Thursday, 27 February 2014

Célestin Freinet


schoolmaster and children's education visionary.

Stumbling over a linocut print roaming the Internet lead to the discovery of an old French school journal in a local website and I learned some things very much worth sharing. I sincerely hope.
In the mountains 

In Passy, in the French province of  Haute-Savoie, Fernand Durand was a schoolmaster from the 1920’s until around 1950. In the local school he worked with the village children according to a method and theory developed by Celestin Freinet (1896-1966). Freinet a schoolmaster himself had noticed children weren’t very much interested in abstract learning but were all the more concentrated and motivated about local events, their farms and animals, families, village and surroundings.

A local skying event in Passy. 

Freinet was badly injured in WWI and during his slow recovery read the works of Montaigne (1533-1592) and Lenin (1870-1924) and in 1920 he started teaching in le Bar sûr Loup in the South of France. 

 Farm animals 

Having access to a small wooden printing press he integrated it in his philosophy that much precious time is lost in school benches (!) He took his children outdoors motivating them to choose an event, think about it and write an account, print it with the press and illustrate it with linocut pictures and also organising the distribution.

 Wild and Zoo animals 

After marriage Freinet settled in St. Paul. His ideas were regarded "suspicious and communist" by the government and the better situated part of the public and community. But his ideas were supported by French philosopher Simone Weil (1909-1943) who died very young in a British sanatorium from tuberculosis. She'd come to the conclusion that: "after God created the world he'd left. And trusted it to the inhabitants, and the simplistic and natural forces to take it’s course". 

Fathers at work 

Freinet left the French public school system disillusioned in 1935 to start his own school in Vence where he worked with children until his death in 1966. Later it was accepted that his way of teaching created much better results then the traditional (public) way of teaching. His ideas are now embraced all over the world. 
   And some more wintersports. 

So here are some of the illustrations from the school booklets of Passy that I’ve found in the website. Besides the many “masterpieces” by achieved artists that have featured in my Blog these wonderful prints make us remind that education and motivation is not transmitted by learning how to read and write alone. 

Local plants and trees 

It is also a hommage to Celestin Freinet, Fernand Durand and the many other dedicated schoolmasters of the world who with great ideas and motivation taught our parents and grandparents. And to my late father-in-law, a "classic" school teacher and passionate Freinet believer.
PS: These examples, I could have fooled you with by telling they were created by German Expressionist printmakers, proof that only an exceptional great, but adult, artist is capable of creating works of art the way an unspoiled child does (after Karel Appel). 

All pictures borrowed freely from the internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Night Sky & Milky Way (part I)

Night Sky & Milky Way

After a successful swap of prints I promised fellow print collector and reader Kevin in Wisconsin (USA) to ask the help of readers of this Blog to identify his 1922 woodblock print of a night sky. If you have any idea: please send a message.  

There is a possible symbolic message (Christmas) because of the visible comet over the horizon. There's a small "G" monogrammed lower left. 


This is also a fine opportunity sharing some more pictures of Night Sky and Milky Way prints. Here a random selection of my most favorite. 

Baikaleisnacht (Baikal Icy Night) 1923
Siberiën 1914-1919
"in Dankbare Deutscher Treue" 

Lily (from the great Japonisme Blog) send me this fine example, above, just a few days ago. It's by Viktor Böhm (1880-1954), a hardly known printmaker I've already shared with you in the Blog (here*). It was found in a recent auction catalogue. 


Two classic examples by American printmakers Gustave Baumann (1881-1971) and William Selzer Rice (1873-1963) above.

Next: Lituanian/American artist Vija Celmins (b.1938-) who created several prints showing the heavens and Mila (Ludmilla) von Luttich (1872-1929) from Austria a decorative and Art Deco artist from Vienna.

Neil Welliver (1929-2005) and Robert Ayton (1915-1985). Ayton illustrated the 1961 Ladybird book "Night Sky". 

This haunting and desolate 1941 night sky print by Australian-German Ludwig Hirschfield Mack (1893-1965) from inside a prisoner of war camp, neatly closing the circle of this posting with Viktor Böhm's print from Siberia.

A great but outside Russia hardly known printmaker Anna Ostroumova-Lebedava (1871-1955) showing St. Petersburg and Orion obviously inspired by the many Japanese examples for instance by Kobayashi Kiyoshika (1847-1915) who created several star filled prints and will be awarded his own posting soon.

Anatoliy Markusha a contemporary Russian illustrator and Emil Schuller (?) who worked for the "Jugend" Magazine around 1915. There are so many more fine examples there will be definitely be a Part II soon.

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only. 

Visit my new project:
for vintage and rare prints from my collection 

Friday, 21 February 2014

Hildegard Michaelis: Ora et Labora

Hildegard Michaelis
= Lioba Michel (?)
(Erfurt 1900 –  1982 Egmond aan zee)
German/Dutch, abbess, mother superior.
Arts and crafs artist
painter, weaver, potter and printmaker.

