Emma Bormann Biography

Emma Bormann




Emma Bormann, printmaker and painter, was born to Eugen and Auguste Bormann in Döbling, Austria on July 29, 1887. She had early lessons in drawing and painting from Franz Rumpler and later studied with Ludwig Michalek in Vienna at the Institute for Teaching and Experimentation in Graphic Arts.

Bormann volunteered as a nurse during World War I but she managed to complete her studies at the University of Vienna, receiving her doctorate in prehistoric archaeology and anthropology in June 1917. After the death of her father in 1917, she moved to Munich where she continued her studies at the Kunstgewerbeschule for one semester before applying her skills teaching etching, lithography, and woodcut at a private studio.

According to Andreas Johns, Bormann was self-taught in relief printmaking, studying from books and developing her own techniques. She would have witnessed and studied the woodcuts of the German Expressionists and her distinct stippling effect could have been absorbed from the animated lines of expressionism.

In 1920 she exhibited a number of her woodcuts in Vienna at the Künstlerhaus and that same year she began her wanderlust of travels to cities in Germany and the Netherlands. Between 1920 and 1923, she also took classes at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt in Vienna studying engraving with Alfred Cossmann. In 1922, the Victoria and Albert Museum acquired work by Bormann.

Malcolm Salaman included her in his 1930 survey The New Woodcut in which he praised her technique. During this decade her work was included a number of times in the annual International Exhibition of Lithography and Wood Engraving at the Art Institute of Chicago and in exhibitions organized by the Print Makers Society of California. In 1947, curator Jacob Kainen, arranged a solo exhibition of Bormann’s block prints at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

Bormann, like many artists of the time, travelled extensively recording the locales in woodcut or linocut. Between 1941 and 1950 she traveled throughout Asia and developed her skills in color woodcut. By 1958, her daughter Jorun had moved to Riverside, California so Bormann spent more and more time in the western U.S.

Emma Bormann’s works are represented in collections of the Albertina, Vienna; the Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo; the British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the National Art Gallery, Melbourne; the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Cleveland Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Library of Congress and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown.

Emma Bormann died in Riverside, California on December 28, 1974.