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David Ludwig Bloch

  • David Ludwig Bloch is known for his paintings and watercolours revolving around the Holocaust and his exile. With the woodcuts from his time in exile in Shanghai, Bloch created an artistic account of everyday life in the city, while harvesting the simplicity of form and colour of the medium.
  • David
  • Ludwig
  • Bloch
  • Bai Lühei

  • 15-03-1910
  • Floß (DE)
  • 16-09-2002
  • Red Hook (US)
  • Artist
  • David Ludwig Bloch is known for his paintings and watercolours revolving around the Holocaust and his exile. With the woodcuts from his time in exile in Shanghai, Bloch created an artistic account of everyday life in the city, while harvesting the simplicity of form and colour of the medium.

    Word Count: 49

  • David Ludwig Bloch, Rickshaw, book of woodcuts, cover, ink on paper, 20 cm x 14 cm, 1945, Taiping Yinshua Gongsi, Shanghai, David Ludwig Bloch Collection (© Leo Baeck Institute, New York).
  • Bloch's woodcarving from Shanghai captures urban space in a sensitive frame, or declines recurring gestures, poses and movements of its inhabitants. Bloch captures – often humorously – fleeting moments from both the Chinese and émigré communities. Born in 1910, David Ludwig Bloch lost both his parents and his hearing in early childhood. After attending a public and a private school for the deaf in Munich and Jena, he proceeded with an apprenticeship in porcelain painting. He worked as a porcelain painter for a few years before acquiring a scholarship for the Academy of Applied Arts in Munich. Apart from his main courses, namely book art and graphic art, Bloch focused on woodcuts. Because of Bloch’s Jewish background and the increasing persecution of Jews, he was only able to exhibit his work within the travelling exhibition format sponsored by the Bavarian Jewish Cultural Association. In 1938, due to the Aryanisation decrees, Bloch was discharged from his jobs as a graphic and poster artist and soon after expelled from the art academy. Following Kristallnacht, Bloch was arrested and put into so-called “protective custody” in Dachau concentration camp. It took another two years after his release for Bloch to be able to leave Germany. With the support of family members in the United States, he sailed for Shanghai on one of the last ships leaving Venice, on 12 April 1940.
    David Ludwig Bloch would stay in Shanghai until he gained a passage to the United States in 1949. Thanks to the financial assistance he received from his family during his time in Shanghai, he was able to continue working as an artist. His artworks were exhibited by the German émigré architect Richard Paulick at Modern Homes and at the Shanghai Art Gallery, where the Shanghai Cartoonist Club also presented their work. The German-Jewish exile theatre maker and journalist Alfred Dreifuß reported from his atelier and contributed a few reviews to the exile press.
    Bloch published several books of woodcuts in Shanghai, including Rickshaw (1945), Beggars (1943) , Chinese Children (1944), and Yin and Yang (1948). The woodcuts in Rickshaw depict the desperately underprivileged class of rickshaw drivers and their vehicles and capture their precarious status within an urban society already struggling with ineffable poverty – a popular motif propagated by political groups from the right and the left, by colonisers and colonized. The captions were written in Chinese, and in Japanese by the Japanese author and poet Kusano Shinpei (1903–1988), who worked with the Wang Jingwei puppet regime in Nanjing – namely, the Reorganised National Government (RNG) (1940–1945) that collaborated with the Japanese Empire in opposing the Chinese Nationalist Party government under Chiang Kai-shek in Chongqing. In 1941 the RNG was the only Chinese government accepted by Nazi Germany. The German National Socialist ambassador in Nanjing was Ernst Woermann. He replaced Heinrich Georg Stahmer, who would replace Eugen Ott in Tokyo after Ott was forced to step down in connection with the espionage activities of Richard Sorge.
    The David Ludwig Bloch Collection at the Leo Baeck Institute also holds different types of print – among them a RNG propaganda print titled Shanghai Soldier (1942). The print depicts a soldier calling for the fight against the “Anglo-American enemies”. The soldier's affiliation can be identified by the small symbol on his helmet, which shows a sun in a red circle – a symbol used by the National Emblem of the RNG of China. The original symbol would have three colors: a white sun, a blue sky and, a red earth. Since the print is only colored in yellow and red, the ‘blue sky’ remains black. In contrast, the emblem of the National Government of the Republic of China under Chiang Kai-shek consists only of the white sun and the blue sky. The visual language of this print differs greatly from Bloch’s other woodcuts. The black lines are agitated and distorted, the human features crude and exaggerated, the limited and bold colour scheme generates additional tension. The artistic expression of the print can be easily associated with the socially engaged print movement around Lu Xun, with Käthe Kollwitz’s prints or Li Hua’s woodcut China, Roar (1936) whereas it is more difficult to see the originator in Bloch.
