Saturday, 18 June 2016

Art for all, colour woodcut in Vienna 1900: Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, and the Albertina, Vienna

The exhibition (and the book) we have all been waiting for and deserve. It opens at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt on 6th July, 2016, and runs until 3rd October. It then moves to the Albertina, Vienna, where it opens on 19th October and closes on 22nd January, 2017. If you can get to either venue, this is a must for your diary. If not, the book is there to offer consolation. The publication date I have for the book is 15th October but it already available to order on the Schirn website and on Amazon. A review will follow this post.

There are so many fabulous works to be shown, it is almost impossible for me to make a fair selection but rest assured that many images familiar to readers of Modern Printmakers will be on show alongside many that are new to me such as Nora Exner's astonishing Dog (1903), above. The exhibition quite rightly identifies L.H. Jungnickel as the most important colour woodcut artist of the period 1900 to 1910. One of his jokey hybrid images from 1910 can be seen at the top, identified as A smoking cricket by the curator, Tobias Natter. Apparently this had been erroneously given the title Smoking billy-goat. Modern Printmakers begs to differ. As I pointed out in, the artist was a humourist and prone to come up with animals not currently known to zoology and this is one of his droll hybrids.

Unlike Jungnickel, important galleries and curators are in the habit of taking themselves rather seriously and this show is no exception. As always with colour woodcut they claim to have made a re-discovery, largely based on the fact that the subject has been neglected by art history. Even in art historical terms, ten years is a short time, but Natter, whose idea it was, is a specialist. It concerns itself only with artists associated with the early days of the Vienna Secession, some of whom were also teachers at the Kunstgewerbeshcule in Vienna and worked for the Wiener Werkstaette so artists who took part in the wider printmaking movement are not included. All the same, Hugo Henneberg's striking Night scene - blue pond (1904) was also new to me, so there will be a lot that is worth seeing on display.

Not surprisingly, the show is filled out with a good deal of other graphic art, notably from periodicals like Ver Sacrum and the famous square calendars and also examples of Japanese colour woodcut. It also includes examples of linocut and Jungnickel's schablonenspritztechnik but here instead are three of his loony parrots from 1909. All of these would be hard for any curator to resist but here is the additional problem with a show that willingly limits itself to a period of only about ten years: a need to fill the exhibition out with work that was produced at the time but is of more academic interest. The prints of Carl Moll and Jungnickel's stencil spray technique have both been covered on Modern Printmakers but I can't say I get excited about either. Moll is rather dry as Secession artists go and schablonenspritztechnik is quirky rather than original and ran counter to Jungnickel's real talent for design and colour and ends up making him look like some also-ran impressionist. More to the point is an image like Irwin Lang's uncompromising Girl in red dress, below. This is more like it. Be there, or be square.


  1. Hi Charles,

    your post truly makes my mouth water, I will definitely go to Frankfurt! I wasn't aware of this exhibition, so thanks for letting me know.
    I noticed your high esteem for Jungnickel in the past, and I must say that I am not sure if I would see him as the most important colour woodcut artist of that period. Having said that, the smoking cricket is a triumph of wit and design, indeed! Very modern, I wasn't really aware of this side of him, I must admit.


  2. I'm glad to see you picked this up straightaway, Klaus. The official resurgence of interest in colour woodcut in Germany and Austria is overdue, as the Schirn admits, and lags well behind the long-time interest of collectors such as yourself. But it will be fascinating to see the whole thing placed in context.

    Also pleased to notice your gradual conversion to little Ludwig. I envy you the opportunity of going to see him for yourself. I thought about it myself but I could probably buy myself a Jungnickel for what a trip to Frankfurt might cost me!

  3. Yes, Charles, I feel a bit privileged to be able to see Thiemann in Dachau and Jungnickel in Frankfurt. Then again, I would have loved to see Slater in Eastbourne at the time...can't have everything.
    As far as Jungnickel is concerned: I have always liked some of his prints! There is a postcard designed by him that has been hanging in my study just above my desk for the last six or seven years: "Friedensfeier 1911. Kornblumentag". Do you happen to know this design? It is absolutely stunning!



  4. I've just found a small image. It's a wonderful blue.

    We have to content ourselves with the books sometimes. We never see anything Vienna Secession in the UK. I do have a late German Secession style linocut from 1919 that was sent from Berlin. Exactly where Secession morphs into art deco.

  5. What prints of Emil Orlik are in the exhibition/book?

  6. All the usual suspects plus one or two interesting ones I didn't know, including the keyblock for 'Pilgrims on their way to Fujiyama'. A quick count just now came up with eleven, mainly the Japanese period, including 'Rickshaw drivers' and 'Temple garden in Kyoto'. But the value of the book lies in the prints we don't see and the standard of their reproduction. Rudolf Kalvach, for instance, gets a well-deserved showing. I didn't include any Orlik here because the images are generally disseminated across the internet.