The selection of works includes sheets from the four famous "Bauhaus-Drucke. Neue Europäische Graphik" portfolios in which the entire international avant-garde movement of the twenties is united – from Boccioni and Feininger to Jawlensky. Yet the Sema portfolio of 1912 also awaits rediscovery; as a prototype of a portfolio it is on view here in its entirety. Apart from the means of expression specific to the respective material, the artists’ interest is sparked particularly by the variable techniques of the printmaking medium. Since printmaking offers scope for experimentation, it often comes to serve as a catalyst for innovation and the further development of formal possibilities. The increasing demand for prints on the art market also substantially enhances its status in the contemporary public perception.
Today the artists’ association Sema is virtually unknown, despite the fact that important pioneers of modernism such as Paul Klee and Egon Schiele were among its members. Considered in a new context, above all the Sema portfolio published by the group in 1912 proves to bear a significance hitherto underestimated. As one of the first printmaking projects dedicated to a modern conception of art, it holds pride of place in a long series of portfolios of the twentieth century.
In the exhibition, the Sema portfolio is on view in its entirety – from its cover and introductory manifesto to its fifteen lithographic contributions. Its elaborate design with a signet developed by the artists’ association is striking. The symbol decorates the cover as well as the individual pages displaying the lithographs, and serves to this day to identify those pages, which have often been torn out of the publication at some point in time.
Founded as an art school by Walter Gropius in Weimar in 1919, the »State Bauhaus« pursues the principle of uniting the applied and free arts, thus mirroring the mood of an entire generation of artists.
Printmaking also ranks high in importance at the Bauhaus, and teachers and students alike take advantage of the wide range of technical possibilities offered by the school’s printing shop. In the early 1920s, the »Bauhäusler« hatch the idea of publishing a series of portfolios featuring the entire »new European movement« in the area of printmaking. The ambitious plans provide for five portfolios arranged by order of the artists’ nationalities. In addition to the Bauhaus masters Lyonel Feininger, Johannes Itten, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Gerhard Marcks, Georg Muche, Oskar Schlemmer and Lothar Schreyer, seventy-five further artists as well as the executors of the estates of deceased artists such as Umberto Boccioni and Franz Marc are invited to contribute.
»The printmaking of our times will bear witness to them in a later future, the most faithful documents of the fevers we shake with.«
The quotation of Hans Tietze from the 1922 survey Deutsche Graphik der Gegenwart (»German printmaking of the present«) unambiguously expresses the conception of printmaking’s role within early modernist art production – a conception that is confirmed by the veritable flood of expressive forms in printmaking in the first half of the twentieth century.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue of all the works on exhibit, published by Hirmer-Verlag, Munich. In addition to introductory essays by Susanne M. I. Kaufmann and Corinna Höper, it includes an index of the portfolios and illustrated journals published in Germany between 1910 and 1945 and now in the collection of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart’s Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs.