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German Expressionism was an extraordinarily vivid presence in the art of the early twentieth century, its violent colors and often distorted, stylized forms reflecting not only the rebellious spirit of its participants, but the revolutionary mood of the new century itself. One of the most popular media used by the German Expressionists was the woodcut, important in the history of German art from the time of Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), and especially suited to Expressionism's ...
German Expressionism was an extraordinarily vivid presence in the art of the early twentieth century, its violent colors and often distorted, stylized forms reflecting not only the rebellious spirit of its participants, but the revolutionary mood of the new century itself. One of the most popular media used by the German Expressionists was the woodcut, important in the history of German art from the time of Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), and especially suited to Expressionism's bold graphics.
This superb collection presents over 100 finely reproduced woodcuts from the work of nearly 30 major artists in the movement who worked in the woodcut medium. Among them are Ernst Barlach, Max Beckmann, Lyonel Feininger, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Käthe Kollwitz, Franz Marc, Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein, and many others. Most of the woodcuts reproduced here date from the first three decades of the twentieth century. They are powerful works, ranging in mood from Felix Müller's pensive portrait of Carl Sternheim (1925) to Franz Marc's electric Riding School (1913) and Ernst Barlach's profoundly moving Christ on the Mount of Olives (1920).
Readers interested in the art of the woodcut as well as students and enthusiasts of twentieth-century art will find this volume ideal for browsing and study. Individual captions for each selection, notes on each artist, and an informative introduction to the art of the woodcut and the German Expressionist movement add to the book's value as a reference work.
Dover (1994) original publication.
THE USE OF the term Expressionism to describe the artistic movement that flourished in Germany in the early years of the twentieth century seems to date from around 1911, although the movement was active earlier: Die Brücke (the bridge), an association of artists espousing the Expressionist ideal, was established in 1905 and held annual exhibitions until 1913.
Expressionism was in part a reaction against Impressionism's emphasis on atmospherics and surface appearances, and against academic painting's rigid technique, stressing instead the emotional state of the artist and subject (both in portraiture and landscape, the latter depicted through the technique of pathetic fallacy). To this the viewer was to add his own emotions, creating an experience rich in drama that conveyed the inner reality of the subject matter.
The Expressionists found their inspiration in ancient and modern sources: the work of such late Gothic artists as Dürer, Baldung, Cranach, Altdorfer and Grünewald and the work of van Gogh, Gauguin and the Pont-Aven School, Cézanne and Ensor and the appreciation of African and Oceanic art.
The movement was marked by a bewildering profusion of associations and publications. Along with Die Brücke there was Der Blaue Reiter (the blue rider), formed 1911, a close association of artists with little in the way of a specific program other than the desire to show together and a tendency toward abstraction. Other groups included the Berlin and Munich Secessions, the Red Group, the November Group and the New Artists' Association. Among the publications were Der Sturm (the storm), 1910–32, and Die Aktion. Many of these groups and publications had socialist or communist goals.
While the Expressionists produced canvases and sculptures of note, they are perhaps most famous for their graphics, especially their woodcuts. Germany had a brilliant heritage in the medium, which involves cutting a wooden plank on a plane parallel to the grain (as opposed to wood engraving, in which the design is cut across the grain). Modern woodcuts by Gauguin and Munch (who had turned to the medium in the 1890s) served as examples to the Expressionists of the raw, almost brutal effect that can be obtained from gouging the wood, providing a means of expression that suited their purposes perfectly.
A change occurred in Expressionism with World War I. The horror of the war left an indelible mark, and the chaotic years of the Weimar Republic (1919–33) introduced a sharply satirical tone in the work of many of the artists. New movements such as Neue Sachlichkeit (new objectivity) and Dada arose, attracting many of the same artists who had participated in Expressionism. The rise to power of the Nazis, with their repressive artistic programs, put an end to the Expressionists' period of greatest productivity, although many continued their work until well after World War II.
Excerpted from German Expressionist Woodcuts by Shane Weller. Copyright © 1994 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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Posted May 13, 2003
This is such a worthwhile book. No fancy production or printing is necessary for these woodcuts, nor is any lengthy verbal apology needed for their essence to be felt. Consequently, you have a wonderful little collection of images from one of the most sincere genres in the history of art, at very little cost.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.