Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Carl-Heinz Kliemann: the Genesis of a Neo-Expressionist

The great pre-Nazi flowering of German Expressionism is so striking a cultural phenomenon that it is tempting to feel that the whole movement was crushed under the jackboot, never to revive. But of course art has its underground streams that re-emerge when the conditions are right, and so the aesthetics of Expressionism found a new flowering in Germany post WWII. If I use the term Neo-Expressionist to define the art of Carl-Heinz Kliemann, it is only to mark this generational divide - otherwise, his work seems to me completely in line with that of the pre-war Expressionists. Two of these, Max Kaus and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, were his teachers at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Berlin from 1945-1950. My colour woodcuts by Carl-Heinz Kliemann were made in 1962 for an edition of the Book of Genesis published by Käthe Vogt Verlag. They show the influence of Picasso, for sure, and also Matisse I think, but they are wonderfully confident and expressive works. 2000 copies were printed, with text on the verso which I think is a shame, but the paper is high quality, and thick enough to mean there is no show-through.

Carl-Heinz Kliemann, Eve and the serpent
Woodcut, 1962

Carl-Heinz Kliemann, The daughters of Lot
Woodcut, 1962

Carl-Heinz Kliemann, Sarai and Hagar
Woodcut, 1962

Carl-Heinz Kliemann, Potiphar's wife
Woodcut, 1962

Carl-Heinz Kliemann, Rebekah at the well
Woodcut, 1962

Carl-Heinz Kliemann, Jacob wrestling with God
Woodcut, 1962

The painter and printmaker Carl-Heinz Kliemann was born in Berlin in 1924. In 1950 Kliemann won the Kunstpreis der Stadt Berlin für Grafik; in 1955 he won the Preis des Modernen Museums in the international Grafik-Biennale in Ljubljana; in 1958 he won the Villa-Romana-Preis. In 1966 Carl-Heinz Kliemann was appointed professor in the Department of Painting and Graphics at the University of Karlsruhe, where he taught for 12 years. Carl-Heinz Kliemann has had many exhibitions both in Germany and internationally. The latest was "Der Maler in der Landschaft", a celebration of his 80th birthday at the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin in 2004. Die Graphik von Carl-Heinz Kliemann by Eberhard Roters was published in 1991.


Luisa said...

great article.
i really like (neo)expressionism.
the colors are awesome and i like it when it looks like woodcut. very cool.


Neil said...

Thanks Luisa. These are really stunning woodcuts, I wish my photographs were better.

Jane Librizzi said...

I don't think Kliemann needs to defer to Matisse or Picasso. His compositions are strong. I especially like "Sarai and Hagar" (the facial expressions) and "Rebekah at the Well" for giving a sense of gravity to her action. And that's one confident serpent, like a man in a bar armed with a drink. Another unjustly overlooked artist, I think.

Roxana said...

i love expressionism, both in paintings and in poetry, so it is easy to guess that i like his works. Eve and the serpent is amazing, and not at all an easy theme!
(i see the Matisse-connection too, yes)

Philip Wilkinson said...

Yes both the colours and the compositions are strong - the figures have real weight. And then there's the way that the most powerful part of the composition is often left white - superb.

Neil said...

Jane - I love your comment about the serpent. There is a sinuous devil-may-care attitude there.

Neil said...

Roxana - Lovely to hear from you. Eve and the serpent is a hard subject - but all of the Genesis subjects have been depicted so many times, and in each of his woodcuts (there are 25 in all) Carl-Heinz Kliemann contributes something new, original, and striking.

Neil said...

Philip - Yes, the use of white is really powerful. These are very strong compositions. Of course I chose some favourites from the 25 images, but they are all on the same level.

Gerrie said...

I somehow missed this posting. Very informative. A strong, powerful and confident printmaker.

Neil said...

Hi Gerrie - I'd like to see more of his work. Coming back to this post I see I misspelt his name in the title as Karl-Heinz Kliemann, rather than Carl-Heinz. I'll try to correct that now!

thhq said...

I suppose this is as good a place as any to chime in....I'm fond of the Expressionist woodcuts and thanks for these which I have not seen. My inquiry is related to determining whether a woodcut print is original or lineblock reproduction. AMG12 has an excellent article on the process of making lineblocks. In the article it's mentioned that if the lineblock is well printed it's impossible to distinguish it from an original, illustrated with a photo of an original Latour block next to its lineblock. I know that lineblocks were used for mass publication, but I also think that almost all of the livre d'artiste limited editions were as well. There are exceptions - Bouquet's Mystere de Jesus, the tip-ins for The Colophon,and Capek's linocut covers, for instance - but everything else is somewhat suspect. The tell-tales of lineblocks for me are deep impression (wood blocks do not survive this)and shadow marking from the backing. But if the lineblocks are printed on a hard paper with low impression it's impossible to tell. Sometimes comparison with a true original helps. The 1896 Jarry woodblocks of Ubu are sharply tooled and crude-looking, compared to the later lineblocks. But if the lineblocks are printed on a hard paper with low impression it's impossible to tell.

Neil said...

Thhq - I'm sorry to taken so long to reply to this interesting comment - you discovered this blog just as circumstances made it very hard for me to devote any attention to it. The point you make is valid. I don't have any doubts that the Kliemann woodcuts are printed from the original blocks, and the fact that they are in colour is helpful, because it would be very hard to reproduce these in line and tone. But as far as black-and-white line woodcuts or wood engravings are concerned, you are quite right that a well made and printed line block can be almost indistinguishable from a print taken from the original hand-carved block (the same is true of really fine photogravures after etchings). I have a wonderful book of German Expressionist woodcuts in which half the images are printed from the original blocks, and half from line blocks. If the book didn't specify which was which, I don't think I would be able to tell. An instance where I was disappointed by engravings that turned out to be line blocks is the book La Divina Commedia: XX stampe in legno-xilogravuri by the Hungarian wood engraver Béla Gy. Szabó. I was convinced when I bought it that these very large prints (330 x 260 mm) were originals from the blocks - until I got to the end of the book and found a publisher's note giving the dimensions of the originals as 500 x 400 mm). When in doubt about the nature of a print I rely on such information as is given by a publisher, on visual examination of the print using a jeweller's magnifying loupe, and I also consult Bamber Gascoigne's excellent book How to Identify Prints. But even he admits that with wood engravings and line blocks "there will be many occasions when the two are indistinguishable".

ArtGeek said...

I really really like these. the colours and compositions on theese pieces look amazing :) check my blog out to for more art :)

Neil said...

Thanks, ArtGeek.