Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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Eric Heckel, Zwei Verwundete (Two Wounded Soldiers), 1915, woodcut on paper, Folkwang Museum, Essen.

© Museum Folkwang, Essen - Photo : J. Nober.

© SESAM, Paris, 1998.


70 - Eric Heckel

The distance separating Chagall and Heckel (1883-1970) is thus reduced. Heckel belonged to the Die Brücke group of the German Expressionist movement and favoured the technique of wood engraving also preferred by other members of the group such as Kirchner and Schmidt-Rottluff. The drawing cut out of wood with chisels, points, and sometimes a pocket knife, does not allow for subtlety of light and dark, but its primitive brutality is in keeping with the brutality of the subject: a soldier with his head swathed in bandages, and another in the background lying asleep or dying on a deckchair or bed. Wrinkles, scars and lines are cut into the wood with a blade, and it seems almost as if the engraving has been gashed in the same way as one of the bodies of the men exposed to shrapnel and bullets.

Coquelicot" We are unfeeling dead who, through some dangerous trick of magic, are still able to run and kill. A young Frenchman falls behind; they catch up with him and he puts his hands up; in one of them he is still holding his revolver; we cannot tell whether he wants to shoot or to surrender. A stroke with a shovel splits his face in two.
Another seeing this tries to escape, but a bayonet whistles into his back. He jumps in the air and, arms outstretched, stumbles screaming as the bayonet moves up and down in his spine. "

Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front.