Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Oscar Droege's Color Woodblock Prints

Oscar Droege was a German artist who worked in the medium of the color woodblock print or Farbholzschnitt. 

The color woodblock print (sometimes called a "color woodcut") is a printing process where multiple wooden plates are relief-printed.

Each plate is inked with a different color, including opaque light colors. Note how one of the plates is lighter and cooler than the paper. Smooth gradations can be achieved while inking the plate. Note how the far mountains are lost in mysterious atmospherics.

Sometimes many plates are needed. The detailed dark lines are printed last. The effect can be lyrical and poetic, while at the same time it carries strong poster-like impact.

The reflections of those two pilings are inked in the plate. The white foam on the water has a second plate for the slightly darker value.

Droege was born in 1898, serving in both World Wars. He was kept prisoner by the Soviets. During peacetime he traveled with a friend through Germany, France and Scandinavia on bicycles and paddle boats in search of subjects for his art. He died in 1983.

Learn more
Brief online biography of Oscar Droege
Examples of Farbholzschnitt (color woodblock prints)
Other practitioners of the color woodblock print include:
Carl Thiemann (1881-1966)
Martha Cunz (1876 -1961)
Josef Stoitzner (1884-1951)
Engelbert Lap (1886-1970)
Heine Rath (1873-1920)
Sherrie York is a young artist working today who carries on the tradition in color lino cut
YouTube: Hubert Pische demonstrates how to create a color woodcut (in German)


Glenn Tait said...

Amazing work, especially as they are wood cuts! Thank you, once again, for introducing an artist I wasn't aware of.

Curious about his pre-studio process, if he worked from sketches, plein air paintings or photographs.

rock995 said...

Wow, the difficulty involved to do such stunning work!

Robert Michael Walsh said...

Compare to the contemporaneous German born American color woodcut artist Gustave Baumann. Baumann came to the US as a child but was trained in Germany. He is best known for his Southwestern prints from his years in Santa Fe. Some examples:

Sheridan said...

This post takes me back to your Jan. 10 post on limited values. I've never heard of this person either, but the work is stunning. Getting the most out of a limited group of colors (as done here) is always interesting, and for me, hard to achieve. I love the drama
that was achieved in these.

Great post! Thanks!

Charley Parker said...

Beautiful. Thanks!

Those who like color woodcuts might also want to check out the work of the early 20th century "Shin Hanga" Japanese woodblock printmakers who were particularly influenced by European art — notably Hiroshi Yoshida and Kawase Hasui.

Lester Yocum said...

These are breathtaking. Wood block? _Wow_

scottT said...

The best atmospheric perspective I've ever seen in that medium. Stunning work.

Brad Teare said...

Truly beautiful work. Thanks for expanding awareness of this amazing artist. I'd like to know how he did the blurry images in the reflection of the posts in the water. That's a technically difficult effect.

Steve said...

Remarkable work! Thanks for bringing Droege to our attention. In addition to Sherrie York (who will be pleased to be called "young" in the link), two other fine contemporary woodblock artist are Rick Allen and Nick Wroblewski -- both from Duluth. Something about long winters seems to nurture this medium...

James Gurney said...

Steve and Brad, I want to make sure I got the terminology correct. Does the term "woodcut" apply both to relief and intaglio printing, or should I refer to his work as a "woodblock print"?

Thanks for those links, Charley. Those are amazing examples.

Sheridan, I marvel at the same thing. Being able to isolate the most important values, carve them, and print them in sequence is a kind of strategic mastery that goes way beyond what painters do.

Brad Teare said...

I think "woodblock print" would be the better term as intaglio printing uses a different type of printing technology and usually a different press (one that exerts much more pressure). Intalio uses a metal plate, whereas relief, woodcut, or block printing (including linocut) uses blocks that don't require nearly as much pressure to print. The art of woodcut and wood engraving is a negative act, that is, you remove the parts you want to print as white and leave the parts you want to print as black. The act of creating an intaglio is more akin to drawing, that is, you add the black by scratching into the metal plate and force black ink into the inscribed grooves to print as black.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful work, maybe you could add Gustave Baumann to your list.

We discovered his woodcuts of the south-west in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

David Webb said...


On the subject of relief prints, Ernest Watson, who was mentioned in your Jan 15th post 'Sketching with Patches of Tone', was a master of the linocut.

Nicholas Burns said...

Might want to add Walter J. Phillips to your list of exceptional woodblock print practitioners. :-)

James Gurney said...

Nicholas, thanks. I'm adding Walter Phillips to my list of artists to learn more about. His work is wonderful.

David, thanks. Glad you mentioned Watson, as I also discovered some incredible woodblock prints by him. I found a good print of Watson that will be a future post.

Thanks, Godo. I'm new to Gustave Baumann, but on a quick search, I'm enchanted.

Brad, thanks for the clarification. I changed it from "color woodcut" to "color woodblock print"

Unknown said...

David Bull has a great channel featuring his traditional japanese style woodcuts. He even did a big series where he recreated the great wave off kanagawa.

great wave off kanagawa

Unknown said...

James Gurney said...

Thanks, Alex!

E Snook said...

I have been wanting to try my hands at woodblock printing, so I've been looking up artists whose work in this media who I admire. Sherrie York does beautiful reduction block prints. Another outstanding contemporary block print artist is Leon Loughridge. If you are enjoying Gustave Bauman, you will also like William Seltzer Rice.

Your post, and the comments by others have added to my resources. I am especially pleased to discover a new word, "farbholzschnitt", which is proving to be a good key word to do searches on.

Brad Teare said...

Formschneider is another arcane technique you might enjoy. It was used by early woodcut artists. They used metal engraving tools to engrave with the grain. This technique evolved into wood engraving on the end grain. Harder woods like cherry, walnut, or pear are best for the formschneider technique.

Peter Drubetskoy said...

Also, Arthur Wesley Dow

Bright White Paper Co said...

Truly beautiful work. Thanks for expanding awareness of this amazing artist. I'd like to know how he did the blurry images in the reflection of the posts in the water. That's a technically difficult effect.
color poster maker