The German Woodcut: Renaissance and Expressionist Revival

Ahmanson Building, Level 2
May 5, 2012–September 9, 2012

During the first decade of the twentieth century, Expressionist artists in Germany took up the woodcut medium with renewed energy. A primary impulse for this revival of the woodcut was the desire to recover a German tradition and to register a thread of continuity with their late Gothic and Renaissance artistic heritage.

Like their Renaissance predecessors—artists such as Albrecht Dürer, Hans Baldung and Sebald Beham—Expressionist printmakers exploited the medium’s capacity to convey and disseminate innovative ideas. They depicted wide ranging themes in a diversity of formats, thus catering to different audiences. The flexibility of the medium encouraged individual approaches and novel techniques. From the Brücke’s vigorous cutting to the Blaue Reiter’s abstracted forms, artists once again tested the pictorial possibilities and expressive potential of the woodcut, fostering the diversified language of German Expressionist art.

The German Woodcut: Renaissance and Expressionist Revival explores the development of the woodcut in the Renaissance and the atavistic engagement with the medium in the twentieth century. The installation includes approximately fifty German woodcuts, drawn primarily from the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies and the Prints and Drawings collection.











Image Top: Käthe Kollwitz, Memorial sheet for Karl Libknecht, 1919–1920, Woodcut on wove paper, Sheet: 17 13/16 x 22 5/8 in., The Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies.

Image Bottom: Hans Baldung Grien, The Lamentation, circa 1515–1517, Sheet: 8 7/8 x 6 in., Purchased with funds provided by The Ahmanson Foundation, Garrett Corporation, Graphic Arts Council Curatorial Discretionary Fund, and Graphic Arts Donors: Mr. Werner Boeninger, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Meltzer, Mrs. Mary S. Ruiz, Dr. and Mrs. Richard A. Simms, Dr. and Mrs. Kurt Wagner, Mrs. Estelle Williams, and Mr. and Mrs. Julius L. Zelman.