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.

Friday 24 September 2010

Cacti and the Color woodblockprint; 2/3

Dutch and German printers

For starters on the left this flowering epiphyllum 1920's woodblock print by relatively unknown and obscured artist J. A. Kort.

The most prolific Dutch lino- and woodcut printing artist in the Arts and Crafts period was without any doubt Arie Zonneveld (1905-1941). His prints were and still are, however out of grace and fashion, widely spread in Dutch homes.

Arie Zonneveld later in life decided he wanted to be an arts teacher rather than being the dullish office clerk he had become and attended the Academy for Beeldende Kunst from 1925 to 1929 in the Hague, Netherlands.

His early prints were relatively simple flower pieces. But very carefully designed and arranged. Often in one color + the black key-block. Later using multiple blocks and more colors creating more complex and landscape compositions.

His choice of subjects and composition is proof he undoubtedly had knowledge of and was influenced by fellow artists in Germany and America.

His art was sold through selected big city art-dealers who ordered prints from a modest list/catalogue on demand if not in stock. Arie only made few numbered and thus limited(?) editions. Careful not to kill the hen with the Golden Eggs. The number of surviving prints are evidence that his enterprise was a success. Although, after his untimely death, only 36 years old of appendicitis, his widow kept printing and selling from the blocks to survive WWII with 3 small children.

German contemporary Ernst Rötteken (1882-1945) in the same period followed a very similar selling strategy in Germany. Resulting in his widespread fame in the province of Lippe. Big editions and no edition numbers. Very popular in the Lippe province even to this day. They look deceivingly simple but are really very good works of Art when studied closely. I am planning a posting on Rötteken's flower prints soon.

There are distinct similarities between the works of Rötteken and Zonneveld. But also with famous Americans Frances Gearhardt (1869-1958) and William Seltzer Rice (1873-1963). The influences of art-teachers Pedro the Lemos and Arthur Dow are evident. Their books on composition and color that were used in art-schools all over the world and even to this day are considered standards or textbooks.

Even famous German Carl Theodoor Thiemann (1881-1966) couldn't resist the attraction of the wonderfull and exotic Epiphyllum flowers and created this wonderfull and spectacular print. Thiemann
created some prints with flowers but is mostly known for his landscapes, sailingboats and swans.

Arie Zonneveld to my knowledge the only artist creating so many different cacti and epiphyllum prints.

Other examples of Dutch Arts and Crafts artists that created color linoleum or woodblock prints of cacti are Jan Schonk (1889-1972) ( left) and Henri Verstijnen (1882-1940) (right). Both well respected and internationally appreciated Arts and Crafts graphic artist.

The makers of these last two Dutch prints not yet identified but the left (signed J.S.) is known with bright yellow flower also.

For some interesting further reading on Arie Zonneveld and his contemporaries:

Cacti prints by German Hugo Noske (1886-1960) and Martin Erich Philipp (1887-1978) will be shown in 3/3 along with all other cacti prints by printers in the rest of the world.
I am sure my research nor my pictures files make a complete oversight of all woodblock prints with cacti. Don't hesitate to email me or leave a comment if you have knowledge of any others please.

Monday 20 September 2010

Cacti and the Color woodblockprint; 1/3

In 1931 the Verkade bisquit company released their new Album “Cactussen” (Cacti). Between 1903-1940 almost every year a new album was created. Hugely popular and thus a great marketing success. In the Netherlands. The albums had to be stocked with cards. Some 130 of them, often little gems. To be obtained with the products of the Verkade company. Ofcourse. My parents and grandparents collected them and filled the albums. Everybody did. Good quality bisquits. I grew up with them. Bisquits and albums. Highly collectable once. In the 1960-1990’s. You can pick them up at any secondhand bookshop for scratch now because of large editions (not to good paper) and low interest nowadays. Ikea and Playstation ruling.

Besides the very good writers (naturalists and specialists) some exceptionally good artist attributed their lives to the albums. Jan Voerman Jzn. (1890-1967, son of renowned Dutch landscape and river painter Jan Voerman sr. (1857-1941), Cornelis Rol (1877-1963) and his son Henricus Rol (1906-1992).

Generations have been taught and educated by these albums. Often lifelong interests were awoken.. The Cacti album made me grow and collect cacti. The aquarium volume my inspiration to my first guppy fishtank. The birds volume to my love of birds and watching them. I even started my family and career on an Island: there are two great North-Sea Islands volumes.

