Wednesday 28 October 2015

Classic colour woodcuts on ebay from Austria and Germany

Christmas has come to ebay in Austria and Germany with an astonishing review of early C20th of colour woodcut, and with nothing more striking than Hans Frank's exquisite tour-de-force Schwartzlilien from 1940. But I warn you, before you go rushing to put in a bid for some of these celebrated prints, the most collectable ones start out at a breath-taking 1200 euros. Included amongst these is a desirable In Ertwartung  by the Austrian artist and designer Carl Moser from 1914 (below).

There are two things that strike me here. What always impresses me about the market in Austria and Germany is how much is still available after 100 years and how much you need to pay for them despite there being so many of them (relative to the British market, at least). If nothing else, it says a good deal about the good sense of collectors in both countries. So far as I can see neither Germany nor Austria have John Hall Thorpes and Eric Slaters where people are prepared to pay £1200 (in the case of Slater) for work that cannot begin to compare to the prints you see here. Of course there are Anglophiles in Germany who like to buy English prints, Slater included, but not at that price.

But not everything is expensive and Walter Helfenbein's Zwei Prachtfinken (above) should fit under the Christmas tree without making too large a hole in your bank account and is also well worth having. But then much the same could be said for Carl Thiemann's Birken im Herbst. Made in 1907, it comes from the period when Thiemann was using brighter colours and a more decorative approach to printmaking in general. It also has the great advantage of being from the signed edition. (Others were printed on a mechanical press).

Also in the mix is Thiemann's Late autumn. Utterly classic early Thiemann when he was still in the vanguard of colour woodcut, it isn't illustrated here because the image was so badly skewed. It will still set you back at least 1200 euros but console yourself with the fact that prints of lesser quality by German-born artists in the United States will cost you even more.

Also from the signed edition is Walther Klemm's well known print Junge Hunde. More out of the way is something very nice by Christian Ludwig Martin. Beautifully made and very pleasing, Boehmerwald dates from 1917 and looks back both to the days of the Vienna Secession and forwards to more popular work of the post-war years. It may not make the pulse race but it will leave you enough to spend on Christmas dinner.
Never really an artist to have much appeal for me and certainly not in the top rank, Leo Frank's Adler im Hochgebirge has all the emptiness of his twin brother at his weakest but with none of the decorative thrill when he is at his best. It's quite acceptable nevertheless as part of the general festive generosity.

I could go on. There is also a Helene Mass, Englebert Lap's Abend, Hans Frank's Tulpen, a simple but very pleasing Fritz Lang and Thiemann's potent Late autumn from the classic early period. But that comes in at a discouraging 1200 euros, too. We have to finish with an unnamed Oscar Droege. Frankly, not an artist that excites me. I would only buy one if it came up cheaply. So, which one would I buy if I had the euros to spare? I think it would be the Hans Frank for me. But at the end of the day, my own modest collection has work by German and Austrian artists I have picked up along the way while a subtle Arthur Rigden Read or heroic Ian Cheyne or virtuoso William Giles is what I really hanker after. It's finding them is the problem.


  1. Hello Charles,

    wonderful post for your German followers. I can't find the expensive Thiemann, though. I have got Birken (birches) already, it is one of my favourite Thiemann images, but mine isn't handsigned. Actually, you hardly ever find this one signed, and it is not too expensive. And yes, there are Anglophiles that collect Slater even in Germany, so you should not underestimate his work...

    In any case, I am delighted to follow your inspiring blog again!!


  2. Well. nice to hear from you again, Klaus. I always know how to winkle you out of that Bavarian corner of yours. There is a Slater I have never seen before on British ebay so you must have a look. Not one of his best, rather untypical of him, though. The Thiemann print of Amsterdam was printed by Ottolie Thiemann.

    Did you do a name search for the Thiemann? But there are quite a few up. I have a large book published in English by Berghaus Verlag in 1989 but the images are too large to scan. A shame because a lot of the images, including the Thiemanns, have still failed to appear online.

