German Expressionism


Die vier Madonnen. Mit vier Holzschnitten von Heinrich Stegemann.

Hamburg, Die Drucke der Schönen Rarität, herausgegeben von Niels Hoyer, Adolf Harms Verlag, (1922).

Small folio, quarter ivory vellum over red and black decorated paper boards, spine with gilt title, (Johannes Larink, Hamburg). 1 blank, (26) pp., 2 blanks, title engraved on double-page, one capital letter, and 4 original woodcut plates signed in pencil by Heinrich Stegemann. Complete.

First and only edition, very rare.

The sixth book of the “Schönen Rarität” collection printed for the publisher Adolf Harms on the hand press of A. Pockwitz, the successor of Karl Krause; printed in Plantin-Antiqua typeface from the Genzsch & Heyse foundry; binding from the workshop of Johannes Gerbers [master bookbinder Johannes Larink bound our copy].

The artist and poet Karl Lorenz (1888-1961) was an important figure of the expressionist movement which developed in Hamburg; he was part of the “Hamburger Sezession” and edited “Die Rote Erde” and “Das Neue Hamburg”. He was also a pioneer in the field of artists’ books in Germany; between 1925 and 1933, he illustrated and hand-printed himself at his Turmpresse, a series of wood-engraved books published in small numbers.

The painter and engraver Heinrich Stegemann (1888-1945) studied at the Weimar Academy from 1909 to 1913 in the Max Thedy and Albin Egger-Lienz class. After serving in the First World War, Stegemann worked from 1918 onwards as a freelance artist in Hamburg. He often went to Berlin, where he joined the November Group in 1920; he also joined the Hamburg Artists’ Association (the Hamburgische Künstlerschaft) and, in 1927, the Association of German Artists [Deutscher Künstlerbund (DKB)], of which he curated the last exhibition. The November Group was a German progressive artistic and political association founded in Berlin on 3 December, 1918 by Max Pechstein and César Klein. Linked to the revolutionary left, the group took its name from the month that saw the events at the origin of the advent of the Weimar Republic. It aimed to create a new unity in art, architecture, crafts, and urban planning and bring the artist closer to the workers. Walter Gropius, Erich Mendelsohn, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Hans Poelzig, Bruno Taut, El Lissitzky, Lyonel Feininger, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Conrad Felixmüller, Raoul Hausmann, John Heartfield, Hannah Höch, Otto Müller, Heinrich Campendonck, Gerhard Marcks, Rudolf Belling, László Moholy-Nagy, Hans Richter, Viking Eggeling, Alban Berg, Paul Hindemith, Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht were associated with the group. Between 1919 and 1932, the movement organised nearly forty exhibitions, avant-garde concerts, conferences, and film presentations. The Nazi regime put an end to this libertarian experiment. In 1922, Stegemann visited Lyonel Feininger in Weimar. He undertook several study tours (Sweden, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark). After the National Socialists assumed power in 1933, he was denounced as a “degenerate” artist. In 1934, his murals in the Hamburg City Theatre were destroyed, and in 1935, his fresco in the Bogenstrasse School was removed. On 21 July 1936, the exhibition “Painting and Sculpture in Germany” was opened in the Kunstverein in Hamburg with Stegemann as curator, but it was closed just a few days later by Adolf Ziegler, the Deputy President of the Imperial Chamber of Fine Arts. Stegemann remained overnight in the exhibition rooms to protect the paintings. As the head of the exhibition, he was then summoned before the “Court of Honour” of the Imperial Chamber of Fine Arts. In 1937, 43 of his paintings were removed from German museums, with several burnt in the main fire station in Berlin. Three of his works were exhibited in the Munich exhibition of “degenerate art” [Entartete Kunst]. A bombing raid on Hamburg in 1943 destroyed almost all of Stegemann’s oeuvre (Ref. Prof. Dr. Heinz R. Böhme Foundation).

Small edition limited to 250 numbered copies, one of 200 copies on handmade Alt-Hamburg paper, with all the engravings signed by the artist and the author’s signature in the justification.   

Beautiful copy.