These eleven woodcuts, made after the dissolution of the Brücke group in 1913, cover a range of themes: nature, nudes, portraits, and war. Despite the various subjects, the prints all share a somber mood that reflects the economic and political uncertainty of the times. Heckel puts this sense of foreboding in visual terms through Expressionist manipulations of space and stark contrasts of black and white. Abrupt cropping and the narrow, vertical format heighten the feelings of oppression and tension. Even when placed in a sweeping landscape, figures are compressed into a tight space.
The dark background seems to collapse around the figure in Man in der Ebene (Man on a plain); bound in on all sides, he has no place else to go. Zwei Verwundete (Two wounded soldiers) shows two men waiting in a cramped room, unable to escape the misery of war. Their downcast eyes, like those of Heckel’s wife in Hockende (Crouching woman), convey a powerful sense of hushed, brooding emotion. In Schneetreiben (Driving snow), the blinding brightness is deceptive; Heckel depicts a cold and desolate world.
J. B. Neumann, who had worked with the artist before World War I, published this portfolio in 1921, taking advantage of the booming print market of the early 1920s, when, as the German currency lost value, graphic works promised a secure investment.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.