Josef Herzog (1939–1998) dated the start of his serious work from 1964, when he first began producing watercolors with surreal, clearly outlined planar configurations and ink drawings with labyrinthine “all-over” cellular structures. He remained faithful to the techniques of drawing and watercolor in all his subsequent work. And while he continually changed subjects and atmosphere, the line remained the signature element of his drawings, a variable constant in his oeuvre. Beginning in 1975, his lines broke free from their outlining function to become a means of expression in and of themselves, whether in pencil, oil crayon, pen and ink, or watercolors. Besides a few series that do feature the occasional planar element, Herzog thereafter steadfastly confined himself to exploring the possibilities of purely linear design. The lines differ in character considerably from one series to the next, depending on the format and choice of drawing medium, which take both format and medium on ever-greater importance in the utter absence of identifiable motifs.
Josef Herzog's work has been the subject of a number of reviews since 1971. What’s missing, however, is a current-day look back at his exuberant oeuvre. This monograph of his work from the 1970s on serves to accompany the Herzog retrospective, opening in March 2022 at Kunstmuseum Lucerne – and to fill that gap in the literature.