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Adam und Eva (Adam and Eve)

Adam und Eva (Adam and Eve)
woodcut with hand-coloring in watercolor, on laid paper, circa 1925, signed in pencil, one of a small number of impressions, of which a few were hand colored, with margins, framed
Image: 12 ½ x 11 5/8 in. (318 x 295 mm.)
Sheet: 19 x 14 5/8 in. (483 x 372 mm.)
Engels & Söhn 63
Williamstown, Massachusetts, Williams College Museum of Art; Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts; The Modern Art of the Print: Selections from the Collection of Lois and Michael Torf, 5 May-14 October 1984, no. 33, p. 140; pl. VI, p. 43 (illustrated)

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Lot Essay

Heinrich Campendonk was working in solitude in Krefeld, the Rhenish town where he was born, when Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky stumbled upon his paintings. They soon invited him to participate in the activities of the Blue Rider group, for his work embodied a similar interest in the direct and simple clarity of folk art.
Campendonk must have been eager for the companionship of like-minded artists — he moved to the Bavarian village of Sindelsdorf, where Marc and August Macke lived, in October of 1911. Throughout the ‘teens Campendonk’s work was derivative of Marc's, and it was only after World War I that he broke free of outside influences and found his own voice as an artist.
Adam and Eve partakes of Campendonk’s Customary subject matter — peasants, nudes, farm animals, and rural huts. But, as Peter Selz writes: ‘‘He dismembers this ordinary world and reassembles it into a magic dreamlike place” (Selz 1957, p. 308). One's first impression of the print is that of a crude and simple depiction of Eve tempting Adam with the apple of knowledge, but closer examination reveals the scene to be more complicated: while Eve's feet are planted firmly on the ground, the hovering snake diverts us from noticing that Adam is bereft of timbs from his knees down. One may also ask where in the book of Genesis occur the ram, the shingled cottage, and the peasant woman who raises her arms in surprise. Perhaps Campendonk meant the viewer to witness a provincial woman’s vision in the manner of Gauguin’s painting Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (1888; National Gallery, Edinburgh), in which Breton church Goers see the subject of the sermon materialize before their awestruck eyes — expressing a rural faith so fervent that biblical events appear as reality. The hand-coloring of the image — reminiscent of the folk prints the Blue Rider group collected — reinforces the mood of primitive piety.
Campendonk certainly knew Gauguin’s work, which was frequently exhibited and published by the Blue Rider. Adam and Eve's mask like faces indicate as well the omnipresent influence of tribal carving — particularly in the symmetrical striations that score Adam's cheeks. The figures’ stiff frontality and large staring eyes are a reminder that in 1920 Campendonk visited Ravenna, where he studied the mosaics of the Byzantine empire. In Adam and Eve, unlike his earlier work, these various sources are thoroughly digested and placed in the service of his personal vision.
Deborah Menaker, The Modern Art of the Print: Selections from the Collection of Lois and Michael Torf, p.43

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