Thursday, 14 July 2011
Martha Hofrichter (1872 - 1960)
Here is yet another woman printmaker whose name really should be better known than it is. Martha Hofrichter was a German-speaker from Brno in what is now the Czech Republic. She certainly had work published in Vienna, also worked in Munich, and one view is that she also trained in Paris. This first woodcut, called 'Notre Dame' would seem to back that view up. It also has the sense of exactness I associate with French printmaking, along with the strong colour contrasts. I think the unrealistic use of mauve is particularly telling. She falls back on the old stand-by of a snow scene but doesn't then make it easy on herself by actually describing the snow falling. (The only colour woodcutter who I could think of who tried the same trick was Carl Thiemann but Gerrie Caspers has pointed out that Henri Riviere showed snow falling at least twice - another French connection, by way of Japan, of course).
Next comes 'Ravens in the snow', a more obvious essay using a Japanese prototype. The style and arrangement of the houses gives this a much more central European feel but it's worth saying both prints adopt the square format so beloved of the Secessionists after the square calendar of 1903. Interesting that she used a similar drab pale green as a background for both the prints, again an unrealistic use of colour that we tend to accept today without thinking about it. It would have seemed more modern at the time. Finally, this ex libris for Anna Boeck finds her in full Secessionist mode.
She was a contemporary of her fellow Czech, Emil Orlik (b 1870) and also of Helene Mass (b 1871). She is clearly closer to Orlik than to Mass both all three (given the very few examples of Hofrichter's work I can judge her by) failed to become quite as modern as their British cotemporary Ada Collier ( b1870). But I suspect she had a relatively short printmaking career because there doesn't seem to much of her work about. Neverthless I had to show you an example of her illustration work for children, partly to amuse and partly to underline that she did have a career as a professional artist. (You will find other examples for sale online).