SCHARF, Theo (1899-1987)
Europa : ein Zyklus von 14 Steinzeichnungen
München : Georg Müller, . Edition limited to 300 hand-numbered examples (this is no. 17). Portfolio, large square folio, original printed papered boards (bowed, foxed and with some staining); the preliminaries comprise two loose double sheets (lightly creased and foxed): pp [1 title], [1 blank], [1 contents], [1 colophon], [2 blank], [2 intoductory text]; followed by  loose lithographs, each 315 x 420 mm (sheets 460 x 540 mm), all signed by the artist in pencil beneath the image, original owner’s pencilled titles in French to the upper margins; most of the lithographs with minor water staining along left edge of sheet (nos. 13 and 14 with heavier staining; nos. 1 and 14 with short edge tears); complete.
Theo Scharf (1899-1987) was born in Melbourne, the son of a German-born concert pianist and an Australian mother. In 1911 Violet Teague painted his portrait (Boy with a palette), at a time when he was a young prodigy and his artistic work was being recognised by Teague, McCubbin and others. Before leaving for Germany in 1914 he held a highly successful exhibition in Melbourne.
In Germany Scharf based himself in Munich. Two of his best known works date from the early Weimar period. They are his series of lithographs, Europa (1922), of which the Australian War Memorial holds the only complete portfolio in Australian collections; and a series of etchings titled Night in a city, which were published the following year. The latter featured in an exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (April-May 2006). In the 1930s Scharf contributed to several newspapers and journals produced by the Nazi Party, and during the Second World War he enlisted as an official German ‘combat artist’. After the war Scharf returned to Melbourne and worked as an art teacher for several years during the 1950s, before spending the last period of his life in Munich.
“Europa comprises fourteen ‘lithographic designs’ numbered in the following order: Das schlafende Asien (Sleeping Asia), Tyrannei (Tyranny), Revolution, Napoleon, Industrialismus (Industrialism), Entgötterung (Turning from God), Demagogie (Demagogy), Japan, Kapitalismus (Capitalism), Krieg (War), Proletariat, Asiens Entflammung (Asia aflame), Zivilisation (Civilisation), Das Ende (The end). The portfolio was released in an edition of 300 and produced in the spring of 1922 at the Dr C Wolf & Sohn printing office in Munich for Georg Müller Verlag. Scharf’s imagery is uncompromising and portentous as he lashed out against the madness and greed which had brought Europe close to collapse as a result of rapacious warmongering. Industrialism, with its pollution and exploitation of the proletariat, is featured in many of these images: soaring chimneys spewing smoke and ‘demonic steam’ and workers bent slavishly over their task at hand; civilisation is seen as an overcrowded metropolis, the seething mass of humanity is crowded into the factories and offices, pressing the heaving streets of the cities. It is an apocalyptic vision, denying the celebration of modernity espoused by the Futurist artists, and presaging the carnage and horrors of the war yet to come.” (Natalie Wilson, in Theo Scharf : Night in a city, AGNSW, 2006, p.35)