Twentieth century German woodcuts

Heilige Nacht (15th c.), click on image to enlarge

I recently catalogued a book from 1927, Der Niederrhein im Schrifttum alter und neuer Zeit (S950.b.9.1244), an anthology of writing about the Lower Rhine region of Northern Germany, illustrated with the most striking woodcuts. Some of these date from pre-1500 as the example to the right (or above if viewed on mobile phone) illustrates, but the majority are contemporary Expressionist works created by either Artur Buschmann or Anton Wendling, both artists I had not heard of before.  The woodcut as a medium was particularly used by Expressionist artists in Germany.

Buschmann (1895-1971) was a local artist, best known for his paintings. He also worked as a draughtsman throughout his career. He had served in World War One but spent some time recuperating from a gas attack. By the 1920s he was part of the art scene in Düsseldorf. Here is a small selection of his woodcuts from the book (click on each image to see enlarged version):

One of his most interesting woodcuts is a quite simple image labelled “Veldeke nach der Weingartner Handschrift um 1180.” As we have a facsimile edition of the Weingartner Liederhandschrift (899.d.72) I have been able to compare his version with the original. Here they are side by side:

Anton Wendling (1891-1965) was also local to the Lower Rhine region and is perhaps best known for his work in stained glass (you can click through to see examples of his glass work here). Wendling too was working in Düsseldorf during the 1920s. Here are a few of Wendling’s woodcuts from the book (click on each image to see enlarged version):

More woodcuts by Buschmann and Wendling are featured in the book Holzschnitte des deutschen Expressionismus (S404:23.c.9.71) in the company of better known artists such as Barlach, Kandinsky, Kirchner and Kollwitz. A further exploration of German woodcuts in general can be found in Der deutsche Holzschnitt im 20. Jahrhundert by Gunther Thiem (S404:8.b.9.69) while many fine examples of woodcuts by female artists are included in the exhibition catalogue Wege zu Gabriele Münter und Käthe Kollwitz: Holzschnitte von Künstlerinnen des Jugendstils und des Expressionismus (S950.b.201.1591).

Katharine Dicks

1 thought on “Twentieth century German woodcuts

  1. Fascinating. Reminds me of Frans Masereel’s 1919 work, translated as ‘Passionate journey : a novel told in 165 woodcuts’, but I must say that the woodcuts in your 1927 book are even more striking.

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