reminds me of the work of Alois Kolb, and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover some connection between the two; perhaps, though, it is simply case of shared influences.

August Brömse, Eine Todte
Etching with aquatint, 1902

August Brömse (1873-1925) was born in Frantiskovy Làzne, and died in Prague. Brömse studied in Prague and Berlin, where he came strongly under the influence of Max Klinger. This influence can be seen in my etching, which is part of August Brömse’s mordidly erotic 1902 series Death and the Maiden, inspired by  sense of doomed love for the opera singer Elsa Schünemann. Brömse and Schünemann married in 1910, when August Brömse was head of the print studio at the Prague Academy. My etching by August Brömse is known in English as An Old Song; it is reproduced as plate 258 in Otto M. Urban’s intriguing-sounding study In Morbid Colors: Art and the Idea of Decadence in the Bohemian Lands 1880-1914 (2006).

Viktor Stretti, Überschwemmung
Etching, 1899

Viktor Stretti, Untitled landscape
Aquatint, 1904

Viktor Stretti (1878-1957) was born in Plasy. Stretti studied at the Prague Academy and at the Munich Academy, where he learned etching from Peter Halm. After a short time in Paris, Viktor Stretti settled in Prague in 1901.