Are woodcuts woodcut-like? Do they really correspond to the cliché ideas that are still associated with the medium today? What possibilities does the technical process offer and how have artists used these possibilities at different times? To accompany the large-scale “woodcut” exhibition in the Kupferstichkabinett, students of the Technische Universität Berlin are tackling the subject in parallel with a condensed cabinet exhibition in the Gemäldegalerie.
Image above: Hans Wechtlin, Skull in a niche, chiaroscuro woodcut from 2 sticks (blue, black), © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Dietmar Katz
According to the Duden dictionary, “woodcut-like” stands for “coarse, without subtlety” and characterises undifferentiated, highly simplified or crude depictions. However, these characteristics only apply to a limited extent to the woodcut, which coined the term. Although the production process involves a division of labour and allows less creative freedom than painting, for example, many works are characterised by nuanced depictions and technical virtuosity. The limitations imposed by the technique were even understood as a special challenge: Sometimes it is only recognisable at second glance that they are woodcuts. It was not until the artists who discovered 15th century woodcuts as supposedly “popular” or “original” art around 1900 that they used simplifications of form and traces of work as a conscious design tool.
The special presentation invites you on a short voyage of discovery into the world of woodblock printing: 23 prints from the 15th to the 20th century tell of the technical skills of the artists involved in the production, the joy of experimentation and the diversity of solutions. Among others, works by Albrecht Altdorfer, Ernst Barlach, Luca Cambiaso, Hendrick Goltzius, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Sabina Grzimek, Giuseppe Scolari, Giuseppe Vicentino and Hans Wechtlin are on display.
The special presentation accompanies the special exhibition “Woodcut. 1400 to today”, which can be seen in the Kupferstichkabinett from June 3rd to September 11th 2022. On the basis of over 100 works of art on paper – including masterpieces by Albrecht Dürer, Edvard Munch or Käthe Kollwitz – the development of the technique is traced from its beginnings to the present day. The exhibition also focuses on materials and special characteristics.
Exhibition dates: Tuesday, 14 June – Sunday, 2 October 2022
Opening hours: Tue – Fri 10 am – 6 pm, Sat + Sun 11 am – 6 pm