Thursday, 8 December 2011

Around Antwerpen School of Print Making (I)

This unknown woodblock print will serve as a starting point of an investigative journey along some of the earlier Modern (colour) Printmakers admired for their ability to create "atmosphere" in woodblock printing. How and where they evolved from the wood engraving tradition in Northern Europe. Their teachers and their schools. This print shows St. Jacobs Tower (St. Jacques) in Antwerp by an unknown printmaker (Peter Paul Rubens married there and he was interred in 1640). Unknown even to collector and connoisseur Hans van der Grinten from whom’s famous collection (and book) I borrowed this picture. Signed A. vd J.(?) it has "it" all.
St. Jacobs (St.Jacques) Tower,     A. vd J.
An interesting format (30 x 30 cm.), the monochrome use of color, a brave viewpoint (looking up, dismissing the lower part of the houses), depth and  "atmosphere" (created by hues of one color), perspective and composition. As well as loose and easy cutting and printing skills. Impressionistic in excecution. And the clever little extra, bringing movement in a static picture  catching the investigating eye and leading it through and over the picture: the line of birds flying from the tower.

(Some fiddling with old web pictures and Photoshop produced these images of St.Jacobs (St. Jacques Tower).

St. Jacobs now and 100 years ago 

If we'll agree the print was made very early in the XXth century, the maker is definitely Belgian or Dutch, considering how many families would fit vd J. There's really not that much choice looking for a fitting family name. I can think of but one: van der Jagt but I was unable finding any artist to “fit”. His name beginning with an A. All other suggestions are very welcomed. Maybe we'll be able to solve this puzzle together.

This print by Jean Claessens (Antwerpen 1879-1963) is very nice, unmistakingly Antwerp Academy (Hoger Instituut) and has the name of it's principal, woodengraver, printmaker and teacher written all over. As I will show in next postings. But it also lacks the atmospheric and impressionistic warmth of the above example. 

In the book mentioned however there's this other great example of warmth and atmosphere. Printed also in just a few shades of brown, by an unidentified printmaker: Louis Han (but it is definitely by Dutch painter and printmaker Louis Haver (Groningen 1906- Hilversum 1969)

To be continued.

PS: this excercise is for my personal amusement only. It does not have any pretentions of being of any scientifique or scolarly value whatsoever.


  1. yes, and there's a lot more coming. Thank you Lily.

  2. Do you know anything about the classes at Antwerp? Orlik was in Belgium and did that print of Malines but so many of them seemed to make prints of these striking towers.

    The interesting thing about Verpilleux is that he combibed engraving and cutting. Was that a standard thing in Antwerp?


  3. Sadly there's nothing to be found about the classes, just small bitts and pieces in scattered artists biographies. What I've found is in the posting and in the ones upcoming. Malines (Mechelen btw)has the most striking of towers, E.Verpilleux did that one too: also in next episode. The question about cutting and engraving is spot on: upcoming.