Tag Archives: Expressionism

Käthe Kollwitz by Rosie Scribblah

25 Nov

Here is my first podcast.  It is about one of my favourite artists Käthe Kollwitz.  Here is a screen print I did of her.  To own one of my series of silkscreen portraits celebrating great but often neglected women artists please click here.

Please see below the transcript of the podcast.

Most of us have a hero and Käthe Kollwitz is mine.

She was a German artist born in the 1860s at a time when women were definitely not supposed to become artists. It was a very blokey thing to do. But she came from a radical and idealistic family and grew up with this very strong sense of social responsibility.

At first, her father was a lawyer but it really messed with his head and he gave up a comfortable middle class lifestyle and retrained as a stone mason.

Kathe’s family recognised her incredible talent when she was a child so they paid for her to have drawing and printmaking lessons from a local engraver, which was very unusual at that time. I mean, she was a girl.

And then, when she was 18, her family sent her to art school in Berlin, which was very radical, a teenage woman on her own away from home, in those days.? And while she was in art school she got involved in socialist and feminist politics.

She finished her course and when she was 24 she married a socialist doctor, Karl Kollwitz, who was very principled and although they could have had a very comfortable lifestyle, instead Karl ran a clinic in a working class area where people paid a little bit every week, a kind of medical insurance. Kathe often helped him in the surgery and saw for herself the terrible effects of poverty.

Queen Victoria

This was at the end of the 19th century – Queen Victoria was on the throne over here and the lives of working class people across Europe were short and hard. Just think of the books written by Charles Dickens – the poorest people had awful lives.

Kathe was so talented – she could have made loads of money painting portraits for rich people but instead, she decided to become a printmaker, mainly doing etchings and lithographs.

That decision was because of her politics. Two reasons, one was because you can make lots of prints from an etching plate, so you can sell them far more cheaply that the cost of one painting, so it meant that people who were not very wealthy could afford to buy her art.

And the second reason is that there’s a long tradition of political printmaking and that suited her – she could bring her radical political beliefs into her work.

And what sort of things did she make art about?

Well, lots of political prints about the struggle of working people but also she did lots of portraits of working men and women. Now bear in mind that at that time, having a portrait done was something that only the wealthiest people could afford, and here was Kathe, drawing and making etchings of the ordinary working people who came to her husband’s surgery. That was radical.

The other subject she did a lot of work about was death. There was no medical insurance, nothing like the NHS. Medical science wasn’t all that advanced. There were no antibiotics and masses of people died from infections that wouldn’t bother us now. And lots of women died giving birth. And huge amounts of children died when they were babies and toddlers. Even in better off homes. As the wife of a doctor she was surrounded by death.

Now because her work was so political, she was very unpopular with the rulers of Germany, the First Reich, Emperor Wilhelm, Kaiser Bill, who started World War 1. He was violently opposed to any political art, he called it gutter art.  But despite that, her art very well thought of at home and abroad.

When World War 1 started, her much loved youngest son, Peter, volunteered to join the army. His father didn’t want him to but he persuaded Kathe to let him go. Unfortunately he was killed in battle just a few months later, when he was 18. Her grief was terrible and she couldn’t do any art for some years. Like so many parents across Europe she struggled with her personal tragedy.

The Great War

The Great War ended in 1918 and Germany was a defeated and broken country, sons and husbands and fathers died in the trenches and left a nation of women and children, which happened in the other the allied countries as well.

At the end of the day, there were no winners, only losers.

By this time the First Reich was gone and the Weimar Republic came into power. They thought a lot of Kathe and she had loads of major exhibitions and awards, she became a Professor and she was the first woman ever to be elected to the Berlin Academy of Art.

Then in the 1920s she made a series of incredible and very upsetting prints, woodcuts. I think during this time she was working through the grief of the war and losing her son.

She did one image called “This is The Sacrifice” and it’s obvious that her anguish comes through the way she has hacked the wood away to reveal the painful image underneath, a primeval image of the tragedy of motherhood, giving birth to beautiful baby boys only for them to be swallowed up as sacrifices in war. It’s so painful and so different to traditional depictions of war which glorify cruelty and heroism.

Her son Peter was butchered along with hundreds of thousands of sons, lovers, husbands, fathers, uncles and nephews by a stupid aristocratic family quarrel. The German royal family lived in comfortable exile after the war, while the working classes, devastated by WW1, struggled to find work, food, warmth. Again she does loads of art about this, usually showing the situation from women’s point of view.

Hitler and the Nazis

But these were desperate times and although there was a huge anti-war feeling after World War 1, as the 1920s went on and people lived in terrible conditions in Germany, that anti-war feeling was starting to change, and Hitler and the Nazis were on the rise.

They came to power in 1933 and established The Third Reich and Kathe’s work becomes even darker, facing the horrors of her country’s descent into fascism with horrific images, very Gothic and disturbing.

Many artists suffered under the Nazis, labelled degenerate, some killed themselves, some disappeared into concentration camps, some went into exile. Nobody was safe but Kathe’s style in the last years of her life became very free, almost abstract, because she couldn’t be political in her work anymore, because she would have been killed.

