San Francisco

“The Woodcut Since Gauguin”

California Palace of the Legion of Honor

The title of this exhibition refers to the penchant of 20th-century artists for rough cut, grain cut, more broadly done woodcuts. With no slight to Gauguin intended, it is likely that the advent of the photographic reproduction had more to do with the decline of the picayunely detailed engraving than anything the great post-impressionist had to contribute to the trend. The Gauguins were carved in almost grainless wood, and his blacks are as rich and soft as dry point etchings. The grain cut experiments, as this exhibition indicates, were left to Edvard Munch, in particular, though there is another good example by Emile Nolde. The Munch selected from the Achenbach files for this show is a two-color kiss (respectfully tendered and almost refused in this example; Munch’s kiss studies almost exhaust the neurotic possibilities). Kirchner and Heckel are good examples of the bold African influence on German Expressionism. Ernst Barlach’s influences were mainly derived from medieval German carvings. The woodcut has been much used as book illustration, and Aristide Maillol’s simple, pastoral line cuts of goats and shepherds From The Ecologues of Vergi I are some of the best of this genre.

Knute Stiles