Ben Uri collection

Head of a Man (II)

Artist information

Name Emil Orlik (1870-1932)

Born Prague, Czechoslovakia

Died Berlin, Germany

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The portraitist and pioneering printmaker Emil Orlik (1870 ̶ 1932 ) was born into a Jewish family in Prague (then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) on 21 July 1870; his father and brother, Hugo, were both master tailors. The family was part of the large German-speaking community (known as the Bohemian Germans), whose artistic circle included the writer Franz Kafka and poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Orlik drew from a young age and enrolled at the private art school of Heinrich Knirr, where one of his fellow pupils was Paul Klee, before studying at the Munich Academy, where he drew a portrait of Rilke (among others) and won a silver medal in 1893. He later learned engraving from Johann Leonhard Raab and experimented with various printmaking processes. He shared an admiration for Japanese woodcuts with his fellow pupil and lifelong friend Bernhard Pankok with whom he experimented in printmaking techniques. Orlik produced successful graphic work for the magazine Jugend (“Youth”) and the prestigious periodical “PAN”, which also printed his first poster “Die Weber” for the eponymous play produced by Gerhart Hauptmann. This so impressed Hauptmann that he invited Orlik to visit his studio initiating the latter’s involvement with the theatre as a leading set and costume designer. Orlik later moved to Vienna, exhibiting with the Secession (of which he became a member) and held successful solo exhibitions in Br?n, Austria in 1900 and at the respected Cassirer Gallery in Berlin in 1901. After travelling widely in Europe and making many contacts (including in London where he met the printmaker William Nicholson), Orlik went to Japan (1900-01). There he learned Japanese woodcut techniques firsthand, afterwards showing 16 works, all of Japanese subjects, at the Vienna Secession. In 1905 Orlik moved to Berlin to take up a teaching post at the Museum of Decorative Arts and also at the Berlin College of Arts and Crafts, where one of his students was George Grosz, who wrote admiringly of his influence. Orlik continued to travel and exhibit widely, completing numerous portrait commissions and graphic work, particularly posters and prints. He died of a heart attack in Berlin in 1932. Orlik’s brother Hugo inherited his estate, which included many paintings, drawings and prints by artists including Matisse and Cézanne. Hugo Orlik and his family perished during the war at the hands of the Nazis. The only survivor was an aunt who later regained some of Orlik’s effects. In 1963 the first post-war German exhibitions of Orlik's works were held in Berlin and Stuttgart followed by a major retrospective in Austria in 1977.

Object Details

Object type print

Medium lithograph on paper

Materials and techniques lithography (technique) paper (support)

Unframed 23.4 x 19.9 cm

Framed 36 x 31 cm

Signed Signed

Accession number 1988-36

Display status not on display


portrait | print

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