Thursday, 7 November 2013

Henriette Hahn-Brinckmann, I wonder ...

Henriette Christine Hahn-Brinckmann
Danish/German painter and pioneer printmaker.
Exhibited in Germany 1898 and 1901.

(This supposedly portrait of Henriette appeared actually to represent her sister: Henrikka Møller-Hahn. See the comment of sept. 14th 2015) 

Two days ago I read expert Charles' recent posting in Modern Printmakers dealing with an early (1912) William Giles' (1872-1939) print and it left me wondering if Giles' orange sun disk may have been inspired inspired by a print by Henriete Hahn created a decade earlier in 1898.  She was then already known for her innovative floral designs combined with woodblock printing a few years earlier. I understand Giles visited Germany in the early 1900's because I know of his series of 1905 prints depicting the city of Quedlinburg, its castle and surroundings. 

Henriette was born in Kopenhagen in 1862 as the daughter of the sailing-ships captain Christian Hahn and Caroline Nielsen. She attended the Arts and Crafts school in Kopenhagen and was appointed teacher there and later acquired a position at the famous Arts and Craft School for Girls in Hamburg (Kunstgewerbeschule). She left for Paris to work and study in 1892 when Hamburg schools closed because of the outbreak of cholera.  
"Passionsblumen": 1897
She was later to become the third wife of founder and first  director Justus Brinckmann (1843-1915) of the Kunstgewerbe Museum. Earlier she created woodblock print illustrations for his book on Japanese pottery. Brinckmann's fascination for Japanese prints lead to exhibitions in Hamburg as early as 1896. He must have been fascinated by Henriette in person too because returning from Paris she presented him their (illegitimate) daughter in 1893, later marrying him and giving him another 3 children (read Brinckmann's interesting biography here*). During her marriage she was not allowed to be professionally publicly active by her husband, forcing her to continue her artistic career after his death in 1915. 
"Abenstimmung": 1904
Her innovative print "Schwanenwiek" shows a very Art-Deco flock of swans in the "Außer Alster" in Hamburg (Schwanenwik is the name of the Park) and is a purely Impressionist composition of the sun, its light and it's reflections. The swans' differences in perspective and volumes are very un-Japanese. It was printed probably from 6 blocks with watercolor paint, without a key block and with "flowing" colors. The leafless tree and trelliswork on the other hand are very Japanese elements. The orange sun and its reflections could inspired by Claude Monet's 1872 painting.

The vertical dimension of this large print (of an edition of 50 pulled) to emphasize this was meant to be an independent work of art and not an illustration. The print was widely praised and discussed at the time. 

Although Charles' posting was the reason for this posting this is a good opportunity to show some more examples of Hahn innovative works. By birth she is the (almost*) oldest(**) of the first generation of German (Nordic) women working with woodblock printmaking born 1860-1900 and working in Hamburg, Berlin, Dresden and Munich. 

(*) See also the discovery and research on Danish/German printmaker Emma Maier (Meier) (1859-1921) who also worked and teached in the Kunstgewerbe Schule in Hamburg.  

(**) printmaker Eleonore Doelter was born 1855 but only later in life became involved in printmaking.

Information on "Schwanenwiek": Birgit Ahrens in "Wege zur Gabrielle Munter und Käthe Kolwitz, 2013.

All pictures are mouse-clickable to embiggen and borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only.    



  1. I really don't think the images are all that similar if you compare them to Japanese prints, but the Giles print does in fact show the Traelde Ness in Denmark, and you are probably right that she and Giles knew one another. He spent a number of years teaching in Scandinavia from about 1900.

    Are you certain about those dates? 1898 is very early for making colour woodcuts. How would she have learned the technique? So far as I know the first schools of arts and crafts opened in London in 1897 and 1898 and they provided the model for the Kunstgewerbeshcule in Austria-Hungary and Germany.

    1. Hello Charles, thank you for commenting. It's not as much the similarity as the possible influences and ties I tried pointing out. Hahn's orange sun disk could be derived (or was inspired by) from Monet (I added his 1872 painting to the posting).
      Otto Eckmann (1865-1902) studied, and possibly taught in Hamburg too. Peter Behrens and Eckmann (both typographers) published the earliest woodblock prints (like "The Kiss") in PAN in the second half of the 1890's. Hahn produced 2 illustrations in a book published by her later husband on Japanese Pottery in 1896. Exhibitions showing prints created the Japanese way were held also in the late 1890'2 in Germany. Hahn, Eckman and Behrens are now considered the pioneers block printmakers in Germany. Brinckmann was involved in the great Worldexhibitions too.
      I agree I may have created some confusion concerning the Hamburg Kunstgewerbe Museum (founded by Brinckmann and opened 1877) and the Kunst und Gewerbe Schul Hamburg which was the in fact the Royal Arts School founded 1767 and was later remodeled and renamed as Kunstakademie. But I'm convinced both institutions were at the time closely related and connected.

  2. What you say is all very interesting, but there was so much going off in the 1890s so far as colour prints go, it is hard to say exactly what. What is certain is that art historians who have written about the field in English have tried to identify trends without turning up much in the way of hard information. So much tosh has been talked it's untrue.

    I don't think Behrens was very influential. He made very few woodcuts, all of them different, and had no students, so far as I know. He was just working alongside all the others, but The Kiss has been picked out as some sort of a milestone. It was made much of in the sixties by the psychedelic poster artists and it now gets into the books, but so what? He moved on.

    As for the Japanese method, I wonder what kind of a method people like Lepere and Riviere were using when they made their woodcuts in the early 1890s. It was the British who were Japanese method.

    Anyway, I think you need to organise an exhibition of those early German colour woodcuts for us, then we will know.

    A good post, anyway, it made me think.

    1. Method, design, inspiration, example, influence, source. I was not after who was first or who beat who Charles. The exhibitions are already held in Germany and the books related really valuable for examples and information. Here are the the ISBN's. Thanks for the compliment btw: me making you think really is. Giles meating Eckman in Hamburg ? Who knows ! It's pure fun tracing all these thin lines hidden in the past.
      Die Frühzeit des Modernen Holzschnitt: 1993: ISBN 3-929042-03-7 (360 pgs. 445 prints)
      Wege zu Gabriele Munter und Käthe Kolwitz: okt. 2013-jan. 2014 (now): ISBN 978-3-86568-981-8 (bookshop ed.) and 978-3939775-37-9 (Museum ed.) 40 artists and biographies -170 prints: 28€ postage included.
      High quality and very good value for money books available at the museum shops and send on request.

  3. The picture of the woman next to the title is NOT Henriette Hahn, but her sister Henrikka Hahn (Møller) my great great grandmother.

  4. Thank you so much for sending this correction, and accept my apologies for this mistake. I will make adjustments in the text right away.

    1. Thank you for listening. Much appreciated. Other sites don't allow comments and continue to suggest that the painting is a self portrait.