This is a good introduction to my next two scheduled postings. I started this blog after-all because of flowers and woodblock prints. In this introduction I show the black and white “in between and page fillers” of the Cacti Album. These pictures by father and son Rol. And some of Jan Voerman Jr.'s colored renderings of the night flowering cacti.

Cacti and the genus Epiphylum (or leaf-cacti, and not really cacti) became “high fashion” in the Arts and Crafts period and not only in the Netherlands. Huge collections were build and most of them destroyed during WWII. No heating the glasshouses. For their oriental and exotic background and for their shapes, form and huge flowers. Just like, palms, ferns, nasturtiums and morning glories. Peacock and egret's feathers. And seaweeds.

In part 2/3 I’ll show Cacti on color prints by some Dutch and German printers and in Cacti 3/3 the rest of the World. All that I could find.
Black and white amateur cacti-prints are innumerable. These printings will have wait until part 4/4 (.........)
If you're interested in the albums see: .

For Jan Voerman Jr. and Sr. just Google "pictures".

You are invited to leave a reaction in the comment-section if this posting gave you some agreable or pleasing moments.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Some simple thoughts on Intarsio and Whiteline printing.

I think a line can be drawn from the classic art of Intarsio (wood-inlay) to woodblock printing, wood/ linoleum-engraving and white-line printing.

As early as the 16 century pictures and decorations were made using different types of (precious) wood instead of paint. There are astonishing examples of this art form. Even to this day there are artists excelling in this time-consuming classic art form. Paintings in wood and exotic decorating of furniture.

The painting in wood has seen a recreational revival in 1920-50’s. The pre-television and internet era. Around the same time linoleum-cutting and printing was a primary-school learned and in later life applied art. Passing the time in the evenings. With the radio on. When family life was more social, the world much more slower, conveniently arranged and understandable.

From the army of small amateurs some talented and sometimes further educated votaries were to become great artist in these media.

As an addicted flea- markets visitor I have seen many of these wood-panels (painted engravings) Mostly not very appealing, often woodworm eaten. But occasionally real nice pieces show up. I think prefab designs could have been bought, although I have never actually seen one. Nor two alike.

I particularly like these sunflowers in a ginger-jar which I believe to be from the 1930’s. The 1940’s sailing boats were engraved (burned) with a hot needle or old screwdriver.

Some engravings could have been used as a Whiteline block. For printing. But the makers, at that time oblivious to this relatively new American invention of multiplying art, usually just colored in the pictures' puzzle pieces. Hammering a nail in the wall and decorating their homes with the fruits of his or hers arduous labour.

You have to really close-examine a panel to see if it is inlayed or painted because of layers of dust and discoloring by the sun. A device called a saw-donkey or “cheval de marqueterie” was in use by professional marqueteers but I am convinced our grandparents using nothing but a fret-saw and simple table-clamp. Contemporary French marqueteer Yannick Chastang is the maker of the three roses (left). A real painting in wood.

And then, Googling, I recently found these lino-cuttings (linoleum engravings would be a more appropriate description) used as a whiteline printing from contemporary Hamburg artist and painter Ingrid Lill (1942- )
Visit her at:

They remind me of the wonderfull women of French sculptor Aristide Maillol (1861-1944)

I have no idea if this Folk Art is typically Dutch or may have been also popular in other (European) countries.

Amazingly my humble blog drew almost 800 visits in the last 3 weeks. So if some passer-by has any further knowledge on these simple wooden pictures don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Monday 13 September 2010

Catching Up

John Hall Thorpe

This new example of Hall Thorpe's flower bouquet prints I found Googling some online auction cataloques last week. No name no title. I've never seen it before. I know of this Australian cataloque/ book describing Hall-Thorpe's work (*) but considering it has only 4 colored pictures I decided against looking for a (used) copy.

I've uploaded the flowers to the completion of my posting on the flowers prints of John Hall Thorpe of june 18th.

And now for something quite different. My latest find by an obscure printmaker. As early as 1916 and monogrammed probably S.M. (or M.S). Possibly and most probably by a Dutch artist.

These philosophic Dutch sisters ruminating whilst keeping watch over the sea on top of a dike. Which would locate this great scene somewhere around the former Zuyderzee. Now renamed: IJsselmeer. After closing it of from the North Sea entirely in 1927-1932 by the Afsluitdijk. As a part of the heroic Dutch sea defences called the Deltaworks. Protecting the Dutch (river Rhine and Meuse) Delta from flooding disasters like in 1953. And like in Pakistan last month.

