Around 1905, a number of young and as yet obscure artists, among them Max Beckmann, Lovis Corinth, George Grosz, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Emil Nolde, set out to write the most important chapter in the history of printmaking in the twentieth century. Flouting traditional rules of craftsmanship, they revolutionized woodcutting, etching, and lithography with works that bristled with enormous expressive energy and raw effects. Print media appealed to these artists because of their creative possibilities and because reproduction and distribution promised access to large audiences.
The exhibition showcases outstanding works of graphic art from the Kupferstichkabinett (Department of Prints and Drawings), with a focus on the years between 1905 and 1920. The stylistic and technical diversity of the selection illustrates that these artists cannot be lumped together under a label such as Expressionism. Their work remains a vital source of inspiration today, as the presentation of animated films, drawings, and prints by William Kentridge currently on view at the Kunstmuseum Basel demonstrates.