|A Gift to Biro-Bidjan:
From Despair to New Hope
Fritzi Brod (1900-1952)
In the Workshop
from the portfolio A Gift
to Biro-Bidjan, 1937
|Fritzi Brod was born in
Prague, Czechoslovakia. She studied at Lycee in Prague and Kunstgewerbeschule
in Vienna. After immigrating to the United States in 1924, she attended
the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Brod established herself as an innovative textile designer, and her fabrics gained great reputation in the American fashion world. She wrote several design books, including 200 Motifs and Design, Flowers in Nature and Design, and Decorative Design. Brodís documentary material, including a scrapbook with clippings, exhibition catalogs and photographs, is in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art in Washington, D.C.
In the mid-1930s, Brod created numerous works on paper, mostly woodcuts and lithographs. More than 50 of these are in the collection of Northwestern Universityís Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art. In most of the graphics she features women, the majority of whom were inspired by German Expressionism; only a few of them reflect a design approach.
Brod selected the woodcut In the Workshop for the portfolio for the same reason that Millman included Shoemaker. Both deal with labor, a common theme during the Depression. Although Brodís graphics during the mid-1930s were mostly expressionistic, she preferred to submit a woodcut that represented her decorative or design approach.
The design of In the Workshop was inspired by Art Nouveau: the slanted heads, the delicate lines and the ornamental patterns. This design creates a contrast to the gloomy mood of the scene. Five women are crowded in a small shop, where a Vogue magazine hangs on the wall. These women sit quietly, concentrating on their sewing. Two of the women in the front are in the darkness; their faces are black silhouettes. A dazzling light from the window illuminates the rest.
Brod, like other artists of A Gift to Biro-Bidjan, uses the unique medium of black-and-white woodcut to express the symbolism of dark against light and new hope overcoming despair.