Today the account of an extraordinary encounter with an extraordinary woman  leading me from Erfurt in Germany to Wessex in Britain, Simiane in the Provence and Orsalina near Locarno in Switzerland .
Simiane, Provence, Lioba Michel 

A couple of years ago, swapping prints with a friend, I came to own this "view on Simiane" a village in the French Provence. Lovely print, but no idea who made it and until today I always imagined it “could have been made” by German expressionist Richard Seewald (1889 - 1976) who loved the Provence. 
by Richard Seewald
But recently I acquired two prints in a local sale and one of them was printed on the same heavy organic Japan paper. In the block it is signed: Lioba Michel. The other one, a "white-line" composition in pastel colors, probably Jesus as a fisherman, wasn’t signed in any way. 

And then, within the same week I found another one, signed in the block, Lioba Michel showing the harbour of Marseille. 
C.700 in the kingdom of Wessex, Lioba (or Leoba) was born, possibly a distant cousin of Bonifatius (or Winfred) the Anglo-Saxon missionary apostle and later first archbishop of Mainz. Bonifatius was born c.672 and died a martyr murdered by my ancestors, nearby, in the Frisian town of Dokkum. On june 5th in the year 754. The Frisians to this day a proud and never conquered or converted people.   
Lioba and Bonifatius 
Condensing their story in a nutshell: Lioba, with also Brittish (and later also Saint) Walburga joined and travelled in the company of Bonifatius preaching simple and religious life for women: praying, studying and working. Lioba became abbess of Bischofsheim and was later buried in or near the grave with Bonifatius in a monastery in Fuldau Germany. She died September 28th in the year 782 (about the same age as Hildegard) and was a close friend to royalty and in particular to Hildegard, wife of Charlemagne, the great King of the Franks. 

Hildegard(!) Michaelis was the artistic daughter of  a flower merchant born in  Erfurt (not far from Fulda and also the seat of a monastery founded by Bonifatius).  Her mother died when she was 13 and in 1917 she lost her brother in WWI. Although her father didn't allow her to study art, when she was 24 she started as a student in Hamburg Art Institute and later in the Bauhaus School movement (1919-1932) in Weimar.

Because of her remarkable skills at the loom in the early 1930's she was invited to weave a new robe for Pope Pius XII (1876-1958).

Full of religious motivation and equipped with a thorough education in the Arts and Crafts and probably with an aversion for the Nazis she founded an order and a monastery in Egmond aan Zee (Netherlands) in 1935 changing her nationality to Dutch. Egmond had been the seat of an abbey since Bonifatius days, the center and cradle of medieval Netherlands.  They could have set foot on land there, traveling by sea from the kingdom of Wessex. 

"Quae sursum sunt sapite"
Mind the things that are above
("non quae supra terram"
not the things that are upon the earth)

St. Germain, Provence
Hildegards monastery in Egmond exists to this day although the first and second generation of nuns, and artisan workers has passed away. Besides the base of the Dutch order Hildegard started satellite monasteries in Switzerland (Orsalina, Locarno) and in Simiane (roughly between Marseille and Aix en Provence) also relying on working, the making and selling of Arts and Crafts articles, on faith contemplation and study.

In 1931 converted to Catholicism (in 1929) expressionist painter and printmaker  Richard Seewald (1889-1976) fled Nazi Germany to live in the Swiss village if  Ronco sopra Ascona. About the same time Hildegard planned her leave. 

Before, Seewald lived and taught in painting classes of the “Kölner Werkschulen” in Cologne and commissioned the first “Bauhaus” designed and build villa by archtitect  by Theodor E. Merrill  (1891-1978).

In Italy in the Ascona-Locarno region Seewald, like Hildegard Michaelis, was commissioned to design many church windows, frescoes, murals and other church related art: religiously applied Arts and Crafts. After his death Seewald left in a bequest a large chunk of his art collection to the Swiss state as a "thank you". In 1954 he returned to Germany and was appointed professor in Münich.

Trying to understand how and when (?) these Provence prints were created I think about some possible explanations. I’m convinced both artist have known  each other. Besides their strength in religion and conviction they may have shared the Bauhaus or Hamburg or Cologne school and/or church related assignments in Italy. Besides: Ronco is just two miles from St. Hildegardis monastery in Orsalina and Seewald loved and frequently stayed and travelled in the Provence. 

Because of the similarities (I see) in the prints by Seewald and Lioba Michel maybe Seewald taught Hildegard or Seewald even might have helped creating the prints (the blocks) for commercial reasons: raising funds for Hildegard and her monastic ideals. 

The white line print undoubtedly was created by Hildegard herself comparing it to her paintings. Whiteline printing originated in America in 1915 in the Provincetown artist colony. It enabled the artist to print as many colors using the same block, separating the colors with a space (the white line).    

Any information or comments are very welcome.

All pictures borrowed freely from the internet for friendly, educational and non commecerial use only.