Sunday, 20 April 2014

Martha Cunz: the Dutch Connection (II)

Martha Cunz

St.Gallen (1876-1961)
Swiss painter, print- and bookplate maker.

In before posting the importance of Martha Cunz as one of the pioneers of color woodblock printing was emphasized. In a relative short period between 1902 and 1905 with her experiments she was able to create very fine prints of extra ordinairy quality in the Japanese way, inspiring her colleagues and paving the way for a new generation of printmakers, often women and most of them professionally trained as painters, to give it try too. 

Many of these women already were accomplished painting artists and/or teachers with professional careers.

This unsigned and never before published print (above) has great similarities with Martha Cunz' early St.Gallen and other night prints. Perhaps it will be attributed to her with certainty one day.  


My personal interest and main focus in woodblock-print collecting and research is concerning this perticular group of German women printmaking artists. Their biographies which are often unknown, obscured and very incomplete I try to complete. They were born between 1856 and 1895 and were professionally active with printmaking 1905-1940. The (my) list, today comprising of some 150 names of artists. Only a few of them acquired the fame and status of Martha Cunz but most of them had modest careers and stayed relatively unknown. 
Here are some more examples of a some printmaking women artists who I know visited the Netherlands. 

Helene Mass (born 1871) 

The same location anno 2010, 1905 and the famous painting by Dutch impressionist Georg Henri Breitner (1857-1923) 

Helene Mass' visit to Amsterdam resulting in this characteristic Canal print showing the junction of two of Amsterdam canals: the Keizersgracht and the Reguliersgracht (print shown with courtesy of reader Holger in Munich). 

Louise Wagner (1875-1950)

Louise Wagner, who created mainly lithographic prints, obviously visited the Island of Marken, a traditional North Sea fishing community just north of Amsterdam before the completion of the Afsluitdijk in 1932 (see before posting).
Emma Bormann (1887-1974)

"De Kolk" in the heart of the old Rotterdam before it was destroyed by the cowardly fire bombing of May 14th 1940 by the German Luftwaffe as seen by later professor Emma Bormann.  

De mill depicted by her in the small village of Godlinze in the North-East of province Groningen. It was in a very bad state and was demolished in 1945. 

And this is the Groningen University "Academie Gebouw", build in 1909 after an earlier building was destroyed by fire, in the province's capital and where students receive their official degree after finishing their studies and were I for several years was allowed to speak, congratulate and welcome fresh academic professionals as colleagues among them one of my sons and more recently his girlfriend Anne-Maartje. 

British printmaker Eric Hesketh Hubbard (1892-1957) printed this "Repair warf in Delft" on the printing press of his friend Hendrik Roodenburg (1895-1987) a well known Dutch  topographic etcher, in 1924.

Please send me more examples of foreign printmakers visiting and working in the Neterlands for sharing.

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

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Martha Cunz: the Dutch Connection (I)

Martha Cunz 
(St.Gallen-Switserland, 1876-1961)

Swiss painter and pioneer woodblock printmaker

This blog is not intended to high-light the already famous and well researched printmaking artists: Martha Cunz is such an artist. There are better and reliable sites to inform you about Martha Cunz who studied with Ernst Neumann in Munich Art Academy. What is more important and interesting she is among the very first artists to try at color woodblock printmaking in the beginning of the 20th century. 

Her earliest prints, after initially trying at lithography, are dated as early as 1901. Of this "Birken" lithography a single copy of a woodblock print is known. By 1905 she was able to show, in the annual Glass Palace Exhibition in Munich truly great prints in the Japanese way created in the two years before. In contrast to her many later printmaking colleagues, like Carl Thiemann, 5 years her younger and inspired by her printmaking, Walter Klemm and the Neumann brothers Ernst and Hans, she eventually became obscured but since long has been rediscovered and rehabilitated. 

"Abend" (night in in St. Gallen) and "Frühling" (Spring) the two prints shown in the 1905 exhibition were created in 1903/04. 1904 was the year Emil Orlik who taught Klemm and Thiemann, was appointed professor in Berlin. She experimented and printed the black key block on the back of the paper to soften its tone. 


The reason for this posting is recently finding in a junkshop this mystery print without a signature or monogram. The preliminary outcome of my research I share today. 

After some puzzling it became clear it shows the harbor of the fishing village of Harderwijk with characteristic herring fishing boats (type: botter), a sailing freighter (type: skutsje or tjalk), the fish-hall were the catch was sold and  auctioned, some houses and, vaguely, the windmill named "de Hoop". 
The way the windmill is depicted is peculiar, in a light relief, created with two different shades of brown. After removing the mat (passe-partout) it is clear the darkest brown color block had probably shifted (a registering fault ?) from the left and lower margins. The framer neatly disguised and hid this "problem" under the mat.   

The Harderwijk Mill, de Hoop (Hope) originally was build in 18th century but the wooden supra structure burned to the brick build mill-base after being struck by lightning in 1909. Classic windmills often were (and are) rebuild and recycled, they had a tendency to burn of friction or strike of lighting. It was rebuild in 1911 (and it burned again in 1969 and again was rebuild). 

