August 22, 2017

Hirschfeld Mack's Desolation

        Here is a powerful and moving piece by Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack (Germany/Australia, 1893-1965).  Hirschfeld Mack was one of thousands of Germans and Italians deported from England and interned in camps in Australia during World War II.  (This is a page of history I knew nothing about, but considering that Hirschfeld Mack was a Quaker who had left Germany because of the Nazis and was working at a social program for elderly unemployed in Monmouthshire, it underscores once again the insanity of scapegoating innocent immigrants as “enemy aliens” and treating them as criminals.)  Hirschfeld Mack made this piece in a prison camp in New South Wales, and it’s wonderfully expressive.  The texture of the barbed wire, the height of the black sky, the light-etched silhouette of the prisoner, all combine into an image that is aching with desolation, yet simultaneously conveys dignity and hope.
        Hirschfeld Mack’s art had a practical result for him, as well.  He was released in 1942 to teach art at the request of the headmaster of Geelong Grammar School, who was recruiting teachers who were masters in their field.  Again, I don’t know how common it was for internees to be released before the end of the war, or whether the headmaster had difficulty or had to provide any guarantees to secure Hirschfeld Mack’s release, but Hirschfeld Mack was a successful and beloved teacher at the school until his retirement.
        You wouldn’t guess it from this piece, obviously, but Hirschfeld Mack was particularly interested in color.  Color's wonderful, but I think black and white is perfect for this image, which is an eloquent demonstration of the power of the medium of relief block prints.

[Picture: Desolation, Internment Camp, Orange, NSW, wood block print by Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack, 1941 (Image from Art Gallery NSW).]

1 comment:

Pax said...

Thanks so much for this post. I hadn't known of Hirschfeld Mack before, nor of the treatment he received from the British government. This print is gripping. Will you be showing us more of his work?