The Fine Arts Department is pleased to present “Faith and Fantasy: the German Expressionist Woodblock Prints of HANS GROHS (1892-1981),” on view in Goodwyn Gallery from Monday, August 21 through Friday, September 29, 2017. The exhibition was curated by Dr. Naomi Slipp and features twenty-six original woodblock prints by artist Hans Grohs, drawn from the Department’s art collection.
Born in Pahlen, Germany, on the North Sea, artist and printmaker Hans Grohs was influenced by his Lutheran faith, Nordic heritage, Germanic traditions, life experiences, including service during WWI and WWII, the coastal landscape of his home, and the modernist aesthetics of the German Expressionist art movement.
The inspiration for the 12 work series “Storm Surge” or Der Sturmflut (1962; restrike by Frauken Grohs Collinson, 2000) was the “North Sea Flood,” a natural disaster that occurred on February 16, 1962 when a massive storm surge (19 feet above sea level) breached coastal and river dikes across Northern Germany. In the city of Hamburg, 315 people died and 60,000 homes were destroyed.
Death makes frequent appearances in the art of Hans Grohs, as in his highly stylized series “The Small Dance of Death” or Kleiner Totentanz (1918; later restrike). These eleven woodblock prints were inspired by the late medieval iconography of the “Dance of Death,” a popular allegorical subject representing the universality of death. Widely depicted in Germanic poetry, music, and art, including in the works of Northern artists Hans Holbein (1497-1543) and Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), the moralizing subject encouraged viewers to spiritually prepare, as death comes for everyone.