Research in a time of confinement, and beyond

Moissey Kogan_Jizo

A blog post in two parts:


  1.  Research in a time of confinement and
  2.  A sustainable future for the Moissey Kogan Catalogue Raisonné of Sculpture & Prints Project


1. Research in a time of confinement

What scholar doesn’t enjoy getting their teeth into a research challenge, particularly in these times of lockdown? Some while ago, as part of a rare trawl on a well-known, online auction site in search of material relating to Moissey Kogan and his dealer, Alfred Flechtheim, I came across this print for sale. It was evident that it was not the real thing – it was being offered for only EUR 40.00, after all – but I wanted to know what was going on, and so I bought it.

Moissey Kogan_Tanzende Figur
Print as bought from an online auction house.

I knew the image, of course. It had featured as one of twelve woodcuts, with which Kogan had illustrated Karl With‘s poem, Jizo, published by the Galerie Alfred Flechtheim Berlin in 1922, where it had been printed along with the other illustrations in an olive-green colour.  A larger version of it, supposedly a linocut, printed in a reddish brown colour, had also been employed a year earlier as the front cover of poet, writer and publisher, Alfred Richard Meyer‘s book on the Expressionist dancer, Charlotte Bara, a much-admired friend of Kogan‘s from Ascona.

Moissey Kogan-title page linocut
Moissey Kogan, Tanzende Frau, linocut (?), as front cover of Alfred Richard Meyer, Charlotte Bara, Berlin-Wilmersdorf: Alfred Richard Meyer-Verlag, 1921

When it arrived, I saw, as I had suspected, that the image was printed on a page of text. There was a further page of text on the reverse, including the chapter title, La gravure sur bois en Russie. The seller had, of course, not made it clear that this was a page cut out of a book – hardly surprising though, given the price. Frustratingly for my purposes, no information about the publication from which it had been taken was provided. Aside from establishing that the image had the same dimensions as the Jizo version of the print, albeit here in black ink, and that the book had in all probability been published during the pre-war period, which I could infer from the paper quality and the cut pages, I was stumped. This publication was unknown to me.

Page of text
The image as it appears on the page of printed text

After many hours of fruitless searching on the internet, I went back to the seller for more information … and … received no response. Life intervened and I shelved the issue for another time.

And then lockdown came, and I thought the seller might be more amenable to a second approach, having probably sold most of the images cut out of the book by now. This time he did, indeed, respond with the publication details as requested. He told me that the page I had bought had been taken from avant-garde art critic, Roger Avermaete‘s book, La Gravure sur bois moderne de l’occident, Paris: Dorbon Ainé, 1928. After a quick search, I discovered that it had been published in a limited edition of only 1,000 copies and was illustrated with 239 woodcuts, including 177 original cuts, 230 in black-and-white and 9 in colour. Now much sought after, it seems – and not just to cut up (though I did notice the seller had an identical ‘print’ by Kogan on offer — sigh!) –original copies of the book are very expensive. Well, I thought, that’s it then, until I can get to a library.

I was, however, pleased to notice that an affordable reprint had been made of Avermaete‘s book. I ordered a copy, it arrived, and that should have been the end of my quest to find out what Avermaete had written about Kogan, how he had placed his production in relation to his fellow Russians and more widely, and finally a chance to check the source of the image. But … no. The relevant pages on Kogan, and the image in question, are missing from the Quarto Press reprint. In fact, there are 4 groups of pages missing from it. Can it really be that they reprinted the book from an original that had already been plundered?! After enquiring with other sellers as to whether their copies of the reprint also have missing pages, it seems that is precisely the case. Did no-one think to check before rushing to print, or did the publishers just not care?

I did, however, glean from the list of illustrations that the Galerie Alfred Flechtheim had given permission for Avermaete to use the image from Jizo. It is listed as a “cliché d’après un bois“, that is, it isn’t one of the 177 original woodcuts. The page I purchased still has research value only.

The things one discovers during research in a time of confinement! Back to the drawing board…

2. Into the Future

It is now time to put the Moissey Kogan Catalogue Raisonné of Sculpture & Prints on a sustainable financial footing.

As editor, I have donated over 20 years of my research on Moissey Kogan, my time and expertise to the Moissey Kogan Catalogue Raisonné Project. The Project now needs to be taken to the next stage of development.

Our intention in the short term is to set up a charitable artist’s foundation to protect the legacy of Moissey Kogan. It will oversee the production and publishing of the Moissey Kogan Catalogue Raisonné of Sculpture & Prints both online and ultimately in print form. Set up in this way, it will permit the Moissey Kogan Catalogue Raisonné of Sculpture & Prints and the Moissey Kogan Catalogue Raisonné Project Archive to work together with international museum partners to seek project-based and longer-term sponsorship and financing, in order to fund on-going research and to share our work with the public in the form of exhibitionspublications and international collaborative projects.

For more on these plans; to donate to the Project; or to register your interest as a sponsor, please see our Support the Project page.

If you would like further information, please contact the Project. As ever, we welcome your ideas, thoughts and inspiration.

We hope to update you soon on developments.


Featured image: detail from a woodcut produced by Moissey Kogan to illustrate Karl With’s poem, Jizo, published by the Galerie Alfred Flechtheim Verlag, 1922