Rolf Nesch was born in Germany in 1893 and lived there until he moved to Norway in 1933 following the Nazi takeover of Germany. He died in 1975. Nesch was originally an expressionist painter, but he eventually moved towards working in printmaking and sculpture. He is best known for accidentally discovering an incredibly unique way to create etching plates by leaving a plate in the acid too long and having it completely bitten through in the areas that were supposed to be the darkest. He realized that the holes actually made interesting embossments and stark white spaces within the prints. Soon he decided to take the process even further by soldering or drilling holes into the plates and weaving through metal pieces. Through these methods, his plates developed a sculptural quality and his work became quite distinguishable. (The Print in the Western World, 661) He called his work 'material pictures.'
The Herring Catch (6 plates) 1938
Nesch created The Herring Catch after traveling to the West coast of Norway and witnessing the annual herring catching event. The full piece is about 8 feet wide and is comprised of 6 panels. This works highlights the connection between man and nature and the great vastness of the sea that envelopes and supports human, animal, and plant life.
St. Sebastian 1941
Nesch worked in intaglio, relief, and lithography. He felt that the plates he created they were so beautiful on their own that they should also be exhibited. He referred to them as metal pictures. In a letter to a friend, he wrote, ”Some of the metal plates look fantastic, and I have decided that when I have finished the prints I will make metal pictures; Away with canvas! Something sturdy for the wall! A new art form!” (nesch.no/index) Nesch indeed expanded the possibilities of the art world when a museum in Hamburg exhibited both his prints and his plates together in 1930.
Elbe Bridge I 1932
Nesch's subject matter is diverse: figures, landscapes, cityscapes, portraits, abstractions. Nesch's experimentation and exploitation of the boundaries of the various printmaking materials were the key to his success and uniqueness, and he thus never worked with a master printer because that would have stunted the process.
What I love about Nesch's work is the range of techniques and experimentation he uses in each piece. He places no limits on himself when it comes to subject-matter, material, or composition.