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Fritz Eichenberg (American, born in Germany, 1901-1990), Dame Folly Speaks from the series In Praise of Folly, 1972, wood engraving on paper, 18 x 11 7/8 inches. Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center, University of Richmond Museums, Museum purchase, Harriet Grandis Print Acquisitions Fund, H2004.01.01. © Estate of the artist.
Aug 18, 2004
throughDec 05, 2004

"In Praise of Folly" by Desiderius Erasmus: Wood Engravings by Fritz Eichenberg

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On view at the Joel and Lila Print Study Center, the exhibition “In Praise of Folly” by Desiderius Erasmus: Wood Engravings by Fritz Eichenberg highlights a portfolio of prints by artist Fritz Eichenberg (American, born Germany, 1901-1990), based on the philosopher Erasmus’ satire on human folly (written in 1511). The exhibition also examines the artist’s extensive career, his artistic influences, and the wood engraving technique.

About the exhibition

Eichenberg began his career as a political cartoonist for newspapers in Germany. After immigrating to New York in 1933 to escape mounting Nazi tensions, he received commissions to illustrate new editions of classic literature, including Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and Crime and Punishment. Involved with social causes, he taught at the New School for Social Research, produced works for the Federal Arts Project, crafted cartoons for The Nation, and created religious images for the newspaper The Catholic Worker. Eichenberg began teaching at The Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1947 and founded and directed the Pratt Graphic Arts Center in Manhattan from 1961 to 1972, which contributed to the re-establishment of printmaking as an academic discipline in America.

Writing during the Renaissance period, Desiderius Erasmus (Dutch, 1469-1536) edited and interpreted the Greek New Testament from a humanist perspective, and he also espoused reform within the Protestant and Catholic churches. His book In Praise of Folly was a social commentary on the vanity of humankind, the foolishness of the aristocratic class, and the corruption of governing church hierarchy—themes which Eichenberg found still relevant and biting four hundred years later. Eichenberg was critical of injustice without making individual accusations as demonstrated in The Follies of War, which illustrates the universal madness and disregard for human life associated with war. Using dramatic contrasts between black and white as well as emotional gestures and expressions, Eichenberg’s prints convey his abiding concern for peace and social equality.

Other selections in the exhibition, including The City and Country Mice (1976) and The Crucifixion (1980), demonstrate the artist’s fascination with literature, his political voice, and his fusion of art and religious thought.

Organized by the Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center, University of Richmond Museums the exhibition was co-curated by N. Elizabeth Schlatter, Assistant Director, University Museums, and Lindsay Kurlak ’05, art history major, University of Richmond, and the 2004 Joel and Lila Harnett Summer Research Fellow.