    Apart from the woodcuts, Bloch also produced watercolors with landscape motifs featuring his Chinese wife’s home province of Zhejiang. Besides his personal and family connections that reached beyond the migrant circles, Bloch got in touch with local art scene to some extent. Much information is not available, but a few hints show his interest in the Shanghainese contemporary art scene. The David Ludwig Bloch Collection contains an exhibition brochure for the 14th Pictorial Photography Exhibition in Shanghai in 1941, featuring the pioneering artist and photographer, Lang Jingshan (Chin-San Long).
    It also holds some obscure prints from popular Shanghai magazines and journals, such as Van Jan. The periodicals Van Jan, Modern Miscellany, Analects, Modern Sketch, and Modern Film were published by the famous Modern Publications Ltd publishing house owned by the poet Shao Xunmei (1906–1968) and featured many ‘progressive’ and modern artists and writers.
    With the Japanese invasion of Shanghai, the previous cultural life was finally lost. On 18 February 1943, all Jewish immigrants were forced to move to the designated area in the Hongkou district, in effect a ghetto to hold the Jewish community until the end of the war. This meant that Bloch had to leave the French Concession, where he had been living and working and where many other artists and intellectuals had stayed.
    Bloch was an active member of the émigré community’s cultural sector in the so-called Shanghai Ghetto, and was a member of the Association of Jewish Artists and Lovers of Fine Art (ARTA), who held two exhibitions during 1943 and 1945.
    A volume (no. 2 of 10) of his book Yin and Yang dedicated for his ARTA fellow artist Hans Jacoby, as well as a version of the hand coloured scroll like wood cut Chinese Street. Jacoby wrote in his Shanghai records about the two of them painting the same street. Of Jacoby's version only a black and white photograph showing a detail is in the Hans Jacoby Collection at the Leo Baeck Institute New York. Due to his poor health, Jacoby produced his street scene in several sessions over a longer period. He studied the street from an elevated position in a flat of a family friend.
    However, another version of Bloch’s Chinese Street can be seen at the United State Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection.It has a slightly different name and is called Chinese Street Scene–Shanghai. The colour is less faded and the backed silk has a different pattern. Bloch has not only inscribed and imprinted himself in the picture through the signature and his stamps, but also through writing on the shop sign of the leftmost shop. On it you can read “Hand Coloured Wood Cut By D. L. Bloch”.
    A closer look at the shop's offer explains this placement: it deals with wood. Another accessible source of supply for his printing blocks was a coffin maker. He used the production residues of the particularly hard wood of the box tree. Perhaps also therefore the Wing Hon Coffin Co workshop and ice cream seller finds a place in his book Yin and Yang.
    Another woodcut in which he inscribed himself in a similar way can also be found in the same book. In the throng of house and shop fronts with their countless signs his names are written on a large plaque on the façade of a house, indicating his residence and workshop. If we compare this print with the Chinese Street prints, we notice that this house is located between a pawn shop and a tailor, and also that the street configurations of all the prints show some similarities despite their differences. If you look from the pawn shop to the left side of the picture, you will find a tea shop with the same company name (Shanghai Tea Company) in all the prints. While the Yin and Yang print clearly shows the bend in the street, the scroll-shaped Chinese Street prints only hint at it on the rounded corners of the last shop in the street on the right and left. It seems that through the different formats, different composition modes have been played through. While the long and narrow scroll-like format aims for a more linear composition, the squarer book-page format offers a multiple layered, more crowded, shorter version. Unlike many of his colleagues, Bloch was able to be extremely productive in his time in Shanghai. Much has not yet been researched in this regard, however, and so for the time being it remains the case that Bloch is one of the few artists whose works were and are better known.
    Bloch and his wife were able to leave Shanghai for San Francisco in 1949 and relocated in New York. His arrival was already announced in the newspaper Der Aufbau by the exiled art historian Lothar Brieger(-Wasservogel) two years in advance. Bloch and Brieger met in Shanghai. In the United States, Bloch’s artistic production initially stagnated in some areas as he turned to graphic design to support his family. In the 1970s, Bloch paid a visit to Germany, including Dachau. In a series of acrylic paintings, he created visuals of his memories of the Holocaust. In 2000 the Jewish Museum in Munich held a retrospective of his works.