(*) Publisher: Sydney: Print Room Press, 1980. A complete catalogue of the Artist's known woodcuts. Introduction by Robert and Ingrid Holden Port frontis with 4 colour & 29 b/w plates, (84pp) 4to. stiff white color pict wrapps. ISBN 0959456902 (used from $ 50 -250)

Thursday 2 September 2010

Jan (Johannes) Veringa

Jan (Johannes) Veringa
(1907 - 1982)

Dutch woodblock and Linocut artist


I already knew Jan Veringa from this little book on Linoleum cutting (cover right) published in 1938. In England and Germany many books on the subject were published from the beginning of last century. By many a "great name". But I think he was the first in the Netherlands. It's a Dutch classic and standard. It has been my guide into the world of blockprinting. I have collected most of the "foreign" books too over the years

It is a standard even to this day because it was written for the using in schools, like most of them were in the days when linocutting was an essential part of the school system in the developement and education of children.

Today linocutting is no longer taught in primary schools because of the "dangerously sharp knives and school liability". Times change. Also "computer creative artforms" are considered a substitute. You may think of it what you like. But I also know the Speedball company developed childrens fingers-safe linocutting knives in the USA (to be pulled instead of pushed). There should be a revival considering how many great and creative artists were bred in the old sytem.

Jan Veringa was to become a schoolteacher (drawing) in the Arts and Craftschools in Haarlem, Netherlands. In 1943 he married (aged 35) Wilhelmina Denison 1912 - 1994). Closely examining the big tree print (above, 35 x 50 cm) in the tree lower left I discovered the initials J.V. and W.D. engraved (in mirror, as to hide it) plus a heart. A very moving find I think.

Veringa's prints are regularly offered in sales and sometimes in auction houses. They are not rare and not expensive. A few months ago I allowed to let slip a very nice one. I am still full of regrets over these two very Arts and Crafts doves, but surely they will show up again.

Recently the above large print with beech trees showed up nearby and when I contacted the seller he told me he had another one matching, also with trees. He had picked them up at a church fundraising sale the weekend before. The two above prints made me curious enough to look into and investigate the life of this artist a little closer. Not very much was found but enough to share and put the lights on this artist.

Jan Veringa was born 19-7-1907 in the city of Haarlem. His father, a metalworker moved from Bolsward, rural province of Friesland, probably escaping poverty and to find work and a future in the more industrialized Western part of the Netherlands.

Johannes (Jan) later entered the "Rijks-normaalschool voor Tekenen" (Arts and Craftschool) and was taught by the artist and professor Huib Luns (1881-1942). Later, in 1938, Luns wrote the introduction page for his former student's book. Professor Huib Luns, by the way, the father of the notorious Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs and the later Secretary General of NATO: Joseph Luns.

Most if not all of Veringa's prints are in black and white. I know of only one print by his hand in color: his lovely Chrysanthemums. It has more than just some similarities with Bakufu Ohno's (1888-1976) Chrysanthemums (printed around 1949/1950). It is almost impossible not to believe Veringa took it as an example.

I think for a schoolteacher in this print he showes his very remarkable talent and skills. And to be honest, without knowing, I dare not say which print is the better or more pleasing.

Left: Jan Veringa, Right : Bakufu Ohno

Much of Veringas work is showing the simple rural and agricultural every-day surroundings near his hometown Haarlem. But he also impresses with great landscapes like the (above) "Dunes near Bloemendaal/Haarlem". See the enlargement (click) for the background details (skyline of the city of Haarlem)

The big beech-lane print is also very rich in details in foreground plants which are all identifiable and not a fantasy. I think he is "showing of" his skills as a woodblock cutter and printmaker and I honestly believe it is without comparison and amazingly I never found a mentioning of this perticular print before.

His rendering of animals showing refinement and humour. His flowerpieces, in more traditional Arts and Crafts style, equaling far more famous artists in quality and composition. There are so many Dutch internationally aknowledged and renowned Arts and Craft graphical artists in that period. Jan Veringa is not really considered one of them. I think that is a mistake and I hope this posting will do some justice to his skills and talent.

On the other hand: I think most of his work is, although largely forgotten and totally out of fashion today, for these reasons still affordable, desirable and very collectable.