Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Inspiration and all seasons

Flow of consciousness 

Helene Mass (1871-1955) today is considered by most serious collectors and connoisseur the godmother of German color woodblock printmaking. She probably is. She was born in Schönlanke, Prussia (now Trzcianka in central Poland). Too little is known about her life and career, although over the years I was able to collect 38 examples of her prints from auctions, old catalogues, exhibition announcements etc. in my pictures archive. In the aftermath of WW-II Schönlanke, its church and with it its church books were destroyed by the invading Russian red-army. Hopefully more will come to light in the near future. In the region (Posen) lived several Mass families. I wonder if she was familiar with the work of Fritz Thaulow:      

Fritz Thaulow (1847-1906) was a Danish and German trained, Norwegian born painter and printmaker working in Paris, Belgium and the Netherlands. He travelled Europe and even visited the USA. He passed away staying in the well known artist "Hotel Spaander" in Volendam in the Netherlands. There's a wealth of information and plenty of examples of his work in the internet. But you only have to remember this: besides he was probably the finest painter of reflecting water surfaces he also was involved in the revival of aquatint etching at the turn of the century. Preceding modern woodblock printmaking. In all his work, water is the most important and charactaristic feature.

Thaulow's waters brings me too Franz Kupka (1871-1957) who only incidentally showed his fascination with water and it's reflections. I love his bathing Muse and his compositional explorations of the subject. 

Having arrived at the nude body: I recently found (stumbled over a passed auction lot) this wonderful and very surprising nude by my personal printmaking muse (teacher and painter !) Else von Schmiedeberg. Although her biography is, like Helene Mass, also very thin and not entirely clear I do know she taught at the same Berlin institution with Emil Orlik (1870-1932).    

I would very much like to get into friendly contact with the lucky 2017 German auction buyer !   

Emil Orlik

Not many woodblock printmakers were involved in the female nude as subject for their creativity let alone women printmakers, but illusive Dagmar Hooge (1870-1930) was and so was  Hedwig  Matthiessen (1878-around 1927/30).  

I think Else Schmiedeberg may have created her auto portrait looking up to the "visitor", painting in her flowering garden (in Leipzig or Berlin) in this oil painting which I recently was able to acquire add to my modest Schmiedeberg collection.    

Else painting in her wonderful red rose garden and the stairs leading up to it brings me back to where I started: Helene Mass but now with this wonderful "Red Ivy" house and garden.
Helene Mass
The detail in this last print leads from the lakes and cities and from fall to this summers beach in 1916 surprise print by Dutch painter, lithographer and wood-engraver Jan Visser (1879-1961).

"All things are connected

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

All pictures embiggen by mouse click.


  1. Where on earth did you find that photograph of Helene Mass? Your internet searching has reached genius level.

    I wonder if William Giles knew von Thaulow's work? H travelled in Germany and Denmark before von Thaulow's death.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you Karen, and yes they are, wish I could tell' them ...... But that's the point, they left them for us to discover and enjoy long after they've departed this world.