Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The landscape of German art in 1898

I've recently acquired a run of the Leipzig art revue Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst from its founding in 1866 through to 1901. Especially in the 1890s, when the emphasis switches from interpretative etchings to original works, it provides a good overview of the German art of the day. There isn't the revolutionary zeal of a journal such as Pan, but that gives the more cutting edge art a more clearly defined context - we can see both where it came from and where it's headed. The four landscapes in this post were all published in Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, Neue Folge IX, 1898. They treat similar motifs in the same medium, but vary dramatically in feel. They work steadily through from a fairly conventional realism, to Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and finally to Expressionism. I admire all four prints, but particularly like Else Ruest's conventional but tenderly-observed landscape and Walter Leistikow's darkly brooding inscape. The two could hardly be more different, but each "expresses" the personality of the artist with subtle control.

Else Ruest, Landschaft
Etching with aquatint, 1898

Else (Elisabeth) Ruest was born in Hanover in 1861, and studied under V. Roman, Richard Volkmann and Herman Gattiker. She died in 1945. There are a number of paintings by her in the Hanover Museum, but like so many women artists she seems to have been largely forgotten. This is the only etching of hers that I have seen.

Peter Halm, Landschaft
Etching, 1898

Peter Halm was born in Mainz in 1854. From 1895 Peter Halm was professor of etching at the Munich Kunstakademie, where he himself studied under Raab and Lofliz. He died in 1923.

Felix Hollenberg, Landschaft
Etching, 1898

Felix Hollenberg was born in Sterkrade in 1868. He studied at the Academies of Düsseldorf and Stuttgart, where his professor was Albert Kappis. He won a bronze medal at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900. The Felix Hollenberg Galerie, dedicated to his art, is in Gomadingen, Germany, where he died in 1945.

Walter Leistikow, Landschaft
Etching, 1898

Walter Leistikow was born in Bromberg (the German name for Bydgoszcz in Northern Poland) in 1865. Leistikow studied in Berlin in the atelier of the Norwegian painter Hans Frederik Gude. He was also strongly influenced by the poet Gerhart Hauptmann. Walter Leistikow was one of the artist who developed the language of Symbolism into the Jugendstil (German Art Nouveau) movement; see this article at The Textile Blog for his wallpaper designs. In the latter half of the 1890s he contributed original etchings to the revolutionary art journal Pan. This marked his break from the conventional art establishment of the day, with which Leistikow had been associated as a Professor at the Berlin Academy of Fine Art from 1890-1893. By 1898 his landscape art, of which this is I think a very fine example, had developed into full-blown Expressionism. It was so threatening to the German art establishment that in that year Leistikow's work was rejected by the Berlin Academy as below standard. Walter Leistikow's increasing estrangement from the official art of the day was marked in 1899 by his role as one of the founders of the Berlin Secession. He died in 1908 at the age of just 42.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

David Hockney's Walking Man

With his blockbuster exhibition at the Royal Academy, A Bigger Picture, David Hockney has achieved the almost impossible. He has got the British public excited about art. I don't mean the people who usually go to exhibitions and buy art books, I mean people who normally wouldn't have any interest in an exhibition, or any opinion save, "A child of two could do it." Having an aversion to crowds, I haven't seen the show, only the catalogue. Friends who have seen it have divided sharply into two - those who are exhilarated by the vibrant colour, the ambition, and the artist's responsiveness to the landscape and seasons of his native Yorkshire, and those who find the whole thing shallow and glib. The iPad drawings have come in for particular scorn, while the charcoal drawings seem to have pleased everyone. The iPad and iPhone drawings reproduce well, but it may be that the lack of surface, and that vital sense of the craftsman's hand, is disappointing in a gallery setting. I've always particularly admired Hockney as a draughtsman and for his graphic sense, and would like to be able to wow you in this post with a wonderful etchings and lithographs. But I only have one Hockney print, his lithograph Walking Man from 1964.

