Art of woodcut: Exhibition in Berlin touches on pests, heartbreaks


Even though we don’t die due to heartbreak like Shakespeare’s character Enobarbus of “Antony and Cleopatra,” it is a universal feeling that all of us feel at a point in our lives.

Hearts can be broken in 18 ways, according to a woodcut called “Lady Venus and the Lover” by Meister Casper. The artwork is now part of the show “Woodcut: From 1400 to the Present,” at Berlin’s Kupferstichkabinett, the museum of prints and drawings.

More than 100 works by artists such as Albrecht Durer, Kathe Kollwitz, Edvard Munch, Joseph Beuys and Wassily Kandinsky are on display at the exhibition that opens on Friday and runs through Sept. eleven.

A work by Jost Ammann depicts the Procession of the Doge on Ascension Day, from the years 1539-1591, Berlin, Germany, May 31, 2022. (dpa Photo)

It includes materials, printing plates and sheets that trace the development of the technique from its beginnings to the present day, selected by director Dagmar Korbacher and her team.

The exhibition illustrates how the original wooden blocks were infested by pests, evidence of which was transferred to the paper prints. It is also evident how artists coordinated the use of several different printing plates to create pictures in a range of colors.

Woodcuts by artist Karl Schmidt-Rottluff from 1919 on display at the show

Woodcuts by artist Karl Schmidt-Rottluff from 1919 on display at the show “Woodcut: From 1400 to the Present,” at Berlin’s Kupferstichkabinett, the museum of prints and drawings, Berlin, Germany, May 31, 2022. (dpa Photo)

Many of the works on display were intended for day-to-day use, from playing cards to notices. Korbacher says this shows the diversity and sensuality of this printing technique, the oldest known.

However, it is still used by artists today, including Berlin-based artist Nasan Tur. The exhibition opens with his work “Giving is Taking” from 2015, along with Hans Sebald Beham’s “Parable of the Prodigal Son” from around 1535.

Berlin-based artist Nasan Tur's work

Berlin-based artist Nasan Tur’s work “Giving is Taking” opens the woodcut exhibit, along with Hans Sebald Beham’s “Parable of the Prodigal Son” from around 1535, Berlin, Germany, May 31, 2022. (dpa Photo)

The woodcuts are the start of a new series of exhibitions at the Kupferstichkabinett, each presenting a different printing technique.

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