July 18, 2022

Prints by Schlangenhausen

         Emma Schlangenhausen (Austria, 1882-1947) is another of those artists active during the artistic ferment of the early twentieth century.  Her wood block prints were influenced by expressionism, art deco, and the Vienna Succession, but I think her style shows plenty of unique personality.  
        This first one is deceptively simple.  It may look rough, but it’s really got a lot going on.  There are tons of details, from the train chugging through the mountains, to the reflections of trees in the water.  There are lots of different sorts of marks making a variety of textures.  There’s also the interesting brown shadow outline along all the black ink.  This is not a separate color of ink or a separate block, but is rather a side effect of 
the black ink.  The ink is either so thick that it seeps, or so acidic that it burns the paper.  
What is not clear to me is whether Schlangenhausen cultivated this effect on purpose, or whether it was an accident.  Did her work look like this when she originally exhibited it, or has it darkened over time?  Either way, though, I like the depth it adds.
        Schlangenhausen portrayed a variety of subjects, although today I have for you only landscapes and people.  This little piece is fairly simple, but I really admire the face and hands.  There’s something about the way she’s stylized them that is dramatic, beautiful, and expressive, even while seeming so easy.  Look, for example, at how the white of the fingers has been carved in two delicate lines each, suggesting the joints, even though the joints are not flexed.
        Another landscape, this one with a particularly dramatic sky.  I’m fascinated by her choices of where to carve away and where to leave black.  I also love the tiny village in the valley, with the river meandering down.
        Today’s final piece is different from the others in several regards: it’s printed with two blocks (black and grey), it’s got very controlled lines rather than rough carviness, and it’s quite stark, with solid colors without textures.  It’s the earliest of Schlangenhausen’s pieces that I’m sharing, and was published in the magazine of the Vienna Secession.
        Schlangenhausen is one of those many artists who isn’t particularly famous, but who nevertheless created a body of unique and beautiful work.  She happened to rub shoulders with some of the more famous artists of her time, but maintained her own path and her own vision.  I think she deserves to be better known.

[Pictures: {Can’t make out the title}, wood block print by Emma Schlangenhausen, first half 20th century;

Die Frau, wood block print by Schlangenhausen, c 1920 (Images from Modern Printmakers);

Sud Tirol - Corvara, , wood block print by Schlangenhausen, undated (Image from National Galleries Scotland);

Die Sehnsucht, wood block print by Schlangenhausen, 1903 (Image from Wikimedia Commons).]

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