Rolf Nesch was born in Esslingen in southern Germany and trained to be a painter at the academy in Dresden, during which time he also started working with graphic art. When he moved from Germany to Norway in autumn 1933, he abandoned the brush and the palette in favour of working with material pictures and gradually also sculptures, even as he continued to develop his graphic art. He also excelled at drawing.
Nesch won particular renown for developing a new printmaking technique, which he called metal prints. In addition to etching and carving a metal plate in the traditional manner, he placed metal fragments, mesh, and steel wire on top of the plate so that the form became a collage. Elbbrücke I is one of the first works he created with this technique.
The print is part of the series Hamburg Bridges, comprising a total of twenty motifs. The picture is dominated by the simplified depiction of the bridge. Although Nesch also represented people in a similar fashion in other prints, he did not want to detach the depicted form from the actual person or object, but rather fill the abstracted forms with expressive substance. The Hamburg Bridges series evinces the artist’s contact with the Hamburg expressionists as well as his interest in the works of Edvard Munch. Picasso would also become an important influence, but Nesch is above all sui generis.
In Norway he refined his technique of metal prints, which often featured vivid colours, material effects, and textured surfaces. In their images and styles, his works of art could equally display intense emotion, unbridled humour, or lush ornamentation.
Text: Sidsel Helliesen
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0