Sunday, December 30, 2018

Show of Hans: The Etchings of Hans Luthmann

Hans Luthmann (1888-1945) was one of a number of early Twentieth Century etchers who sank into obscurity after World War II.  However, unlike the other etchers featured on this blog, he became an artist and an etcher only after spending time in the Far Easts.

Born in Hamburg, Germany in 1888, Luthmann went to Hong Kong and Shanghai in 1910 as a merchant for a German dyestuff factory.  In 1914, however, he was taken a prisoner of war after the siege of Tsingtau and sent to Japan, where he stayed in various prisoner-of-war camps until 1920, including the Matsuyama camp.  It was in one of those camps that Luthmann made his first studies in art.  (It is not known at this time whether he was familiar with any other artists in those camps, such as Fritz Rumpf.)

Entrance of the Dairin-jin in Matsuyama (c. 1916), 
used as a prisoner-of-war camp for Germans captured in Tsingtau

When Luthmann was released in 1920, he invited poor artists released from Siberian prisons who went on to Japan to stay in his house and learned from them.  He sought and found friends among Japanese artists who impressed him, and took in Japanese art exhibitions.  At this time, he sketched with charcoal, pen, and pencil, and painted only occasionally with oil or tempera.  In 1921, however, he found a book called "Modern Graphic Arts" by Prof. H.W. Singer in a Tokyo bookshop, and it and books by Joseph Pennell became his only teachers in etching.  Luthmann would say in 1924 that etching was “absolutely unknown here in Japan,” which is not entirely accurate.  Rather, he was probably unaware of the etched work of Japanese artists such as Ishii Hakutei, Tomimoto Kenkichi, Santomi Ton, and Kishida Ryusei, many of whom had studied with Bernard Leach in the teens.  But he was right that there was “no such thing as a printer of etchings to do the work for you.”

Mountain Temple (Shizuoka - Japan) (pre-August 1931)
aka "Berg Tempel, Shizuoka" or "Mountain Temple, Shizuoka"
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
(etching)

Learning printing took Luthmann more than a year before getting satisfactory results.  He enlisted his wife Jennie to assist him in printing, who in time learned to do it as well as he did.  From his output, it is clear that Luthmann spent time in Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara, Nakamoura, Hakone, Miyajima, Kamakura, and Enoshima, among other places in Japan.

 Pagoda, Shanghai (pre-August 1931)
Personal Collection
(etching)

At some point in the late 1920s, Luthmann and his wife went to live in China for a time.   From his etchings, it would appear that he visited Shanghai, Soochow, Peking, and the Chinese coast.   This was probably around 1929, as his first Chinese etching was exhibited at the Chicago Society of Etchers' show at the Art Institute of Chicago in January 1930.

 Damask Girdle Bridge (pre-August 1931) (colored etching)
aka "Kintai Gashi, Damask Girdle Brücke, Iwakuni"
(colored etching)

By 1930, if not earlier, the Luthmanns traveled on to Worpswede, an artist colony in lower Saxony, Germany.  Initially, they lived with the German painter and graphic artist Martin Paul Müller, "an artist who had not only long knowledge of the craft [of etching] but a large equipment."  In Germany, he also studied color printing, presumably with Müller.

Heinrich Vogeler Museum in Worpswede, 
Courtesy of Focke Strangmann, Worpsweder Museumsverbund

Worpswede evidently became the Luthmanns' home base, although it is known that they also spent time in Chiusa, Italy.  During the 1940s, Luthmann was a guest at the Hotel Gsoihof in Villnöss, at the foot of the Dolomites, where his paintings remain hung throughout that hotel to this day.

Hotel Gsoihof, Villnöss (c. 1930s)
Courtesy of the Hotel Gsoihof

Hotel Gsoihof, Villnöss (current day)
Courtesy of the Hotel Gsoihof

Bertha Jaques was clearly instrumental in getting Luthmann's work seen in the United States.  In addition to letting Luthmann participate in annual Chicago Society of Etchers shows from 1927 to 1931, Jaques arranged for the Division of Graphic Arts at the United States National Museum at the Smithsonian Building (today known as the National Museum of American History) to exhibit sixty-six of Luthmann's etchings from February 29 to March 27, 1932.  The Indianapolis Museum of Art previously held an earlier exhibition of Luthmann's etchings at the John Herron Art Institute from October 12 to November 2, 1930.

