Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Lamplit Dreamscape: Karl Hofer

Karl Hofer, Nächtliche Überfahrt (Night journey)
Etching with aquatint, 1899

When I first saw this haunting etching with aquatint, I wasn't sure who the artist was. Paul Klee? Marc Chagall? Both seemed likely possibilities. But in fact it's a very early work, predating both Klee and Chagall, by the German Expressionist Karl Hofer. Born in 1878 in Karlsruhe, Karl Christian Ludwig Hofer (sometimes listed as Carl Hofer) studied at the Karlsruhe Academy of Fine Art from 1896-1900; this stiking etching was made while he was still a student.

Karl Hofer, Tänzerin
Lithograph, 1921

Although a prominent member of the Expressionist movement, Karl Hofer was never associated with one particular group. In common with most Expressionists, Karl Hofer's art was condemned as degenerate by the Nazis; one hundred and fifty of his canvases were destroyed in his studio. After the war, Karl Hofer was appointed Director of the Hochschule für Bildende Kunst in Berlin. He died in Berlin in 1955. The exhibition Eros, dreams and death. Between Symbolism and Expressionism: The early work of graphic Karl Hofer, Emil Rudolf Weiss and Wilhelm Laage was held at the Städtischen Kunstmuseum Spendhaus Reutlingen in 2012; I believe these two examples of Karl Hofer's art show how true that exhibition title was for him.


Jane Librizzi said...

What interesting works. the Dancer is a very balanced and pleasing image that also conveys a strong sense of movement - that cna't be easy to do.
I keep trying to figure out how many figures are in the Night Journey and what they are doing. This could be a good picture for children to look at. I know I could have spent hours with it when I was little.
The only people who are bothered by this kind of variety are art historians, as it makes hash of neat theories.

Neil said...

I should try to take a crisper photo if you're going to start counting the figures, Jane! That's too much of a strain on the eyesight. Actually, I'm reminded of a stone circle near us, the Rollright Stones, of which it is said that no one can ever count the same number twice...

Jane Librizzi said...

Neil, are you familiar with the Japanese illustrator Mitsumasa Anno? I loved "Anno's Medieval World" and "Anno's Britain". He does chidlren's books mostly, but there is so much to see in each picture that I still smile to look at them. That's what this made me think of.

Neil said...

Another interesting comparison, Jane. Yes, Anno was an important figure in children's books in the 70s and 80s especially. One could play quite a game finding works of art that could be turned into children's stories.