Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Last rays of the sun

The boldly graphic woodcut style developed independently and concurrently by William Nicholson in England and Félix Vallotton in France inevitably inspired others to follow their lead. One of the first and most influential was the Czech artist Emil Orlik (1870-1932). Orlik studied at the Munich Academy from 1891-1893. In 1899 he joined the Vienna Secession. From 1905 Emil Orlik taught graphics at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin, joining the Berlin Secession in 1908.

Emil Orlik, Die Näherin (The Seamstress)
Woodcut, 1896

Emil Orlik, On the Victoria Embankment, London
(also known as In the Park)
Lithograph, 1898

Of course, not all of those who worked in this style achieved the lasting fame of Nicholson, Vallotton, and Orlik. The German artist Fritz Lang (1877-1961) is hardly known today, though I like the boldness and the humour in my two examples of his work. Lang was born in Stuttgart, where he studied at the art school before completing his studies at the Karlsruhe Academy.

Fritz Lang, Rabbits
Woodcut, 1907

Fritz Lang, Man with a cigarette
Woodcut, 1907

Daniel Staschus (1872-1953) is even more obscure. Born in Girreniken, he studied at the Königsburg Academy.

Daniel Staschus, Vor Anker (At anchor)
Woodcut, 1907

The lack of ready information about some of these intriguing artists is of course intensified as soon as you come to the women. Martha Wenzel (1859-1943) is a case in point. She was born in Lippiany (Lippehne) and died in Merxhausen. Her powerful woodcuts of the early 1900s show a remarkable talent, but as with so many female artists of her day, very little is known about her. When she created my woodcut, Spaziergang, she was living and working in Munich.

Martha Wenzel, Spaziergang (Going for a walk)
Woodcut, 1907

For Gertrud Leschner, who was active in Leipzig in the early decades of the twentieth century, I don’t even have dates of birth and death.

Gertrud Leschner, Untitled (View across buildings)
Woodcut, 1910

Hans Neumann (1873-1957) and his brother Ernest, the sons of the painter and art critic Emil Neumann, were both woodcut artists associated with the journal Die Jugend, which gave its name to the German Art Nouveau movement, Jugendstil. Hans Neumann is now much the better known of the two brothers, celebrated for his colour woodcuts of landscape subjects.

Hans Neumann, Letzte Sonnenstrahlen (Last rays of the sun)
Woodcut, 1910

Hans Neumann, Meeresruhe (Calm sea)
Woodcut 1905

Although some artists such as Hans Neumann continued working in this vein (see Clive's typically eloquent and informative post on Neumann at Art and the Aesthete), this particular style of western woodcut, emerging in the early 1890s, was effectively finished off by the outbreak of WWI.


Jane said...

After reading this article I tried to find out more about Wenzel and Leschner and was stumped, too. It really is true that the work survives the person. There is such a sense of movement in Wenzel's two little girls leaning together as they walk. That can't be easy to do.

Neil said...

This is the only work by Wenzel that I have, but I would love to see more of her art. It's quite rare for a work to combine a sense of intimacy and a sense of openness in the way this one does.