David Hockney, Walking Man
Lithograph, 1964

I think this a marvellously expressive work, and a fine example of Hockney's Pop Art style of the 1960s, which is perhaps the most innovative period of his work. 1500 copies of Walking Man were issued by Galerie Krugier, Geneva, in Suites 8, a portfolio marking the exhibition Rencontres; Jeune Peinture et Sculpture Internationales. 200 copies were hand-signed; mine is one of the 1300 initialled in the stone. This lithograph was probably printed by Gallay in Geneva, but the 7 original lithographs in the portfolio were printed at ateliers in Paris, Zurich, and Geneva, and it is not explicitly stated which was printed where. I'd be interested to know if Hockney realised when he made the lithograph that the finished prints would have a vertical central fold; if he did, he decided cheekily to position his walking figure right in the centre of the sheet. Another cheeky element to this work is that Hockney must have known that Galerie Krugier also represented Alberto Giacometti, so this walking man is in part a witty tribute to Giacometti's. The other lithographs were by various European Pop Artists: Horst Antes, André Bertholo, Henri Luginbühl, Bernard Rancillac, Hervé Telemaque, and Ghislain Uhry.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A forgotten Symbolist: Alexander Frenz

I really love this etching by the almost forgotten German Symbolist Alexander Frenz. Frenz seems to have drawn much of his inspiration from myth and fairytale, as in this mysterious scene in which a hooded man summons a tree nymph out of the stump of a blasted tree, with music he is playing on an antique stringed instrument. The etching was first published in Originalradirungen des Künstlerklubs St. Lucas, Düsseldorf, Heft 1 (c.1893). This copy as published by E. A. Seemann, Leipzig, for Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, N. F. IV, 1893.

Alexander Frenz, Idylle
Etching with aquatint, 1893

Alexander Frenz was born in Rheydt in 1861. Frenz studied at the Düsseldorf Kunstakademie and Malerschule, and in the atelier of Franz von Lenbach. Like many German artists of his day, Alexander Frenz was profoundly influenced by the Symbolist art of Franz von Stuck. He died in Düsseldorf in 1941.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Etchings of Emil Rudolf Weiss

Emil Rudolf Weiss (1875-1942) was one of those multi-talented people whose very versatility has been a hindrance to their lasting fame. He's most remembered now as a typographer - a designer both of books and of typefaces - and this aspect of his work is to be celebrated in a lavish book by Gerald Cinamon to be published by the Incline Press. Weiss was a poet, a designer of wallpapers and fabrics and furniture and stained glass and ceramics and goodness knows what else, as well as a painter and a printmaker. It's in that last capacity that I want to write about him, as I have just come into possession of one, and I suspect two, of his etchings.

Emil Rudolf Weiss, Ein Paar Blumen
Etching, 1896

The first etching, Ein Paar Blumen, is definitely by Emil Rudolf Weiss. It is signed with his initials and monogram in the plate, and it is in the Jugendstil (German Art Nouveau) style of which he was one of the chief proponents. This very strikingly composed colour etching was published in 1897 in the fourth album issued by the Karlsruher Radirvereins (the Karlsruhe Etching Club), and also in the Leipzig art revue Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, which is the source of my print. The artist is credited by the Zeitschrift as R. Weiss.

F. [E.?] R. Weiss, Die Stadt
Etching, 1898

My second etching, Die Stadt was published in the Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst the following year, 1898, and is credited to F. R. Weiss, Karlsruhe. The editor of the revue, Prof. Dr. Carl von Lützow, died in 1897, and the editorship was taken over by Richard Graul and Ulrich Thieme. Evidently the new editors were not familiar with Weiss (who after all was only a young man at this point), and mistakenly believed his first initial was F not E. There can hardly have been two etchers with almost the same name working in Karlsruhe at the same time, both supplying etchings to the same publication. Additionally, I can find no record at all of an etcher called F. R. Weiss - and the etching published under that name is so confident and powerful that I can't believe its author would not be recorded. The only thing that gives me pause is that the style of this second etching, a distant view of the city of Karlsruhe, is so different from the first. It's poised on a cusp between Impressionism and Expressionism, with a bit more of the latter in the way the brooding cityscape, smoke-swirled sky, and the choppy waters of the Rhine in the foreground are infused with a wild inner turmoil. Interestingly while the revue gives this print the sober title Die Stadt, a note records that the artist referred to it as Erlebnisse, which means Experiences. I'd be very grateful if anyone with more detailed knowledge of the art of Emil Rudolf Weiss could give me a view as to whether I am correct in attributing this second etching to him.

Additional information:
My gratitude goes to Graham Moss of Incline Press and Jerry Cinamon, author of the forthcoming book Weiss: The Typography of an Artist, for important additional information. Graham has a copy of a catalogue compiled by Weiss's agent Fritz Gurlitt of items for sale in 1921, covering etchings, lithographs, and wood engravings made between 1896 and 1920. Item 1531 in this is an 1898 etching entitled Die Stadt. Although the catalogue is unillustrated, the coincidence of title and date is such that I think we take it that my etching Die Stadt is indeed by E. R. Weiss, and that the initial F. is a simple mistake on the part of Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst. The earlier etching, Ein Paar Blumen, is listed simply as Blumen, dated 1896, catalogue number 1528. Jerry tells me this etching is illustrated in Barbara Stark's 1994 book Emil Rudolf Weiss 1875-1942: Monographie und Katalog seines Werkes, again dated 1896.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What's in a name? The disappearance of Gaston Nick

