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Wood Engravings, Lino Cuts and Prints

Arts Review, 1 March 1985

Arts Review
1 March 1985 Volume XXXVII No 4
Guy Burn writes about Hermann Fechenbach at the Blond Fine Art Gallery

Blond Fine Art has at last found a suitably spacious new gallery in Princes Street, the lease at Sackville Street having ended. His first print show is a one man exhibition, a discovery of long hidden talent. Herman Fechenbach is now eighty eight years old, and has had a long frustrating career as a wood engraver and linocutter. The abundant work forms in a way a diary of his sadly disrupted life, where success and fulfillment have evaded his grasp by force of circumstances. His early work in his home town of Bad Mergentheim shows great promise; fairy stories and Jewish life are portrayed. But the loss of a leg in the 1914-18 war was a cruel setback, with years of convalescence. His illustrations for the Hagadah and the plague won him recognition in Germany, only to be snatched away by the advent of the Nazis. Caricatures of Himmler, Goebbels etc., are redolent of hatred. The Children's Train is an emotional record of the long line of trucks on its way to Belsen, crammed with French children who spill out on to the tracks.

He was forced to flee to Israel, and some constructive work was done, notably Call to Lunch showing a Kibbutz girl beating a large iron ring. But Israel did not suit him and he emigrated to England in 1939. Hardly settled here, he was summarily interned in 1940, eventually arriving in the Isle of Man. His delicate wood engravings were no longer feasible and from then on lino was the only medium obtainable. Arrested, Police Station, and Interned are disturbing records of unhappiness in hostile surroundings. The Isle of Man series involving intricate interweaving patterns of barbed wire with the sun shining hopefully through, record a happier time. He starts to use colour blocks: there are blue birds flying in a blue sky, Release found him looking for subjects rather than being dominated by them. His lyrical nudes and peaceful subjects like children in the playground, are brave attempts to grasp normality.

Police Station By Hermann Fechenbach
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