Martha Cunz visited the Netherlands, in 1904 and again in 1910. During her first visit and stay several of her sketches later were used as designs for prints of which two are windmills (dated 1905 and 1907)

And from this print, a view on Volendam harbor, another of Hollands "Zuiderzee" fishing villages, the sketch also survived. Her painting in oil of Volendam shows her painting skills probably meeting with the other artists staying in the artist Hotel Spaander in Volendam. From 1931 Martha Cunz turned away from printmaking to paint the rest of her long life in het studio in St.Gallen.

And here are some more of her Dutch prints: "Night in Volendam", with similar great "Japanese blues" as used in the St. Gallen print.  

And "Mondschein",  that I think could very well be a moonlit Dutch farm.


Carl Thiemann, in 1905 finishing his studies in Prag, also visited the Netherlands, somewhere between 1908-10, and it is said, although the two artist probably never met, he was not only impressed and inspired by Martha Cunz' printing technique, but most of all her birches, 

and Dutch windmill prints,

but also by her Dutch fishing boats. In this perticular boat print (Venice 1910) Thiemann uses the same technique of rendering the reflection of the boat in the water, the sails, and also uses similar browns as in the Harderwijk print.  Later Thiemann turned to a lighter color pallet. Assuming "Harderwijk" is also 1910'ish I have no clue about any Dutch printmaker who could achieve such a result in these early years of printmaking, simply because there weren't any around or even born yet.      
Like Harderwijk, Spakenburg-Bunschoten, Marken, Enkhuizen and the Frisian cities of Stavoren and Hindeloopen (where I've found this print) these villages and cities had traditional herring fleets, that is, before the final closing of the Afsluitdijk, a masterpiece of Dutch engineering, in 1932 turning the Zuiderzee into Lake IJsselmeer blocking the herring, creating safety for millions but ending traditional fishery. 

The importance and influence of Martha Cunz on all later Modern Printmakers, her achievement to create prints like these early examples in such a short time of trial, error and effort (in 1904 !) and probably without direct guidance from Emil Orlik, cannot be emphasized enough I believe. 

Which brings me to my next posting and very much related puzzle and problem.

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

Monday, 7 April 2014

Austin Osman Spare: of Christ, Holbein and Belugas.

Austin Osman Spare

British painter and occultist, 
portraitist and self portraitist.

“And remember, you shall suffer all things and again suffer: until you have sufficient sufferance to accept all things.”  - Austin Osman Spare. 

Austin Osman Spare: self portrait.

I stumbled over Spares quotation that is so appropriate for this time of year. The weeks  before Easter, since the year, Anno Domini, 352 commemorating the resurrection of the man that took all human suffering on his shoulders and who died on the cross three days before: on the friday before the first Sunday after the first full moon in spring. I suppose Spares' life wasn't the among the happiest and carefree.  

Hans Holbein (1497-1543), probably the greatest portrait artist the world ever saw, was the first association that came to my mind discovering and studying Spares portraits. But do judge yourself. Holbein, a German, who moved to England in 1525 where he acquired world fame painting and drawing British royalty and aristocracy. 

 Thomas Eliot (1490-1546) and his wife Margaret à Barrow (1500-ar.1565), diplomat and scolar, by Hans Holbein around 1535.

Googling this rather strange artist Spare I found this brilliant 1932 portrait of American movie actor Joel Macrea (1905-1990). 

In that year, 1932, Macrea, the handsome and Tarzan build American actor starred in Technicolor with beautiful Mexican born actress Dolores del Rio (1905-1983) in "Bird of Paradise" a movie rather famous among our grandparents for its few minutes of very daring nude underwater swimming.

Above two photographs showing Dolores del Rio surfacing in 1932 (after some Photoshop fiddling of stills from a Youtube clip) and two paintings by British artist Bill Bate (b. 1962) who is also very much "into the underwater". 

Which brings me to the astonishing, very beautiful and brave Natalia Avseenko (link)a Russian record holding free diver and marine scientist who dived and swam in arctic waters near Murmansk with Belugas creating these incredible photographs made by the crew of Viktor Lyaguskin. Above: training with a crew of divers and below: two photographs that amazed the world. See and enjoy the movie !  

The Belugas would not swim with her when dressed. Proving these elegant and gentile mammals have brains very much like those of humans. 

If Japan ever kills a whale again (they are still slaughtering dolphins aren't they ?) why don’t we just stop buying Toyotas and Mazdas, tv sets and stereos ! I did. 

When in 1932 technical possibilities would have been to todays incredible high but taken for granted standards Dolores and Joel would probably have had altogether other careers. But on the other hand that movie surely would never have been allowed to be seen publicly.

1960, Japanese Ama pearl diver on the isle of Hekura.  

So here are from our liberated times, some more Doloresses and Natalias proving your and my human brain are not so very different from those of Belugas.

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

All pictures are mouse-clickable to embiggen. 

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