The painter, etcher, and wood engraver Gaston Nick was born in Ajaccio, Corsica, around 1885. He went to Paris to study art, but his career does not appear to have taken off until the 1920s, when he emerges as an important book artist, illustrating works by writers such as Verlaine, Maupassant, and Mérimée with original etchings. Prosper Mérimée was Gaston Nick’s great-uncle. Among the most important of these books are Nick’s editions of the semi-autobiographical novel Jours de famine et de détresse by the Dutch/Belgian author Néel Doff (the source of my first batch of images), of Mérimée's Colomba, and of 5 Contes de Guy de Maupassant (the source of second batch). All three of these works appeared in 1927-1928, the high-water mark of Gaston Nick's artistic career.

Gaston Nick, The Family
Etching, 1927

Gaston Nick, Mother and children
Etching, 1927

Gaston Nick, Child with a kite
Etching, 1927

Gaston Nick, Children at a shop window
Etching, 1927

Gaston Nick, Canalside
Etching, 1927

Gaston Nick’s career appears to come to an end with an edition of Henriot’s Le Diable à l’hotel in 1944; the following year, his career was surveyed by Pierre Mornand in Trente Artistes du Livre. It would be easy to assume that Gaston Nick perished during the war; but in fact he simply changed his name. In 1946 he published an edition of George Sand’s La Petite Fadette, illustrated with colour etchings, under the name G. Nick Petrelli. He used the same name for a solo exhibition at Pelletan Helleu in 1947, and an exhibition at Villefranche-de-Rouergue in 1953, consisting of paintings and etchings of the village of Najac in Aveyron. The reason for this change of name is obscure, but as it is not immediately obvious that Gaston Nick and Nick Petrelli are in fact the same person, the result is that Nick seems to disappear abruptly from the record, and Petrelli to arrive from nowhere. As with Denis Volx, this switchback of nomenclature has understandably confused his posthumous reputation. I do not know when Gaston Nick died, but I assume sometime in the 1950s.

Gaston Nick, Le jour de marché
Etching, 1928

Gaston Nick, Les dîneurs attablés
Etching, 1928

Gaston Nick, Les passagers
Etching, 1928

Gaston Nick, Les petits
Etching, 1928

Gaston Nick, Au Rendez-vous des Amis
Etching, 1928

My third batch of images shows a selection of Gaston Nick's wood engravings from the 1930s, executed for various titles in the series Le livre de demain. These are competently executed, but to my mind they lack the charm of his etchings of the 1920s.

Gaston Nick, Frontispiece for Les Poux de Lion by Pierre Dominique
Wood engraving, 1936

Gaston Nick, Chapterhead for Les Poux de Lion
Wood engraving, 1936

Gaston Nick, Chapterhead for Les Poux de Lion
Wood engraving, 1936

Gaston Nick, Frontispiece for Egalité by Princesse Bibesco
Wood engraving, 1937

Gaston Nick, Chapterhead for Egalité
Wood engraving, 1937

Gaston Nick, Frontispiece for L'ame obscure by Daniel-Rops
Wood engraving, 1938

Gaston Nick, Chapterhead for L'ame obscure
Wood engraving, 1938

Looking at Nick's etchings while writing this post, the deliberate semi-naivety of the round-faced characters kept reminding me of a work by someone else, but I couldn't remember who. Now I have found the work I was thinking of, and I do think it bears quite  remarkable stylistic resemblance. It is an 1864 etching by Armand Queyroy. 

Armand Queyroy, Le chemin de l'école
Etching, 1864

Mathurin Louis Armand Queyroy was born in Vendôme (Loir-et-Cher) in 1830. Queyroy studied painting under Luminais, and etching under Maxime Lalanne. Armand Queyroy was, like Lalanne, a founder member of the Société des Aquafortistes, who published a number of his etchings. He contributed etchings to the journals L'Illustration Nouvelle, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, and L'Artiste. He lived in Moulins in the Auvergne, and in the 1860s published several albums of etchings of subjects in the Auvergne, including an album of 21 plates, printed by Delâtre, of Le vieux Moulins. His similar album Le vieux Blois of 1864 earned him a letter of praise from Victor Hugo, and Queyroy was quick to reissue it with a facsimile of Hugo's letter. Armand Queyroy's etchings appeared between 1862 and 1886. He died in  1893.