    Word Count: 1551

  • David Ludwig Bloch, Invitation to Bloch's exhibition of watercolors, linotype, 16.5 x 25 cm, 1941, Shanghai, David Ludwig Bloch Collection (© Leo Baeck Institute, New York).
    David Ludwig Bloch, Shanghai Soldier, woodcut, ink on paper, 53.3 cm x 76.2 cm, 1942, Shanghai, David Ludwig Bloch Collection (© Leo Baeck Institute, New York).
    David Ludwig Bloch, Chinese Street Scene–Shanghai, hand colored woodcut, matted with Chinese silk, Shanghai 1945 (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of David L. Bloch).
    David Ludwig Bloch, Shanghai Street, woodcut, hand tinted, matted with Chinese silk, framed in gilded bamboo, 105 x 27 cm, 1945, Shanghai, David Ludwig Bloch Collection (© Leo Baeck Institute, New York). This print was signed for Hans Jacoby.
    David Ludwig Bloch, Shanghai, Street Scene, watercolor on paper, 39 x 57 cm, 1949, Shanghai, David Ludwig Bloch Collection (© Leo Baeck Institute, New York).
    David Ludwig Bloch, Yin and Yang, book of 48 woodcuts, street scene, ink on paper, 21,1 x 18,4 cm, 1948, Shanghai, David Ludwig Bloch Collection (© Leo Baeck Institute, New York).
    David Ludwig Bloch, Yin and Yang, book of 48 woodcuts, Wing Hon Coffin Co., ink on paper, 21,1 x 18,4 cm, 1948, Shanghai, David Ludwig Bloch Collection (© Leo Baeck Institute, New York).
    David Ludwig Bloch, Yin and Yang, book of 48 woodcuts, Race Course, ink on paper, 21,1 x 18,4 cm, 1948, Shanghai, David Ludwig Bloch Collection (© Leo Baeck Institute, New York). While many of Block's prints show details and small sections of street life, this is one of those that capture a wide urban space from an elevated perspective. This print is reminiscent of those by Emma Bormann.
    Sax-Darnous. "Houang Pao Tch'ô." Revue National Chinoise, vol. 22, no. 156, 1946, pp. 56–57. This article was published on the occasion of Bloch's book Rickshaw.
    Future, vol. 1, no. 12, January 1948, series 5, printed materials, 1939–1988, Future, 1948, John and Harrier Isaack papers (© United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of John and Harriet Isaack). Published by the Shanghai Jewish Youth Community Center. Cover lettering print by John Isaack, cover print by David Ludwig Bloch. Last issue “our magazine has served as a binding link between those of our members who have gone abroad and those who will remain in Shanghai.”
  • Hoster, Barbara and Malek Roman (editors). David Ludwig Bloch: Holzschnitte Shanghai 1940–1949, Steyler, 1997.
    Neugebauer, Rosamunde. Zeichnen im Exil - Zeichen des Exils? Handzeichnung und Druckgraphik deutschsprachiger Emigranten ab 1933. VDG 2003.
    Brieger, Lothar. "David Ludwig Bloch kommt nach USA." Der Aufbau, vol. 13, no. 51, 19 December 1947, p. 11.

    Word Count: 42

  • Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Kunstsammlung David Ludwig Bloch
    Leo Baeck Institute, New York, David Ludwig Bloch Collection

    Word Count: 17

  • Mareike Hetschold
  • Shanghai, China (1940–1949), USA

  • Rue Maresca, French Concession (now Wuyuan Lu, Xuhui Qu); 24/17 Ward Road, Hongkou  (now Changyang Lu, Hongkou Qu), Shanghai (residence and studio)

  • Shanghai
  • Mareike Hetschold. "David Ludwig Bloch." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 14-09-2021.
  • Emma Bormann

    Emma Bormann was a pioneering artist and printmaker. Her oeuvre gives witness to her extensive travels around the globe and to the agility and versatility of her artistic rendering of the urban sites she encountered.

    Word Count: 35

    Association of Jewish Artists and Fine Art Lovers (ARTA)

    Seven Jewish artists living in the so-called Shanghai Ghetto joined together to form an art association in 1943. The founding members were: David Ludwig Bloch, Paul Fischer, Fred Fredden Goldberg, Ernst Handl, Max Heimann, Hans Jacoby and Alfred Mark.

    Word Count: 38

    Modern Homes
    Architecture and Furniture Company

    The three firms The Modern Home, Modern Home and Modern Homes existed from 1931 until 1950. Run by the Paulick brothers together with the Jewish emigrant Luedecke, the firms provided work for many emigrants.

    Word Count: 32

    Hans Jacoby

    Hans Jacoby fled in 1938 to the Netherlands, where he was interned by the Dutch government in Hook of Holland. He was able to leave the camp and arrived, together with his wife Emma Jacoby, in Shanghai in 1940 where he continued to work as an artist.

    Word Count: 45

    Richard Paulick

    After studying with Hans Poelzig, Richard Paulick worked in Walter Gropius’s office and frequented the Bauhaus in Dessau before emigrating to Shanghai in 1933. After his return, he became an influential planner and architect in the GDR, from 1950 until his retirement

    Word Count: 41

    Exhibition of prints by Käthe Kollwitz

    A German woodcut exhibition organised at the Zeitgeist Bookstore presumably took place in June 1931. In June 1932. A further exhibition with more than 200 works by German artists, including works by Käthe Kollwitz and George Grosz, was shown at the Chinese Y.M.C.A.

    Word Count: 44

    Shanghai Life

    Shanghai Life was the first book published by the newly-founded Shanghai Cartoonist Club (March 7, 1942). The club held its first exhibition in June of the same year, at the Shanghai Art Gallery on Nanking Road (now Nanjing Dong Lu).

    Word Count: 38