Self Portraits

So she did a whole load of self-portraits in these last few years. And you can see the sadness in her face. Germany was about to start another World War.  She’d lost her young son Peter in World War 1 and then her young grandson, also Peter in World War 2 and, now in her 70s, she withdrew from public life and into her own inner world.

Kathe died in 1945, shortly before the war ended.

Why isn’t better known? Well she’s a woman! That speaks volumes. And she’s German and Germans were not popular for decades after World War 2. But over the past few years her work has reached beyond Germany and she’s finally getting credit for being one of the great artists of the 20th century.

Finally, Kathe and her wonderful work is being loved again. I hope you look her up online and that you get to love her as much as I do.

Käthe Kollwitz

Well, that’s the story of Kathe Kollwitz. If you want to look her up, her name is spelled K. A. T. H. E.  K. O. L. L. W. I. T. Z.

I hope you enjoyed my first podcast. The next one is going to be about another artist that inspires me …. Frida Kahlo. In the meanwhile, look out for me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I’m Rosie Scribblah. Hwyl Fawr.

Resisting …..

30 Apr

MDF 1

 

 

 

I’ve been carrying on with my attempt to get more randomness in my work, to be more expressionistic and less controlling. I spent a bit of time over the weekend priming (gesso) and undercoating (white acrylic) some pieces of MDF. Today I brushed one of the pieces with a loose mixture of Daler-Rowney Georgian black oil paint and linseed oil.

 

I greatly admire the German Expressionist artists, especially Käthe Kolliwtz and I’m envious of artist friends who seem able to sit and doodle and produce lovely drawings straight from their imaginations. So I tried not to control what I was doing, not to fall into the trap to try and make it realistic.

 

I worked into the black oil paint with rags, cotton buds (Q Tips), bubble wrap and scrunched-up tissue paper, resisting the temptation to do something representational. I rubbed away and removed the black paint, a reductive rather than additive method.

 

 

 

On the left, my work station and on the right, the loose oil paint brushed onto prepared MDF (Medium Density Fibreboard.

 

 

Two close ups showing some of the detail of the reductive paintwork.

 

One From The Archives 23: The Mirror

8 Oct

Reflection, musing on masculinity.  Having a large mirror in the life drawing room can add a lot to any drawings.

Mirror copy for WP

From a purely technical point of view it means you can draw a figure from the front and back at the same time without it looking like two separate drawings.

I also like to experiment with materials when I am drawing and this time the original study was drawn using Renaissance materials, inspired by artwork I did for a television series about da Vinci

Depending on the pose you can use a mirror to illustrate various emotional states. A man leaning against a mirror as if exhausted, naked, too close to see his own reflect with head bowed gives an impression of fatigue and introspection.

This image could be as simple or as complex as the viewer decides. The blacks are dark enough to be sombre whereas the line-work is deft enough to give the figure itself an air of lightness.

It is a photopolymer steel plate etching, etched and hand-printed using oil pigment onto BFK Rives cotton rag paper

If you want to find out more technical details about techniques I use please click here to go through to the technical section.

The monotype “The Gaze” is available for sale on Artfinder and if you’d like to find out more, please click on the link here to go directly to it or click on the top right of this page to see other works for sale.

One From The Archives 22: The Gaze

7 Oct

This model gazes at the viewer, completely at ease and totally confident in her own skin.

the gaze

Most life models are by nature, confident about their bodies and have no problem with being looked at. It is their job after all. Usually though, they tend to look away from the artists. On a purely practical level his is because there will be a number of artists in a life drawing setting and the model cannot look at all of them.

In this work I have chosen to capture the gaze of the model, which gives her more of a relationship with the viewer. She is looking out, as if to engage with anyone who looks back. Although she is naked, it is her eyes and face that draw you in.

I have rendered the rest of the figure in a minimalist fashion to emphasise where the important part of the image is. She is as curious about you as you are about her.

The technique, known as direct line monotype produces a unique artwork in the style of a line drawing. I used archival quality oil-based litho ink onto Zerkall paper.

If you want to find out more technical details about techniques I use please click here to go through to the technical section.

The monotype “The Gaze” is available for sale on Artfinder and if you’d like to find out more, please click on the link here to go directly to it or click on the top right of this page to see other works for sale.

One From The Archives 21: Nude Reflected

6 Oct

I love this printmaking technique. It has all the flexibility of painting with a healthy dose of unpredictability thrown in.

.Nude reflected

A full-colour monotype can be as simple or as complex as you like. This one started out as a very simple life drawing and just developed into something wild and wonderful.  This is a reduction method, which means you are removing ink from a plate before pressing it onto paper.

The beauty is that you can use whatever you like to remove the ink. A simple cotton bud or a piece of tissue are some of the more common implements but you can use your fingers, a toothpick, a toothbrush; anything really. The possibilities and combinations are endless as are the variations in texture.

