Museum Folkwang
  • HAP Grieshaber. Graphic Series

  • Man – his life, his dignity, his rights: these are the central themes of HAP Grieshaber’s artistic work. The oppression Grieshaber experienced at the hands of the Nazis, the war, and in captivity as a prisoner of war made him develop into a committed artist who, throughout his life, never neglected political and social issues. Although Grieshaber’s output spans an impressive scope of artistic activities – ranging from single prints, portfolio works, and book illustrations to commemorative sheets, pamphlets, and posters – he realized the greater part of these works using the medium of the woodcut.

    Museum Folkwang has an extensive collection of works by HAP Grieshaber. The woodcut series dating from the 1960s and comprising the most important works in Grieshaber’s total œuvre form the focal point in the collection of Grieshaber’s graphic output. The prints were generally acquired by Museum Folkwang shortly after their completion by Grieshaber, and the thematic scope of the series is notable: woodcut series illustrating musical works appear alongside others addressing political and social themes.

    In the series of woodcuts › The Dark World of the Animals ‹, man and animal appear as equals or – as in the case of the »Birdmen« – have grown together to form entirely new beings. In their flowing lines and contours as well as their loose internal structure, the five works of this series (published in 1959) clearly differ from other series by Grieshaber shown in the exhibition dating from the 1960s. (cp. Inv. A 75/60 and A 77/60)

    Igor Stravinsky’s ballet ›The Firebird‹, which premiered in Paris in 1910, forms the basis of this series of the same title. Fifty years after the premiere, Grieshaber explored the Firebird theme and designed the state set and costumes for a performance of the ballet at the Städtische Bühne in Heidelberg. A series of ten woodcuts resulted, in which the artist uses one sole woodblock to print a series of differently colored woodcuts – something which, upon first glance, does not strike the viewer as such. The portrayal of the figures and the three settings or tableaux is based on the sketches for the stage set. (cp. Inv. B 2/62_01 and B 2/62_04)

    This series › The Blossoming of the Trees‹ is thematically devoted to the portrayal of man in complete harmony with nature. In six color woodcuts, Grieshaber explores different representations of individual figures as well as couples amidst a bountiful world of nature at springtime. White blossoms are the unifying element to be found in every woodcut of the series. It is particularly fascinating that the artist created such a delicate motif in a relatively mechanical way: He pressed the shape of the blossoms using a range of tools resembling cogwheels into the ready-cut woodblocks. (cp. Inv. B 5/63_4 and B 5/63_5)

    »Grieshaber once wanted to link his present life near the Achalm with that of his early childhood in Upper Swabia, to rediscover and capture his homeland with his very own eyes. On Easter Sunday in 1963, he finally followed his dream: he went to the stables, saddled his Iceland mare, Sweina, packed a sketch book, shaving things, and toothbrush into his saddlebag, said goodbye to his wife and child, and rode away« (Riccarda Gregor-Grieshaber). The result of this journey are the 39 woodcuts of the series entitled ›Easter Horse Ride‹, which the artist’s wife – Riccarda Gregor-Grieshaber – accompanied with texts based on her husband’s stories and accounts. (cp. Inv. B 4/64_08 and B 4/64_38)

    Grieshaber dedicated the series ›Dedicated to the Lord’s Black Nightingale‹ to the gospel singer, Mahalia Jackson (1911–1972), referred to in the title as the »Lord’s Black Nightingale«. Dating from the time of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, the political focus of the series is more than evident. In subtle tones and colors inspired by nature, the woodcuts depict the life of the African Americans in the United States, beginning with the programmatic representation of a »black family«. (cp. Inv. B 6/64_01 and B 6/64_02)

    In ›Carmina Burana (Songs from Benediktbeuern)‹ – his main work composed in 1937 – Carl Orff turns to the texts of medieval poems passed down in a manuscript of 1230 that was found in the library of the monastery of Benediktbeuern. This manuscript contains several illustrations, which Grieshaber presumably knew and partly responded to with his woodcuts on the ›Carmina Burana‹. A distinctive feature of the series is the artist’s way of combining woodcuts with sheets of musical score, which Carl Orff produced solely for this edition. (cp. Inv. B 5/65_05 and B 5/65_14)

    In his largest woodcut series, Grieshaber looks to the ›Basel Dance of Death‹ that was destroyed in 1805, the visual motifs of which are documented in a nineteenth-century booklet (cf. Cabinet and screen presentation). Death bids his counterpart to dance without looking at him – from the pope to the heathen, from the emperor to the painter (an evident self-portrait on the part of the artist). Grieshaber realized the polychromy of the series by printing every color using a separate woodblock. The first public exhibition of the ›Dance of Death‹ simultaneously took place in Leipzig, where the series was printed, and Essen. (cp. Inv. A 80/66_37 and A 80/66_40)

    The basis for the ›Polish Stations of the Cross‹ was Grieshaber’s commission to design the Stations of the Cross in the court chapel of Bruchsal (Hofkirche Bruchsal), which was rebuilt between 1960 and 1966 after its total destruction during the Second World War. Grieshaber first completed 14 sketches (70 x 80 cm), using these as a model to realize the slightly smaller sheets of the woodcut series. In the publication of the series as a book (see example in the cabinet), Grieshaber combined the woodcuts with meditations by Cardinal Stefan Wysynski, the Primate of Poland at the time. (cp. Inv. B 2/67_03 and B 2/67_11)

    In terms of their style, the two series concerning the Stations of the Cross are very different from one another. The woodcuts of ›The Stations of the Cross of Reconciliation‹ are even more closely related to Grieshaber’s commission to design the Stations of the Cross in the court chapel of Bruchsal than his ›Polish Stations of the Cross‹. Grieshaber decided to depict the stations on woodblock plates. Before using them as a wall relief, Grieshaber printed a small edition from these plates and published it as a series. (cp. Inv.-Nr. A 34/70 and A 48/70)

    These series are completely mapped in the exhibition catalogue ›HAP Grieshaber. Series and Posters‹.
  • Exh_Title_S: HAP Grieshaber. Graphic Series
  • Exh_Id: 655
  • Exh_Comment_S (Verantw): Department of Prints and Drawings
  • Exh_SpareNField01_N (Verantw ID): 186
Die dunkle Welt der Tiere – Der Elefant
Die dunkle Welt der Tiere – Das Boot
Dem Feuervogel – Der Feuervogel
Dem Feuervogel – Köstschei (Zauberer)
Baumblüte – Das blaue Paar
Baumblüte – Die Frau mit dem Pfau
Osterritt - Der Ritt
Osterritt – Die Tochter
The Lord's black nightingale gewidmet – Black Family
The Lord's black nightingale gewidmet – Gospelsänger
Carmina Burana – O Fortuna (O Schicksalsgöttin)
Carmina Burana – Blanziflor et Helena (Blanziflor und Helena)
Totentanz von Basel – Der Bauer
Totentanz von Basel – Der Maler
Polnischer Kreuzweg – Erster Fall (III)
Polnischer Kreuzweg – Nagelung (XI)
Der Kreuzweg der Versöhnung. Erster Fall (III)
Der Kreuzweg der Versöhnung. Die Frauen (VIII)