Friday, 4 March 2011

LH Jungnickel's stencils: the final word?

Thanks to Lily at Japonisme, I think I may be able to say something definitive about the stencils produced by Jungnickel between about 1903 and 1907. It's a matter of chance whether I turn up colour images. Basically, they have to come up at auction in Vienna to appear anywhere online. The monochromes that are here come from the 1907 article about Jungnickel in the British art magazine The Studio, which Lily found, being more computer savvy than me.

First something about his technique. His materials were simple: card, paper, colours, knife, syringes, a wire screen. The paper was first primed by applying colour through the screen with a syringe. This produced a stippled effect similar to lithography. The shapes were then formed when stencils were laid over and colour was again applied through the screen. The size of syringe controlled the size of the spots. Obviously, this all required skill, patience and great care. The first image is one of his most complex and would have needed to be fairly large for Jungnickel to be able cut out and then apply stencils. Even so, it does leave you wondering.

For those readers by now very familar with his animal colour woodcuts, what is noticeable is the variety of his subjects: landscapes, social gatherings, work and some early examples of his groups of birds and animals. The article goes to great lengths to explain the effect of Alfred Roller's teaching on his students. As I said before, Jungnickel attended the Kunstgewerbeshcule between 1903 and 1904 and his stencil 'Sonnenstrahlen' was made in 1903. The simplicity of that image suggests to me it may have been his first success. All the images shown here had been made by 1907. With images of kittens and leopards, that makes six and there is a further one of macaque monkeys, which I think may be his last - or at least one of the later ones - because of the strictly secessionist manner.

So, why did he do it? My conclusion is that the earlier, more stippled stencils are well in line with the late Impressionism that was standard-issue amongst early secession colour printmakers. Helene Mass certainly fits in here. In all these prints, Jungnickel is interested in the effects of light, particularly in the top landscape, 'Tennis players' and 'The mowers'. The birds and animals look forward to his woodcuts - and to everyone else's, from Carl Thiemann to Emile Pottner. I think he stopped making stencils when he turned to woodcut about 1908 ('Tiger's head' dates from 1909). This helps to explain why he came to woodcut relatively late for someone of his generation. Stencil certainly was a very individual, even eccentric technique and one that drew considerable attention to him. I am aware of only his macaque monkeys that doesn't appear in the article.

My guess is that he was already experimenting with woodcut as he made the stencils. Many of the secessionists were making them - Orlik, Moll, Moser, Roller - but I think he needed to get them right. This also explain why 'Tiger's head' is such a good image for, I think, his second print. The stencils amounted to a long apprenticeship. This last one could just as easily have been a woodcut. Not only that, it could just as easily been by Carl Thiemann. Yet again, as you can now see here, it was LH Jungnickel who got there first.


  1. thanks, charles. and here's one colorized by me from the same article.

  2. You are well and truly on the case. We must now find the others.

  3. Gratulations Holmes and Watson, this is developing in a very informative case indeed. Great intercontinental cooperation.

  4. Charles,
    very interesting post (as usual)!! However, I don't think you're right in saying that "Jungnickel got there first". And again Pierre Brissaud comes to my mind when reading about the stencil-technique. Some of the works that he produced are outstanding, and - in my hopinion - much more refined than what Jungnickel did.


  5. I can see now that my final flourish was ambiguous. What I meant to say was that the style LHJ was developping was influential rather than the techniques he was using.

    He and Brissaud were roughly contemporary but the Gazette du Bon Ton was first published in 1912, probably 4 or 5 years after LHJ stopped making stencils. I don't know anything much about fashion pochoir publishing in France or what the involvement of designers like Brissaud was in the final image.

    I think it's time for me to post on Sonia Delaunay.