[Wayside Cross in the Dolomites] (c. 1935) by Hans Luthmann
(etching)

Although Luthmann had a few European landscapes in the 1932 National Museum show, thereafter he seems to have understandably concentrated exclusively on European subjects.  In April 1934, for example, he exhibited "Old Streets in Brixen" at the Chicago Society of Etchers show at the Albert Roullier Art Galleries.  In April 1938, he exhibited "Geisler in the Dolomites" at the Albert Roullier Art Galleries, the last new Luthmann etching for which I can find evidence of having been shown in the United States.  Whatever interest remained in Luthmann's etchings after the Great Depression had taken its toll was fated not to last.  The rise of militaristic nationalism in Japan in the late 1930s and the outbreak of war in Europe the following year would have completely extinguished his North American and British clients' appetite for Luthmann's prints.

Rosengarten, St. Cyprian (1938) by Hans Luthmann
(oil on canvas board)

As a consequence, Luthmann appears to have spent the rest of the thirties and early forties concentrating on landscape painting.  Although I have found no evidence that he fought for Germany during World War II, one wonders if he might have been pressed into service in the final months of the war, or if he might have been a late civilian casualty, since he died in 1945 at the relatively young ago of 57.

Luthmann does not appear to have dated most of his prints.  His early works, however, can be easily identified because they were printed with brown ink on cream paper, all featuring Japanese subjects.  It is possible, however, that some may have been later reprinted in black ink.  As noted above, his Chinese works date from around 1929, and his color prints started to appear around 1930.  The Asian prints for which I have found images are shown below in alphabetical order:

Am Kaiserl. Schloss, Tokyo [At the Imperial Castle, Tokyo]
(etching)

At The Russian Cathedral, Tokyo
(etching)

Behind Japanese Garden House Window (pre-August 1931)
Hinter'm japanischen Gartenhausfenster
(colored etching)

Buddhist Priest, Burning Autumn Leaves (pre-1931)
Courtesy of the Smart Museum of Art
(colored etching)

 
Camelback Bridge (Summer Palace - Lake, Peking)
Kamelsrückbrücke (Sommerpalast - See, Peking)
Courtesy of Darlene Owens
(etching)

 
Corner Tower of the Old Nijo-Castle, Kyoto
aka "Wachturm Kaiserschloss Kyoto [Watchtower, Imperial Castle, Kyoto]
Courtesy of Darlene Owens
(etching)

 
East Gate, Himeji Castle - Japan
aka "Osttor Schloss Himeji"
Courtesy of Darlene Owens
(etching)

Everything ***, in Spite of Everything, Everything Increases
aka "Alles Usevalteins? zum Trotz sich erh alles!"
Courtesy of Darlene Owens
(etching)

 
Fisherman's Hut (pre-August 1931)
aka "Fischerhütte, Awaji"
(etching)

 
Fujiyama
Courtesy of Darlene Owens
(etching)

Fujiyama from Hakone Lake (pre-August 1931)
aka "Fujiyama vom Hakone-See"
(etching)

Damask Girdle Bridge (pre-August 1931) (colored etching)
aka "Kintai Gashi, Damask Girdle Brücke, Iwakuni"
(colored etching)

Imperial Castle Tokyo
aka "Kaiserl Schloss Tokyo 1924"
Courtesy of Darlene Owens
(etching)

Kamakura Buddha (Nanu Amida Buttsu [sic:Butsu]) (pre-August 1931)
Courtesy of Darlene Owens
(etching)

Miao Feng T'a (Near the Jade Fountain Pagoda), Peking (pre-August 1931)
aka "Pagoda Near Jade Fountain, Peking"
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
(etching)

Mill in Utsunomiya (Japan)
aka "Muhle im Utsunomiya (Japan)
Courtesy of Darlene Owens
(etching)

Morning Sun at Ino no Matsu Pagoda (pre-August 1931)
aka "Morning Sun at Pagoda (Ino-no-Matsu)"
(etching)

Mountain Temple (Shizuoka - Japan) (pre-August 1931)
aka "Berg Tempel, Shizuoka" or "Mountain Temple, Shizuoka"
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
(etching)
 
Pagoda at the Lake (Nara) (pre-August 1931)
aka "Nara Pagoda"
(etching)

Pagoda, Shanghai (pre-August 1931)
Personal Collection
(etching)

Pines, Enoshima (pre-1927)
aka "Kiefer auf Enoshima" or "Enoshima Pines, Japan"
(aquatint)


Shinto Tempel (pre-August 1931)
aka "Shinto-Tempel (Horifu? Jinsha) Sannomiya, Japan"
(etching)

