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"Visions from the Soul: Woodcuts by Hans Friedrich Grohs"
2004-08-18 until 2004-10-08
University of Richmond Museums, Marsh Gallery
Richmond, VA, USA United States of America

The exhibition Visions from the Soul: Woodcuts by Hans Friedrich Grohs presents more than 100 powerful woodcuts by Hans Friedrich Grohs (German, 1892-1981). Grohs produced art between 1913 and 1964, and his work reflects his experiences serving in the military in both world wars as well as the sufferings of humankind during this turbulent era. Linked with the Bauhaus as well as German Expressionism, Grohs’ striking imagery explores themes of death, war, religion, and landscape.  

As a young master student at the Bauhaus in Weimar, Grohs studied under Lyonel Feininger but he left the academy in 1919 following a controversial dispute with founder Walter Gropius regarding the sacrifice of German “identity” for the increasing internationalism of the institution’s mission. The Northern Gothic arts as well German literature, history, and religion (Grohs was a devout Lutheran) clearly informed his work, as exemplified by his religious prints depicting the life of Christ and images of the rugged beauty of his native Dithmarschen region in northern Germany.

Despite his allegiance to Germanic themes, in 1937 Grohs’ expressionist style was targeted by the Nazi party and labeled “degenerate art.” With his creations banned from public exhibition, confiscated, and then burned, Grohs was forbidden to create art and was drafted into the army at the age of 50 and in poor health. Following the war, the instability and repression in Germany brought hardship for the artist, and consequently his art took on a tragic and escapist tone for the remainder of his life.  

In his woodcuts such as “Death Over the Trenches” (1918) and “I Bear My Cross and Find My Peace” (1964), Grohs utilized the stark contrast of the black ink on paper to enhance dramatic and sometimes claustrophobic compositions. In doing so, his work balances between the nihilism spawned by the social and political conditions of his environment and his deep respect for German history as well as his religious faith.

The exhibition was organized by the New Orleans Museum of Art and curated by Daniel Piersol, The Doris Zemurrary Stone Curator of Prints and Drawings. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue published by the New Orleans Museum of Art and available at the University Museums. At the Marsh Art Gallery, University Museums, the exhibition is made possible in part with the generous support of the University’s Cultural Affairs Committee and the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and with funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund.


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