Monday, 27 September 2010

Cacti and the Color Woodblockprint; 3/3

Adolph Dietrich Swiss

a Swiss naive painter

painted this gothic arrangement of flowering cactusses. Strangely this snake cactus (also not a cactus but considered a tropical rainforest epiphyte) is very a widespread and respected houseplant. In Switserland. Very common in farmhouses. The exuberant style he used to paint these flowers is characteristic for all block-printers who decided to show-(off) their efforts on this plant.
To my surprise researching this posting, I discovered that cacti on woodblock prints are almost exclusively prints of Epiphyllums. The exotic and exuberant flowers and symmetrical leafforms clearly very inspiring to Arts and Crafts printers.
I've found only one print of the Christmas or Easter cactus on a woodblock print. Charles Rennie MacKintosh’s (1868-1928) Scottish artist and architect made this watercolor painting (right) which I consider maybe the most delicate rendering of such a plant. Hugo Noske did the print (left).

Epiphyllums are a family of leaf-cacti. Not real cacti but epiphytes, native to the Amazon rainforest. Very much a grand-mothers plant. They grow in trees, like ferns and orchids. Not parasitizing but often in symbiosis. Easy in care, exotic and giving color in Northern houses in the darker seasons: grannies kind of plants. Just like the other family of leaf-cacti: the Christmas and Easter Cacti or Zygocacti. To lure them into flowering (yes, around Xmas and Easter, you have to store them cold for a period of time. Thriving on neglect they are both easy and very rewarding house plants.

Hugo Noske (1886-1960) gave his best. He tried four (!) times, all of them very exuberant and extravagant prints. Almost overstated renderings. Stunning. Like the plants themselves. But also very much the trademark of all of Noske prints. I love them. Desirable, covetable art. And I am not alone: rare, sought after and expensive nowadays!

The orange flowering with-a-seaview print (below) is often misnamed Tigerlillies. I wonder if Noske made this mistake himself. It looks like he owned the plant, and decided to do a remake of the earlier print later in life. He changed many things, the composition, the colors, maybe re-using some of the old blocks, maybe he started all over. It shows also his development in the printmaking. A nice puzzle. The first version is nice, the remake: Great Art.

Paul Jacoulet’s (1896-1960) art and life is widely reviewed and his Cacti are a marvel of technique, color and composition. He moved at a young age with his parents from Paris to Japan and was trained by Kazou Yamagishi. It is said that he used as many as 300(!) blocks for his color-prints using special papers that were made for him exclusively and he personally pulled every print. And only on subscription. Royal, Papal and Presidential class and owned only by such. Not art for the mortal collector. His prints (not only the cacti) are without any comparison and unbelievably beautiful.

Shirley Ximena Hopper Russel (1886-1885) an American artist living most of her life on Hawaii had just before WWII her prints published by Japanese publisher Watanaba Shozaburo and is mostly know for her Hawaii flowers prints. Also Great Art.

Alison Huston Lockerby Newton (1890-1967) born in Scotland and moved at a young age to Canada was trained at the Winnipeg Art School and by Walter Joseph Phillips, the man himself.

Martin Erich Philipp (1887-1978) besides famous for his erotic etchings and ex-libris' created some 65 all very wonderful prints. Hard to believe there is no book or cataloque on his work. He did mostly flowers and birds. This Epiphyllum, aloë, blue bowl and newspaper one of his more complex compositions. His prints vary in price from bargains to more exclusive depending on subject and/or seller.

Ernst Rötteken (1882-1845), the artist who decorated almost every house in the province of Lippe (Germany) with his prints also did the night-blooming Cereus: Queen of the Night. Greenhouses were opened to the public at night times to see this marvel. High quality art at affordable prices was his device. And he lived up to it printing all his life. Memorable. He more than earned his exhibition and catalogue in 2005 in the Landesmuseum in Detmold Germany holding a great collection of his prints.

Many of his illusive prints are never seen on the market and others every week. Some 50 are known and accounted for although even experts aren't quite sure. There is this little pre-WWII (ordering)cataloque showing 30 of his first prints in miniature but full-colors. It's offered on Ebay regularly. Go find it, it's on of those must have items!

Again, I know this oversight must be incomplete. But there is no other effort or example on this topic known to me. So please leave a comment or email me if you have knowledge of more color woodblock or linocut-prints showing cacti .
Or better pictures with higher resolution.

The list of black and white prints with cacti must be endless.

This compilation was made only for my personal and mutual amusement and without any scientific or scolarly pretentions.

And please take also in account that English is not my native language. Please correct me when I've made avoydable mistakes.


  1. Gerrie, very interesting posting. I always think the cacti and the nasturtium were intriguing to the deco printmakers because they have vibrant blooms and there is a touch of symmetry that appealed to them. It has always intrigued me that plants also went through fads and periods. Very informative posting.

  2. Thank you Clive, it was a pleasure making this posting. Anemones, morning-glories and sunflowers were the other popular popular flowers of the period. For the same reasons. As were the ginger jars and other arts and crafts vases accompaning. As in painting, but they started these easthetic combinations some 25 years earlier. All under the impression and influenced by Japanese examples I think.
    Thanks for commenting.