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Wilhelm Heise (German, 1882-1965), Königskerzen (Mullein), 1925, stone engraving lithograph on China paper, 14 ¼ x 10 1/8 inches. Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center, University of Richmond Museums, Museum purchase, H2009.08.09. © Estate of the artist.
Jun 18, 2010
throughNov 21, 2010

Nächtliche Blumenstücke: 1925 Print Portfolio by Wilhelm Heise

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The University of Richmond Museums presents Nächtliche Blumenstücke: 1925 Print Portfolio by Wilhelm Heise, on view from June 18 to November 21, 2010, in the Lora Robins Gallery of Design from Nature. The exhibition features fourteen prints created in 1925 by Wilhelm Heise (German, 1892-1965) from the permanent collection of the University Museums’ Joel and Lila Harnett Print Study Center. Heise’s prints include highly detailed images of botanicals within nocturnal landscapes, demonstrating both his understanding of the natural world and his inventive imagination as a graphic artist.

Most prolific during the beginning of the twentieth century, Heise practiced a stylistic tendency in Germany following World War I that was a reaction to the dominant Expressionist movement. Neue Sachlichkeit, or New Objectivity, was concerned with a return to order in art, as the artists viewed the Expressionist style’s violent forms and distortions to be overly irrational and subjective. Artists such as Heise primarily worked in a more realistic style, as illustrated by their use of sharp detail and the absence of gestural forms. They often incorporated their own innovations and exaggerations within their work, particularly in terms of subject matter and composition. Heise’s prints demonstrate not only his affinity for the precise depiction of objects, but also contain elements of fantasy and the unnatural, emphasizing the Neue Sachlichkeit interest in creating individual interpretations of reality.

Considered his most important series of graphic work, Nächtliche Blumenstücke, translated as “Flowers at Nighttime,” contains meticulous representations of thriving botanicals—from groupings of blooming lilies to moss-covered tree stumps. Using the technique of stone engraving lithography, Heise scratched away ground on the surface of a lithographic stone producing white lines in the final print. With the precision of the engraved lines, Heise was able to accurately replicate the varying structures and appearances of his flowers and plants. In the print Blühende Spiräe (Blooming Meadowsweet), the artist’s attention to detail is revealed through the sharp presentation of the herb’s most minute features. Veins on the meadowsweet’s leaves and individual petals in a cluster of flowers are visible, suggesting Heise’s strict adherence to observing nature. Behind the entwined arrangement of plants, two fairy-like figures, sitting on an arched bridge, appear to be watching the twilit sky. Here, Heise creates a tension, evident throughout Nächtliche Blumenstücke, between the realistic, objective qualities of his plants and the elements of a whimsical, otherworldly setting.

Organized by the University of Richmond Museums, the exhibition was co-curated by Richard Waller, Executive Director, University Museums, and Dayle Wood, ’11, art history major, University of Richmond, and 2010 Harnett Summer Research Fellow, University Museums.