Collections & Critiques

There is an interesting exhibit of sixteenth century German wood-cuts in the Print Room of Fogg Museum. Works by Durer and Cranach form the main body of the small collection. Both of these men lived in a country which had not yet undergone the comparatively complete liberation from the medieval tradition which the southern countries of Europe had succeeded in doing. Whereas the sixteenth century Italian artists were busily engaged in developing what can be called a Renaissance style, German artists of the same period were still in the process of reconciling the element of Gothicism with the new and more subjective spirit of individuality which was gradually spreading from its Italian source.

In Durer's print, "The Trinity," we can see a combination of two divergent points of view which are probably the results of this Gothic-Renaissance mixture dominating the cultural atmosphere within which Durer lived. There is a strange blend of the real and the symbolic in this particular picture. The figure of the agonized Christ, with hands and feet still showing the marks of crucifixion, is done in a forceful, brutal way, yet the entire group of figures, of which Christ is the foremost, is depicted by the artist as floating in the heavens upon a small field of clouds. The natural and the super natural are joined and with case, as in many of Raphacl's paintings, but in a blunt, effective manner which reveals the cross-play of the old tradition with the new spirit.

In addition to the collection of German woodcuts, there is an exhibit of Japanese Buddhist art which covers three major periods in the development of the art of that country. The paintings and statues are particularly interesting because it was during the Fujiwara and Kamakura periods, both of which are represented in the exhibit, that Japan gradually threw off the yoke of Chinese influence in the arts, and began to establish an indigenous culture of its own.