Linocut: The Underdog of Printmaking

There are a lot of ways to make a print. Some people are seduced by the glossy speed of pulling an ink-charged squeegee across a silkscreen. Others prefer tooling away at sheets of copper destined for an acid bath. I, for one, have always been a sucker for the linocut.

Bold, graphic, and immediate, linocut is the underdog of the printmaking world. First used extensively by the German Expressionist group Die Brücke in the early 20th century, this utilitarian technique quickly became a popular and widespread practice with artists and designers. 

Linoleum was cheap, easy to find, and easier to carve. It was initially unrecognized as a refined method of print production—and all the better. Without the burdens of history and style, artists could whittle whatever they wanted out of the smooth, industrially-produced surfaces, from ex libris bookplates to posters advertising political dissent. 

In time, linocut was championed by the likes of Picasso and Matisse, who contributed wonderful additions (or should we editions) to this burgeoning art form. However, it always retained its status as an everyday way to publish texts and artist’s books, produce bespoke fabric patterns, and experiment with visualizing one's ideas.

Below I’ve included some reproductions of linocut prints made by the Polish artist Karol Hiller and others by Josef Čapek, the Czech painter, poet, and inventor of the word “robot.” I find these works especially compelling for their linear clarity and dynamic compositions. Although most are printed with a single layer of ink, like black, red, or blue, the last one has been augmented with hand-coloring to brighten the image. 

Here at the Berlin Drawing Room, we are excited to tap into the unique, creative energy offered by linocut with our inaugural printmaking workshop solely dedicated to the technique. It is perfect for beginners and for print enthusiasts alike. You can find more information by following this link to the Berlin Drawing Room's workshop website: 

I hope you enjoy the images. 

All the best,

Patrick

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1.   Karol Hiller, Cotton I (1930), linocut on paper
2.   Karol Hiller, Machines (1929), linocut on paper
3.   Karol Hiller, At the Machine (1931), linocut on paper
4.   Karol Hiller, Factory's Courtyard (1922), linocut on paper
5.   Josef Čapek, Dívka (1918), linocut on paper
6.   Josef Čapek, Kouřící voják (1919), linocut on paper
7.   Josef Čapek, Letící ptáček (1920), linocut on paper
8.   Josef Čapek, Musaion (1920), linocut on paper
9.   Josef Čapek, Sen o zástupu zoufajících (1921), linocut on paper
10. Josef Čapek, Zajíc před terčem (1920), linocut on paper