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Recent Acquisitions - 5 of 12

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Head of a Man by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
German, 1884–1976
Head of a Man
Woodcut on cream wove paper
Block: 14 3/16 x 11 3/8 in. (36 x 28.9 cm); sheet: 17 3/8 x 14 13/16 in. (44.8 x 37.6 cm);
Acquired by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, 2007

Schmidt-Rottluff was an originating member of Die Brücke (The Bridge), a collective of Dresden-based artists who rallied around the rejection of established artistic traditions and academic training. Founded in 1905, the group—which included Schmidt-Rottluff’s fellow architectural students Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner (1880–1938) and Erich Heckel (1883–1970)—celebrated radical formal innovation, youthful energy, and the conflation of life and art. Schmidt-Rottluff applied these philosophies to his revitalizing approach to the woodcut, a printmaking technique with deep roots in German art. Unlike the intricate works of Albrecht Dürer and his Renaissance contemporaries, or the swirling designs of the late nineteenth-century Jugendstil, Schmidt-Rottluff’s woodcuts are bold and linear, marked by a reduction of his subjects into simple geometric forms. The chiseled, angular facial features of Head of a Man, one of Schmidt-Rottluff’s rarest prints, were doubtlessly inspired by the artist’s interest in the wooden masks and sculpture of Africa, which early twentieth-century European collectors and audiences were only beginning to appreciate aesthetically. Schmidt-Rottluff often incorporated the grain of the wood matrix into his designs, creating rough, raw compositions that fulfilled his professed desire “to find the purest means of expression” possible.