Here I have used oil-based litho/relief pigment onto BFK Rives cotton-rag paper, as well as many improvised tools. If you want to find out more technical details about techniques I use please click here to go through to the technical section.

The monotype “Nude Reflected” is available for sale on Artfinder and if you’d like to find out more, please click on the link here to go directly to it or click on the top right of this page to see other works for sale.

One From The Archives 20: Spiky Purple Hair

5 Oct

The first time I blogged this image was a turning point for me, as can be seen here. This painting featured in the last ever exhibition I curated at The Brunswick in Swansea. It is based on a drawing of one of our more colour coordinated life models.

Oil on canvas: Purple Hair [detail]

Oil on canvas: Purple Hair [detail]

He had a habit of matching his contact lenses with his hair colour which made for a very striking look. He was also able to get into quite dramatic poses and hold them for as long as necessary.

In this painting I have echoed the brush work on the figure with that in the background. Almost the only thing separating the two is the thick, dark outline of the model and the shock of purple hair flowing behind him.

Sometimes it is good to just play with the surface of a work and push the paint around to create effects. Most of the piece was done using oilbars and rags wrapped round my fingers.  It can be the subtlest of differences in the direction of the paint and colour that lift a subject and make it three dimensional.

The Painting “Spiky Purple Hair” is available for sale on Artfinder and if you’d like to find out more, please click on the link here to go directly to it or click on the top right of this page to see other works for sale.

One From The Archives 19: Eve Sleeps

3 Oct

I love the versatility of this method. It has a fantastic range of darks and lights, as well as a dazzling palette.  A full-colour monotype is also a unique artwork because of the way the ink is applied to the paper.

Eve Sleeps

In this print I have used the warm, vibrant reds and yellows of the background to counter the cooler more sedate greens and blues of the foreground. This gives the feeling of a woman enjoying a deep, peaceful sleep as passion and turmoil stir at a more primal level.

Ordinarily the cooler colours would be used in the background to give a sense of depth or distance, whereas the lively colours like red would be used sparingly because they tend to jump out at the viewer.

By reversing this convention I have emphasised the hidden emotions and, at the same time, almost divided the image into two separate works. One below of a calm, sleeping woman and above, an abstract sensory overload.

The monotype “Eve Sleeps” is available for sale on Artfinder and if you’d like to find out more, please click on the link here to go directly to it or click on the top right of this page to see other works for sale.

 

One From The Archives 18: Rinascere #10

1 Oct

I often use the idea of an individual enveloped by darkness. I find it both isolates the model and allows me to focus on small, significant details or design elements. It concentrates attention on the central figure as well as exposing the nature of the materials used.

Rin 10 WordPress

Here, the dark washes show up the texture of the paper so it becomes a feature of the composition. The highlights, using white conté crayon, do the same at the other end of the spectrum.

This drawing is part of a series I did using the rinascere technique. Rinascere means to be reborn or to revive and is the root of the word ‘renaissance’.

My first blog about this drawing, along with others in the series can be found here. The background washes are my own addition to the technique and further enhance the impression of age and tradition.

I used Indian ink with a traditional dip pen and conté crayon on handmade paper, prepared with black and sepia ink washes.

The drawing “Rinascere #10” is available for sale on Artfinder and if you’d like to find out more, please click on the link here to go directly to them or click on the top right of this page to see other works for sale.

One From The Archives 17: Leg Up

30 Sep

This model is very physically active and as a result, very confident about her body and the poses she strikes. Here she is leaning back with her leg up in a devil-may-care sort of way.

16 tonya

It always surprising just how much the physical presence of a model can reflect their underlying personality. My life drawing is a way of maintaining and expanding my skills as well as exploring ways of expressing this deeper meaning through the depiction of the human body.

You can see from my fist blog about this drawing here, that I was mainly concerned about the technical aspects of the process at the time. With hindsight it is easier to see the expressionistic nature of the drawing and how the choice of materials helps to bring out the drama.

I like to recycle materials, especially papers and mounting boards and I prepared this piece with an ink wash, dribbled randomly across it before I began to draw.

The drawing “Leg Up” is available for sale on Artfinder and if you’d like to find out more, please click on the link here to go directly to them or click on the top right of this page to see other works for sale.

It’s Physical

18 Oct

DSC08051 small

Carrying on with the small full-colour monotypes that I did a few days ago. It was hard work being on my feet for hours on end. The lightbox is too high to sit down to work into the plates and I prefer to stand anyway; it’s a physical thing and I think my mark-making is better when I’m standing. Something to do with posture maybe? I’m working in sweeping gestures with rags and scrim (tarlatan) onto the inked perspex plate. I’m trying to get an expressionistic feel to my landscape studies from Pakistan, quite different to the anatomical details of my nudes.

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The slides show the first pressing from the yellow plate, the second with magenta overlaid and the final full colour print after the cyan plate has been printed, giving a range of colours from very dark blues, purples and greens to pale pinks, yellows and oranges. You have to know your colour theory to work with this medium. There is more detail about the method on my website here.

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