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Culture

Woodcuts on the Web

Their distorted figures and exaggerated forms are world famous: the works by art collective the „Brücke“. A current web exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York takes a closer look at the group.

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Woodcut by Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner

Despite a German name and German origin, the art collective "Brücke" searched for the authentic in art in tribal cultures abroad. Africa and the South-Seas both influenced the works of the "Brücke" artists at the beginning of the 20th century. Native art is reflected in their distinguishable styles.

These styles can now be seen in an exhibition by New York's Museum of Modern Art on the web called "Artists of Brücke: Themes in German Expressionist Prints".

Same spirit, same style

The Brücke artists led an isolated life on the outskirts of Dresden. Cut off as they were, their collective spirit led to common styles and themes.

In 1909-10 they became so close that it became increasingly difficult to distinguish between some of the members of the group. However, other artists were still welcomed into the group, including Emil Nolde and Max Pechstein in 1906.

The fame of the "Brücke" artists followed a row of exhibitions in Germany by artists Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gaugin and Edvard Munch.

But the "Brücke" was not influenced in its work by artists as such, but to a large extent by the German philosopher Nietzsche. Nietzsche was a driving force in the artists‘ pursuit of an anti-bourgeois, bohemian lifestyle.

The group rejected coventional gallery arrangements and hoped for closer contact to the public by avoiding the use of a middleman.

They organized various travelling exhibitions themselves and sought for the group’s upkeep with an innovative patron membership programme.

For 12 Marks a year, a patron, or "passive" member, would receive an annual report and collection of prints.

Trademark wood

The woodcut came to be one of the Brücke’s trademarks. The group combined the angular marks with the emotions and colours they sought to express.

With the use of woodcuts, the group linked to Germany’s cultural past. They shared their fascination of the woodcut with other artists, such as Albrecht Dürer.

Brücke artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner once wrote: "There is no greater joy than watching the printer’s roller the first time it moves across the woodblock which you have just finished carving, and observing whether the desired effect has come about....In no way can you get to know an artist better than through his graphics".

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