Sunday, 15 May 2016

Siegward Sprotte meets Fritz Zalisz on the isle of Sylt.


Siegward Sprotte must have been one of Emil Orliks (1870-1932) last students in Berlin. Spanning a period of 25 years of teaching in Berlin among his first students had been many older women artists trained and educated in the classic tradition followed by a next generation of Art-Nouveau and Jugenstil artists. His last students will have been heavily influenced by expressionism.    



I am acquainted with Sprotte because of one (1956) woodcut showing the iconic "Rotes Klif" (red cliff) on the German North-Sea island of Sylt. It lead me to his colorful watercolor drawings ("scribbles") of beach, dunes and North Sea.






Sprotte must have been familiar with the artistic world of Fritz Zalisz who visited Sylt in the 1920's although I could not discover how they were acquainted. Maybe a passing reader will tell me in due time. Both artists have tried at woodblock printmaking but only a few examples are known to me. Both artist need only a minimum of lines to share with us what they saw and what they felt. I include their biographies, composed from several sources, below.








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All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only

Biographies: 

Sprotte, Siegward 
(Postdam 20-04-1913 – 07-09-2004 Kampen/Sylt)

Painter, art philosopher and printmaker. Started his artistic studies with Adolf Dahle (1890-1954) and studied from 1931-1937 in Berlin at the “Vereinigten Staatsschulen für freie und angewandte Kunst” with Emil Orlik (1870-1932), Kurt Wehlte (1887-1973) and Maximillian Klewer (1891-1963) He claimed to have been a masters student of Karl Hagemeister (1848-1933) from 1930 until his death in 1933. Although there is no written evidence his influence seems evident. 
His work was admired and much praised during the National Socialist period, exhibiting in the 1939, 1941, 1942 and 1944 “Großen Deutschen Kunstausstellung” with 10 works.
He developed a life long friendship with Karl Foester (1874-1970) a gardener, perennial breeder and garden philosopher who lived in Potsdam-Bornim since 1911. Sprotte lived from 1945 in Potsdam-Bornim and during summer in the village of Kampen on the North-Sea island of Sylt. Here in his studio and exhibition rooms many paintings of the island were created. He developed in the 1950’s a “simplified” expressionist style with sparse use of line using watercolour much like Fritz Salisz (1893-1971) who stayed in Sylt in 1922/23. He was acquainted with and influenced by artists Erich Heckel (1883-1970) Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976), Hans Purrmann (1880-1966) and Emil Nolde (1867-1956).  

Zalisz, Fritz 
(Gera 17-10-1893 – 13-12-1970 Leipzig)

Painter, sculptor, poet, graphic artist and printmakler. Son of a Goldsmith and juweler. Studied first zoology with zoologist, philosopher and Charles Darwin follower Ernst Heackel (1834-1919) in Jena co-operating with him and who introduced him to study with Gabriel von Max (1840-1915) and sculptor Adolf von Hillebrandt (1847-1921) in Munich. In Munich he met Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) who’s portrait he drew. In WWI he participated as a war-artist (in the 58th devision) continuing his studies at Leipzig ”Akademie für Grafik und Buchgewerbe” with Otto Richard Bossert (1874-1919), Alois Kolb (1875-1942) and Adolf Lehnert (1862-1948). Studied also in Berlin, worked in Leipzig and travelled to Holland, Belgium, France and Switzerland.
He mainly worked as graphic artist, creating a series of 24 lithographies for “Faust”, 12 for “Iphegenie” and 12 for “Christus”. He made monumental ornamentions for buildings in Leipzig and Altenhain that mostly were destroyed in WWII.
In 1927/28 he was offered a professorship in the University of Madrid which he declined. In the early 1920’s he stayed regularly on the North-Sea island of Sylt were he created many drawings in watercolour and chalk, etchings and sketches. In 1940 he moved to Leipzig-Holzhausen and after WWII he created mainly small and animal sculptures.
Three of his works were exhibited in the (1996) Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980) exhibition in Dresden. Exhibited 1923 in the Chemnitz “Kunsthutte” and “Kunsthalle Dessau” and in 1928 in Madrid. 

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Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Goddesses and Putti, Venus and Cupid : Any idea ?

I know, this print (22 x 22 cm.) is nothing like the early XXth century (German) color woodblock prints this Blog is more or less build around. But please let me know what you make of this woodblock (it really is !) print. It emerged from a stack of material from all sorts and periods deriving from all quarters of the compass. And I fell in love instantly (this happens a lot lately, it might have to do with an aging romantic). 




I'm not sure wether the colors are block-printed, or colored by hand, but it has a wonderful pallet of exquisitely warm, glowing and almost sensual "setting sun" earth colors. The laziness and sensuality of the moment is screaming of the paper but I have no idea what the artist tries to transmit to us. It's obviously "Venus, Company and Putti" (her son Cupid). There's no signature or other marking leading to an artist. 

