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Special Collections & University Archives

Johannes Lebek: The Artist As a Witness of His Time

The Stanford University Libraries, Department of Special Collections, is pleased to announce the exhibition Johannes Lebek: The Artist As a Witness of His Time. This event celebrates the work of Lebek (1901-1985), a renowned master of the woodcut and one of Germany's finest, although lesser-known, 20th-century illustrators. With an emphasis on documenting the artist's life and production, the exhibition will feature prints, illustrated books, photographs, sketchbooks, and manuscript material. Curated by Elisabeth Wegner, the artist's daughter, Johannes Lebek: The Artist As a Witness of His Time will be on view at Stanford University's Cecil H. Green Library, Peterson Gallery, second floor of the Bing Wing from April 15 through June 30, 2002. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Born in Zeitz, Germany, in 1901 to working class parents, Lebek was a prolific artist working in the Northern Romantic tradition whose emerging sensibilities were influenced by his country's strong graphic arts traditions and the rise of German Expressionism. Despite experiencing the turmoil of poverty, two world wars, and life under the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich, Lebek's illustrious career as an artist began with studies at the prestigious Leipzig Academie für graphische Künste und Buchgewerbe (Academy for the Graphic Arts and Book Production) under the direction of German woodcut and engraving master Hans Alexander Mueller. Lebek became a woodcut instructor at the Academie in the 1950s, and he, along with colleague Frans Masereel, was a founding member of the Xylon International Society of Wood Engravers. In 1969 he emigrated to Adelebsen, West Germany, and began a new phase of vigorous productivity.

By the time of his death in 1985, Lebek was credited with supporting a revival of the woodcut medium in Leipzig in the 1960s and 1970s. He had produced single prints, topical cycles and portfolios of prints, children's books, an important woodcut primer, and illustrations to books-including several literary classics-by approximately fifty authors.

The exhibition will highlight prints and other works of graphic art that focus on biographical and religious themes, and the depiction of landscapes-both urban and rural-from Lebek's childhood through his later adult life. A poignant sketchbook diary, created during Lebek's internment in an American POW camp in France, will also be featured, along with examples of illustrated book works by his contemporaries Fritz Kredel, Fritz Eichenberg, Käthe Kollwitz, Frans Masereel, and Hans Alexander Mueller.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Stanford University Libraries announces the publication of the exhibition catalogue Johannes Lebek: The Artist As a Witness of His Time. With text by Ronald Salter, Professor of German Literature and Art at Tufts University, and several illustrations including a letterpress printing of four previously unpublished woodcuts from the cycle Tagzeiten (Times of the day), the publication is available for $27.50 per copy plus tax and shipping. To order copies, please visit our publications web site or via email speccollpubs@stanford.edu.