Saturday, 17 October 2015

Robert Budzinski: Dance Macabre

Robert Budzinski 

(Niederburg in Prussia 1874 - 1955 Marburg)

German painter, grafic artist, teacher, writer, illustrator, bookplate artist and storyteller.

Born in a small town in Prussia called "Klein Schläfken" (Little Sleep) and later becoming a ferry-tale storyteller can not be a coincidence. He studied in Art Academies of Königsberg and Berlin later moved to, worked and lived in Königsberg in  Prussia then a province of Germany now Kaliningrad a Russian enclave (and ice free gateway to the Baltic) situated between Poland and Lithuania. He later moved to Marburg in Western Germany. 

Robert Budzinski was a master of all graphic techniques but is mostly known and remembered by his 8 woodblock prints of "Totentanz", or Dance macabre. Sinister pictures, by some experts or critics he was later even qualified as  an occult printmaker. 

These prints are of course not "occult" but related and referring to Franz Liszt's (1811-1886) piano music/ Liszt was fascinated by Dante's (1265-1321) Devinia Comedia and the illustrated Neurenburg Chronicles by Hans Holbein the younger (1497-1543) telling of the massacre caused by the plague ravaging Europe in 1346-1351. 

Erasing the (shadow of) Grim Reaper (Photoshop) renders an altogether nice picture of a young woman reading on the beach. It also removes the balance Budzinski created in the composition and of course removes the several layers of thought, bewilderment and reflection printed on the paper and, most of all, carved in the mind of the observer. Watching them too closely they almost seem to hurt. 

However fascinating these haunting pictures are I like even better his dreamlike compositions and captures of transcendent emotions: love, passion, longing, yearning, sleeping and dreaming. Each print seems to tell a personal and highly sensitive story of love and attraction, of distance and nearness, of storm and calm. Lovers drifting and floating in the universe and also of attraction and alienation on earth and in the heavens, almost prophetical. 

These scenes Budzsinki often situated in the infinite and desolate landscape of endless sand and dunes and Baltic sea: the Curonian Spit and Lagoon ("Kurische Nerung") a natural sandy reef and Ice age remnant in the North of Poland. 

Not far from his home. It is where the village of Nidden with its artists colony is situated in its heart. 

Most of his prints offered (in Ebay) are unsigned and, an educated guess as he also wrote in his memoirs, published as calendar plates. Often not very successful editions, the backside of stacks of unsold calendars serving him as cheap drawing paper.    

This fine last example (there are several others to be found in the Internet) is almost an amalgam of a print by Dutch printmaker Wijand Otto Jan Nieuwenkamp and Turner's most famous painting and is seen regularly in German Ebay. 


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


  1. Are the two small side-by-side images ex libris designs?

    1. They are indeed and I even tried to find out about the names of the owners but failed so far.

  2. Being the fond owner of one of these great prints I can tell you that it is definitely NOT by Veldheer but by his fellow Dutchman Wijnand Otto Jan (W.O.J.) Nieuwenkamp. It is titled "Brug te Mechelen" (Bridge in Mechelen, Belgium).
    They were both active in the same period and there is at least one publication featuring art of both of them.


    1. You are absolutely right Markus. Thank you !