It could be a 17th or 18th century composition by Pieter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), compare also the band around the left upper arm, 




Jan Brueghel the Elder and Workshop of Peter Paul Rubens - Nymphs Filling the Cornucopia

but  Henri Matisse (1869-1954) could also have had a hand in it. And what about 




Aristide Maillol (1861-1944) ?




Did you know he created some exquisite woodcuts ("gravure a bois") too ?






Please send any comment or suggestion. 

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Helene Gries-Danican, two surprising early prints

Helene Gries–Danican
(Kiel 1874-1935 Braunschweig) 


was a German painter (and printmaker) who, in her times was much praised for her sea paintings. She'd started her studies privately with marine painter Georg Burmeister (1864-1936) who's influence and use of colour is evident in all her sea related paintings. 


Master and Student: Georg Burmeister and Helene Gries-Danican.


The similarities with Max Beckmann's (1884-1950) 1907 "Seestück" (lower) are striking. She will have met Beckmann while studying with Burmeister in Berlin(1906-1908). 

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She also entered Dresden “Kunstschule Kops” the privately run by Georg Lührig (1868-1957) painting school and studied with Dora Hitz (1856-1924) who'd moved from Dresden to Berlin in 1892. As daughter of a well to do notary in Kiel she was also allowed to study (1903-04) in the Academie Colarossi in Paris ending her studies in 1908 with again Georg Burmeister in Berlin. 


In childhood she had to undergo surgery (probably because of an inner ear infection) which left her disabled after the facial nerve was damaged with a paralyzed and drooping right side of her face and a hearing impediment. Recently more attention to her work and biography was given by a publication by a grand-nephew. And her work was exhibited in 2008.








Finding these two very Japanese colour woodblock prints in the Internet was a pleasant surprise. I could not find datings but I wonder what may have inspired her because there’s not much to compare them with besides the 1906-08 Japanese lantern prints by American printmaker Bertha Lum (1869-1954) but that seems too far fetched and unlikely.  


More probable are the Munich artists Martha Wenzel (1856-1943) iconic “Spaziergang” (1907),


and Martha Cunz (1876-1961) who did several "night scene" prints (in shades of gray and a strong colour component) around 1905-06.





Studying in Berlin 1906-1908 places her also in the times of Emil Orlik who came from Munich to Berlin in 1905 to teach woodblock printmaking. It is frustrating so little written evidence is left or delivered to us although this period is called "recent history". In Germany this is because of the devastations of archives, buildings and complete city's in during WW2. 

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only.  

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Rembrandt: Chaumière au grand arbre.

Barn with large tree 

("Chaumière au grand arbre") 
(Cat. B.226) 


Some time ago I (a flying crow....) stumbled over this battered, glued and browned impression of an etching in a broken frame. As in before posting it had evoked a "deja vue": I was sure I'd seen this composition before. Besides falling in love instantly (as a romantic it happens to me all the time), the frame told it was fabricated in a well known, posh, shop and it held an old (auctioneers) price tag. But even without those indicators....................... 



It measures roughly 25 x 42 cm. and it is (part of) an interpretation (not a copy !) of Rembrandts "La chaumières au grand arbre" (the barn with the big tree), catalogued as B.226. It's roughly twice the size of the known original. The right side is missing (I think, or maybe it was left out....). But even so it's very decorative and I would dearly like to know who made it, and when.  




In 1640 Rembrandt made this drawing, below, an etching of Amsterdam (catalogued B.210). Small as it is (a tiny 11,3 x 15,5 cm.) it shows the city with church towers, the harbor with ships, and the landscape with mills surrounding the city seen from the north side of the Y. 





In 1641 he drew two separate landscapes with a farm: one to the left and one to the right of his earlier vantage point in an oblong (13 x 32 cm.) format. Put together they form a wide angle view or panorama of Amsterdam. (B.226 and B.225), something like this:



Master engraver Amand Durand (1831-1905) who was commissioned by the Louvre Museum director to restore its collection of worn Rembrandt plates used a revolutionary "reversed method" invention. A fine and original paper print was used to produce an etched image in a fresh copper plate with the help of an electric light: the Heliogravure. It could take up to 6 months to create an image. But then it was accurate within 1/100 of cm. to the lines drawn by the hand of Rembrandt himself. Needles to say these limited Durand (re)prints are highly sought after and recognizable from a red seal on the back. 



The Heliogravure technique, after Durands epic mission, was quickly abandoned: it had been used to prints stamps and it was so good it could also be used to forge paper money. 

After Charles rapid comment (thanks) I found this: William Baillie (1723-1810) known for his many "after" Rembrandt etchings................. 


All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only.