Street in Old Peking (pre-August 1931)
aka "Strasse im alter Peking"
(Courtesy of Darlene Owens)
(etching)

 Teahouse at the Arashiyama Bridge (pre-August 1931)
(aka Arashiyama Bridge, Kyoto)
(etching)

Temple of Heaven, Peking (pre-August 1931)
aka "Himmelstempel in Peking"
(etching)

Torii and Lanterns, Miyajima (pre-August 1931)
aka Wassertorii im Miyajima
(etching)

View of Hata-Men (Gate), Peking  (pre-August 1931)
aka "Stadttor im Pekin (Hata-men)
Courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
(etching)

Watch Tower of Himeji Castle, Japan (pre-August 1931)
aka "Wachturm, Schloss Himeji -Japan" or "Himeji Castle"
Courtesy of Darlene Owens
(etching)

Winter in Japan aka "Winter" (pre-1929)
(colored aquatint)

 
 Young China (pre-August 1931)
aka "Jung-China"
Personal Collection
(drypoint)

Unknown
(etching)
 
Unknown
(etching)

 
Unknown
(etching)


Unknown (possibly "Japanese Inland Sea")
(etching)

The above prints, however, represent less than half of all of Hans Luthmann's Asian print output.  From the exhibition records of the 1932 National Museum show and other sources, we know the titles for a great many more design (although a few might be variant titles for prints illustrated above):

Bamboo, Bird and Spider (pre-August 1931) (colored etching)
Behind the Temple Wall (pre-August 1931) (colored etching)
Birds on Winter Feeding Table (possibly a European subject) (pre-August 1931) (colored etching)
Buddhist Monastery (pre-August 1931)
Camel Back Bridge, Peking (pre-August 1931)
Castle Moat, Kyoto (pre-August 1931)
Chinese Coast Landscape (pre-August 1931)
Chinese Fishing Village (pre-August 1931)
Chinese Junks (pre-August 1931)
Chinese Monastery Garden (pre-August 1931) (colored etching)
First Snow, Fujiyama (pre-August 1931)
Fujiyama, Peerless Mountain (pre-August 1931) (colored etching)
Hiroshige - Benten (pre-1929) (colored aquatint)
Japanese Inland Sea (pre-August 1931) (colored etching)
Japanese Jugglers (pre-August 1931)
Japanese Sanctuary (pre-August 1931) (colored etching)
Lake Biwa (pre-August 1931)
Lantern on Lotus Pond (pre-August 1931)
The Last Tooth (unknown subject) (pre-August 1931)
Lung Wha Pagoda, Shanghai (pre-August 1931) (colored etching)
Market at Bell Tower, Peking (pre-August 1931)
Meeting (Treetoad and Snail on Bamboo) (pre-August 1931) (colored etching)
Mountain Temple, Japan (possibly the same as Mountain Temple (Shizuoka, Japan)) (pre-1928)
Nijo Castle, Kyoto (pre-August 1931) (possibly the same as Corner Tower of the Old Nijo-Castle, Kyoto)
Pavilion, Peking Summer Palace (pre-August 1931)
Peace (pre-August 1931)
Pine Tree Alley (Road) (pre-August 1931)
Soochow Creek (pre-August 1931)
Struggle for Life - Tree (pre-August 1931) (colored etching)
Tea House, Shanghai (pre-August 1931)
Temple at Miyajima, Japan (pre-August 1931)
Temple Corner, Kobe (pre-August 1931)
Temple Gate (possibly the same as Temple Gate, Kamakura) (pre-1929)
Temple Gate, Kamakura (pre-August 1931)
Temple Hall, Japan (pre-1927)
Temple Lantern, Meiji Park (pre-August 1931)
Temple Wall, Japan (possibly the same as Temple Wall, Nakamoura) (pre-1931)
Temple Wall, Nakamoura (pre-August 1931)
Temple, Nakamoura (pre-August 1931)
Wintertime (possibly the same print as "Winter in Japan") (pre-August 1931) (aquatint)

If a reader has images of any of these Asian-themed etchings to share (or has images of any other Asian-themed etchings by Hans Luthmann which I have not as yet catalogued), please send them to me at the e-mail address listed at the upper right hand column of this blog.  I would like to thank Helena E. Wright, Curator of the Division of Culture and the Arts at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, for graciously sharing the Museum's exhibition records with me, including a 1924 letter by Luthmann that was the source of much of the information about his early career.

If a comment box doesn't appear below, click on this link instead: http://easternimp.blogspot.com/2018/12/show-of-hans-etchings-of-hans-luthmann.html