Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ernst Klotz: a case of mistaken identity

The Leipzig painter and printmaker Ernst Klotz was born in 1863. He studied under Franz von Defregger in Munich and Carl Frithjof Smith in Weimar. In 1895-1896 Klotz experimented with coloured etchings printed from one plate à la poupée, which he exhibited with the Munich Secession and in Vienna. Ernst Klotz was a remarkably accomplished etcher, as the three etchings in this post, all published in 1895 in the art revues Pan and Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, show.

Ernst Klotz, Zigeunerknabe
Etching, 1895

Ernst Klotz, Mädchenkopf
Etching, 1895

Ernst Klotz, Zwei Studienköpfe
Etching, 1895

Like many Jugendstil artists, Ernst Klotz made no firm distinction between art and craft. He made designs for metalwork, furniture, and interiors, but his chief interest was in printmaking and graphic techniques. In the 1890s Ernst Klotz developed a new method of printmaking, in which the image is painted onto a metal plate, and engraved directly from this original artwork. He called this planographic technique malertypie. I confess I do not fully understand how it worked; it seems to be a cross between etching and lithography, and the finished results look more like a litho than anything else. It appears to have been a versatile, painterly technique, which had the advantage of producing a plate as durable as a conventional letterpress plate. However it did not catch on, and so far as I know the only artists to use it were Klotz himself and two of his associates, Thomas Theodor Heine and Oscar Leonhard Geyer. I don't have a malertypie by Klotz, but some can be seen on the website of the Leipzig Museum (if you can make the website work, which I have found difficult with Safari). I do have an example of a malertypie by Geyer, entitled Blumenstück: Studie in E. Klotz' Malertypie. This was published to accompany an article on the technique in Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst, Neue Folge IX, 1898, entitled Eine Neue Graphische Technik.

Oscar Leonhard Geyer, Blumenstück: Studie in E. Klotz' Malertypie
Malertypie, 1898

Because he worked simply as E. Klotz, a great deal of confusion has arisen around Ernst Klotz's etchings, with many museums and galleries attributing them wrongly to the Austrian sculptor Edmund Klotz, as I did when I originally posted the etching of the gypsy boy. I have to thank Erika Esau, the librarian at the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for her help in sorting out the muddle.


Jane Librizzi said...

The technique seems work well for facial subtleties. Each face, done differently, yet all give strong impressions of the individual sitters. So many of Klotz's contemporaries imposed their own aesthetic on their sitters, rendering them ornamental. Attractive in its way, but not so satisfying as these works are as characters. Very nice.

James Russell said...

The first portrait is extraordinary, stylised but sensitive. The face almost made for the medium.

Neil said...

Glad you like them, Jane. He seems a rather original and interesting artist to me, and yet another who has been forgotten in the turmoil of history.

Neil said...

Yes, that first image, the gypsy boy, is transcendent, James. That was the first etching by Ernst Klotz I found, and I was amazed not to find any information on him (and then when I did find some, it turned out to be wrong!). I think it's masterly. I'd be very interested to know why he seems to have given up etching after only a year or so.