  3. I don't pretend to know much about Carl Moser and I don't collect him, but he is one of my favorite Austrian printmakers. The example being sold on eBay strikes me as being very atypical, far more awkward and crude than most of his Breton prints that I have seen. I wonder if it might have been created for and removed from some art magazine, rather than being issued commercially as a stand-alone art print.

    In any event, the price doesn't strike me as being too far from the mark given the market for Moser prints these days. Galerie Gloeckner issued a Moser catalog devoted to his Breton prints last year, and the prints in that catalog ranged from 4.200,00 Euros to 14.500,00 Euros, with the average price being 8.300,00 Euros.

  4. Moser was too well-trained and sophisticated ever to be crude. There is just less picture-making and more emphasis on design in this particular print and the handling of the medium is more frank and more entertaining than all the more delicate images he produced. But then Orlik did much the same. Compare the refinement of his etchings and the directness and intimacy of the portrait woodcuts of his friends.

    As for prices, hey, it's not a science, it's a lottery.

  5. To me, Moser's In Ertwartung comes across as a cartoon, with the woman's shoes and buttocks exaggerated for comic effect. I much prefer Moser operating as a cultural documentarian in prints like Bretonisches Maedchen or Badende Bretonin. But a little Internet searching turned up a full color version of In Ertwartung that I find somewhat more effective: It's amazing what a little water and colored stone can do to change the mood.

  6. Thanks for the time and energy that you spend on your blog. Is there any way that you could identify individual pieces of art by printing the name of the artist underneath each piece? It's frequently difficult to tell because you mention several artists within each post and it's hard sometimes to know who does what.

  7. Tricky. Yes, it is possible and I have done so in the past but if I stop to identify individual images, as I would have to do because of the way e-blogger works, I lose the flow of the writing. So,I decided it was better to just keep going!

    But, really, thanks for the feedback. I do wonder about this sometimes, especially on mixed posts like this one. One issue is that readers are not always familiar with the artists and I forget that it must be a struggle for some new readers. It must be even worse for readers from Germany, France or Russia. To make matters even worse it is now policy to keep original titles in German! Is there no end?

  8. Tricky. I used to do this for a time but because of the way e-blogger works, it is difficult. I add images between two paragraphs once they are written otherwise things get messed up. Possibly I'm being a bit dim about the mechanics but adding the names of artists and titles as well just interferes with the flow of the writing.

    But I appreciate the feedback even though there's not a lot I can do. It's especially difficult with a mixed post like this and also the artists, names will be new to some readers. It must be ever worse for readers from Russia, France and Germany. But I am going to try and bear in mind what you said. But unless people come back to me I never know what the effect is!

  9. Thanks for your quick response to my comment. Would it be difficult to mention the artists' name either above or below the image while you're in the process of writing your paragraphs? Like "Below left Hans Frank", etc. The reason that I'm asking is because I pin alot of your images onto my art boards on Pinterest but I've had to pass on some great images because I couldn't figure out who the artists were. You're always very clear if you don't know who the artist is, at which point I say that the artist is unknown but sometimes I'm not sure as to which artist I should acknowledge.

  10. I've just read through this post again and really I do think readers can work out which print I am talking about. Admittedly it's not so easy if you don't have any German but I move directly from one image to another. Modern Printmakers is repeats itself and refers back to itself and many readers will be familiar with the artists. I'm afraid that's how it works. It's not like Pinterest. It's about both text and image.

    I tend to go with the flow sometimes when I write these posts and I admit it doesn't always help to make things clear but for me it has obvious advantages. Blogs are personal and quirky and all the rest of it. What you might gain in clarity you will certainly lose in character!

    But really, I'm glad someone from Pinterest has come back to me on this because I now see a lot of my stuff on Pinterest boards, so much so the Pinterest images are picked up by Google rather than mine and that can be frustrating.