Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

Welcome to the Spencer Collection

title page
  • Hermann-Paul
    born: Paris, France ; died: Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, Bouches-du-Rhône, France ; active: France
  • title page, 1915
  • Les Quatre Saisons de La Kultur (The Four Seasons of Kultur)
  • color woodcut
  • Image Dimensions Height/Width: 300 x 352 mm
    Sheet/Paper Dimensions: 397 x 556 mm
  • Museum purchase: Letha Churchill Walker Memorial Art Fund
  • Not on display
  • 2009.0123.01
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Machine in a Void: World War I & the Graphic Arts," Mar-2010, Steve Goddard
This portfolio serves as an example of the cultural and ideological war that unfolded on pages of periodicals during the War. In a satirical mode of representation Allied artists employed the stereotypical depictions of the “civilized Allies” and the “barbaric Germans.” The propagandist flavor of Hermann-Paul’s portfolio is already encoded in the title: by spelling Kultur with the “gothic k” he underscored the propagandistic convention that the Germans had reverted to the violent primitivism of the Goths instead of following the civilized route of Goethe, Schubert, or other luminaries of the Germanic world.

Hermann-Paul executed the set in the style of medieval calendars or devotional books of hours. The title page reflects the division of the four seasons with four plants appropriate for each time of year and four decorative patterns, echoed in a print of a corresponding season. The title page also features signs of the Zodiac, a typical pictorial device of medieval calendars. In his attempt to satirize contemporary German culture Hermann-Paul played out the stereotype of equating medieval to barbarian. The choice of a calendar format thus became another artistic device to enunciate the “gothic” and savage dimensions of the German “Kultur.” Typically such calendars portrayed various events of medieval secular life appropriate for each month: hunting, harvesting, feasting, feeding animals, etc. The artist subverted the calendar vocabulary, transforming a generic scene of hunting into a rape chase, feasting into a gruesome spectacle of a drunken debauch, and harvesting into a ruthless pillage.

The winter plate of the set depicts two German soldiers carrying torches and spreading fire among the debris. At the same time the image is highly abstracted, opening up a possibility for a symbolic interpretation: two soldiers in
their metal helmets amid the blazing fire recall metal foundry workers pouring steel. A war conceptualized as a machine in a factory of the devil formed a recurring metaphor that reached an iconic status in visual and literary culture.

Two spring prints both depict a rape scene. One of them provides a literal account of a rape, which was frequently discussed in conjunction with German war atrocities; the
other treats the theme metaphorically. By bringing one of the rape scenes outside and showing a devastated landscape, the
artist suggested that the War also constituted a rape of the country’s land, constantly plundered and violated in combat.