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Graduate Research Seminar: The Graphic Experience of War: Heinrich Hoerle’s “Krüppelmappe” (1920)

Dr Dorothy Rowe (University of Bristol)
When Feb 13, 2013
from 05:00 PM to 07:00 PM
Where History of Art Graduate Centre, 4a Trumpington Street
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At the end of 1918 Heinrich Hoerle (1895-1936), who had received a second class iron cross after serving in the field artillery on the Western front, returned to his native town of Cologne. Like so many young artists of his generation, Hoerle was barely 19 when he went to war and he quickly became disillusioned by its horrors. He had come back a changed man, for whom art’s sole purpose could now only be in the service of revolution. Initially a member of Cologne Dada, by 1920 he had joined ‘the New Cologne Painting School,’ a self-styled secession from Dada, also known as ‘Gruppe Stupid’. It was within this context that he produced his first full scale response to the aftermath of war, Die Krüppelmappe (The Cripples Portfolio). The Cripples Portfolio consists of twelve delicately executed lithographs calling for ‘Help for the Crippled’ (Helft dem Kruppel) and drawing attention to the plight of the individual war-wounded soldiers seeking to re-integrate themselves into a society and an economy unable and unwilling to properly support them after their bitter defeat in the First World War. Maimed and wounded veterans are shown in different roles: seeking comfort from loved ones; begging on the streets; haunted by missing limbs, mired in nightmares of exaggerated sexual fantasies; engulfed in both physical and psychological loss and received with fear and horror by those around them. The portfolio was published by Hoerle’s SelbstVerlag (Self Press, later renamed Schloemilch Verlag) and it preceded Otto Dix’s better known graphic response to the First World War, Der Krieg, by four years. This paper seeks to explore how Hoerle’s experiences of war are mediated through his graphic visual responses to it in Die Krüppelmappe, to what extent individual experience is used for radical political effect.

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