March 7, 2014

Krenek's Seasons

        Here are three wood block prints from a series of eight by Carl Krenek (Austria, 1880-1948).  The series is called “Four Seasons,” and as it consists of eight, I’m assuming 2 views for each season.  I’ve put number 8 first here, since it looks a lot like I feel now, sitting inside looking out at the cold and snow.
        Krenek was clearly having fun with pattern when he made these prints.  Everything’s patterned: the dress, the chair, the floor, the curtains, and of course the huge carpet border, bigger than the actual picture it frames.  And that brings me to an interesting thing about these prints: the pictures are wood engravings, while the borders are woodcut.  In other words, they’re carved separately.  Moreover, if you 
look at the borders, you’ll notice that there are two different designs, while two of the borders are exactly the same.  In fact, there are only two borders for the set of eight pictures.  I don’t know whether Krenek printed the borders and the pictures separately, or whether he made them the same thickness so he could fit the picture inside the center of the border and print as one large block.
        This second piece is number 2 of the series, and as I’m assuming that they go in order and end with winter, that would make this the second of two views of spring.  I wish I could see these a little bigger and sharper - are the white blobs along the path the remnants of melting snow?  But everything seems to be in full leaf and flower, which would imply that the snow should be long gone.  I’m afraid I just can’t tell, but regardless of seasonal accuracy, I do like the different patterns of the different bushes, and the framing of the big building in the distance with its fancy door.
        And finally, summer.  (Yes, I like the sound of that!)  What a lovely grove of birches, and what a fun stylized pattern for their leaves.  I like the contrast of the plants in the foreground with the more abstract patterns representing things in the distance.  And around all these scenes, the marvelous, swirling, neo-medieval borders.  They make even the winter scenes lush and luxuriant.

[Pictures: Four Seasons: Plate 8;
Four Seasons: Plate 2;
Four Seasons: Plate 3, all wood engravings with woodcut borders by Carl Krenek, 1906 (Images from the Cleveland Museum of Art).]

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