February 9, 2016

Moll's Snow

        Carl Moll (Austria, 1861-1945) was for a while a member of the Vienna Secession artists, who objected to the nineteenth century art establishment’s conservatism.  It’s hard to see these pieces as avant garde, but the most admired art at the time was epic historical scenes, so elevating small everyday glimpses into art was radical in its own, quiet way.  At the beginning of the twentieth century Moll made a number of wood block prints of his neighborhood in the Hohe Warte area of Vienna, as well as other areas he visited.  I’ve chosen to share a few today because the scene out my window, too, is snowy.
        All three of these pieces have a similar look, with their three basic tones: black, white, and a greenish-greyish midtone block.  The view of the stream has two midtones, sky and water, but the others only one, as far as I can see.  All three use grey for the sky, leaving

the snowy ground in white and black.  It makes for a particular kind of wintry feel - not the pure white of a storm, or the clear black night sky for contrast, but the dull, quiet grey of ordinary winter days.
        The sad background note is that Moll eventually (some years after these particular pieces) became a Nazi supporter and committed suicide at the end of World War II.  It’s a reminder that all humans have the capacity for art, the capacity to love their homes and appreciate beauty, even those humans who seem to give up so much of their humanity with their terrible choices.
Everyone has the capacity for creativity as well as destruction.  It also brings up that strange conundrum about how much a work of art stands separate from its creator, and how much our enjoyment of art, music, literature, or whatever else, becomes tainted by our knowledge of the artist’s personal flaws.  And how does it change when we're not talking about minor flaws, but major monstrosities?  Can you still appreciate these ordinary winter days?

[Pictures: Stream in Winter II, color wood block print by Carl Moll, 1912 (Image from Etchingfitness);
Hohe Warte, color wood block print by Moll, 1903 (Image from Galerie Hochdruck)
Hohe Warte, color wood block print by Moll, c 1910 (Image from Bilder-Gallery).]

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