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Devils Lake Journal - Devils Lake, ND
  • Treasures: Woodcut prints by Hans Otto Orlowski not highly valued

  • I am interested in selling these six prints, which were gifts from a friend. They were signed by Hans Otto Orlowski in pencil in the lower corner and measure approximately 14 by 10 inches each. What are they worth?

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  • Dear Helaine and Joe:
    I am interested in selling these six prints, which were gifts from a friend. They were signed by Hans Otto Orlowski in pencil in the lower corner and measure approximately 14 by 10 inches each. What are they worth?
    Thank you,
    H.W., Thailand
    Dear H.W.:
    The issue of what a piece of art might be "worth" is much more complicated than the question appears to be on the surface. Art, like almost everything else, has a retail value when it is being sold on the primary market, but that value is often much less when it is resold on the secondary market.
    Hans Otto Orlowski was born in Insterburg, Germany, in 1894 and died in Berlin in 1967. He studied art at the Kunstgewerbeschule (literally, "school of arts and crafts") in Berlin-Charlottenburg from 1911 to 1915.
    He had to leave school because of World War I, and for the next three years, he served in the German military. He resumed his art education in 1918 at the National Art School in Berlin, and in that same year, he is said to have exhibited with the Berlin Secession group, which had been founded in 1898.
    Orlowski's early works were very much in the mode of the German Expressionists, but as he matured, he developed a style that was more his own. Orlowski became so disillusioned with the German Expressionists that he is said to have destroyed much of his early work in 1924.
    Orlowski became a professor of art at the Berlin Kunstgewerbeschule in 1921 and stayed in that position until 1945. He is thought to have had a great deal of influence on the work of many 20th-century German artists, and he exhibited his own work in Berlin, Munich, the United States, England and France.
    He is known as one of the premier woodcut artists of the 20th century, and he produced original woodcuts that were individual works of art as well as woodcuts that were used for illustrations in such famous books as Goethe's "Nature," Thomas Wolfe's "Of Time and the River" and Dostoevsky's "Grand Inquisitor."
    There is no question that Orlowski's images are powerful and done by a 20th-century woodcut print master, but are they valuable on the current art market? Unfortunately, these works are not highly valued at the current moment because they are rather dark and, to some, sad.
    We feel that H.W. could probably sell this set of six 1940s/1950s Orlowski woodblock prints for somewhere between $500 and $800, depending on the circumstances and if all the pieces are in great condition.
        
    Helaine Fendelman and Joe Rosson are the authors of  "Price It Yourself" (HarperResource, $19.95). Contact them at Treasures in Your Attic, PO Box 18350, Knoxville, TN 37928. Email them at treasures@knology.net.
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