The Sheridan Libraries’ Special Collections, a treasure trove of research and teaching material, has just grown by one very significant acquisition. A gem in the multi-faceted field of German Expressionism was recently added, thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the Johns Hopkins University Libraries.
Kreuzigung: Spielgang Werk VII. Sturm dir Sturm allen Sturm is an illustrated book from 1920 with 77 full-page, hand-colored pochoir woodcuts and 5 full-page images of mask costumes. A very unusual book, it is a fascinating addition to our significant avant-garde collection.
What on earth is this book with such a ponderous title? The author, Bauhaus artist Lothar Schreyer, who founded an experimental Expressionist theater group with the artist and critic Herwarth Walden, puts his original ideas on theater into print here. and attempts a transformation of a theatrical text into something quite different from a typical literary work.
The text is laid out along a three-line staff, like music:
- The first line depicts the spoken words. The speakers are designated by colorful symbols which correspond to the performers’ costumes.
- The second line lays out the vocal rhythm, pitch, and volume.
- The third line is the stage directions, conveyed in symbols and words.
Related to this new book, we have a large run of the magazine founded by Herwarth Walden, Der Sturm. This publication was extremely influential and its publisher, the Verlag Der Sturm, spawned many other publishing projects. Including the only publication to come out of the Schreyer-Walden collaboration, Sturm-Buhne: Jahrbuch des Theaters der Expressionisten. (The entire run has been digitized by the Blue Mountain Project).
The early 20th century avant-garde was complicated! German Expressionists mixed with Italian Futurists, who collaborated with French Surrealists. The combinations of nationalities and movements might be endless. So much is out there, still to discover and piece together. Thanks to our Friends of the Libraries, we have one more piece of the puzzle.