Karl Weschke

Karl Weschke (German, 1925-2005)

Karl Weschke first came to Britain as a German Prisoner of War in 1945, and moved down to West Cornwall in 1955 in the footsteps of his friend Bryan Wynter. His first works, including this lithograph, owe something to the angular starkness of Wynter’s early landscapes. Wynter introduced him to the St Ives modernists, and found him lodgings in Zennor, in the cottages where D.H. Lawrence had once stayed.

Though principally a figurative painter Weschke began painting in Cornwall in an abstract idiom. He modified his palette to earth tones, dark and potentially menacing, which would characterise all his future work. The present work is among the first to demonstrate this shift in colour, and the effect this abstract experimentation had upon his work. Though at first glance abstract, this lithograph has much in common with the landscape-based abstraction of Peter Lanyon in its evocation of the spirit of a place by transcending concrete physical realisation. Thus there is the suggestion of the strata of rocks, of a barren landscape viewed at night; yet the overwhelming sensations of darkness, loneliness, of menace, violence even – Weschke’s central themes – are the greater for not being constrained by the visual imagery. Like Lanyon too, Weschke’s abstract landscapes from the late 50s begin to yield up suggestions of the human figure, which become more explicit in his later work. Weschke’s friendship with Francis Bacon, who visited him in Cornwall at around this time, is telling in this respect, as well as in terms of the latent violence and oppressive colouration of this print. Perhaps the greatest influence though on Weschke throughout his career was German Expressionism, and that tradition lurks behind the darkness and the ultimately autobiographical pursuit of feeling.