Wandering through a flea market in Berlin, a rather nice set of small prints hanging from a ‘washing line’ caught my eye. They were woodcuts taken from a book, I learned, by a highly regarded woodcut artist, Frans Masereel. So I bought this one for a tenner and the search began to find out more about it (and him).
The print is taken from a wordless book (a very early graphic novel) of 83 woodcuts first published in 1920. The book is called ‘The Idea’. The story is political in tone and it goes something like this (from a recent review): “An Idea springs from the mind of the Thinker and goes out into the world. She is naked, female, radiant, a pocket Venus embodying all ideals, and she finds herself in the mean streets of a twentieth century city — among politicians and fat cats, torturers and striptease audiences, who take the Idea and use it for their own ends, or reject and try to destroy it.”
The woodcuts are impressive – bold and detailed (yet pretty tiny – 6.5x9cm). Mine is more simple than others, featuring just one figure (the Thinker), crying because he is ‘sending’ his idea into the world. While I’m not that comfortable with creativity being gendered (and then abused!), I rather like the concept of an idea being represented by something physical that goes out into the world. Hopefully now in more peaceful times (in the West at least) we could send an idea into the world and it be well watered, grown and listened to carefully, rather than tortured – there’s a lot to be grateful for.
There’s plenty to read about the work and lots of examples of other pages so check it out…