Our man Hayter was the spiritual epicenter of Atelier 17, which was an important hub for collaboration and experimentation in printmaking. It was his goal that artists would work together toward new discoveries. He downplayed his role as teacher and mentor, although it is clear the workshop’s success owed a tremendous amount to his personal charisma.
When a new artist arrived at the studio Hayter would put them through their paces before allowing them free access to the equipment. One of the first things was to accomplish a plate of burin studies. Given a copper plate, the nouveau was instructed to make marks without regard to a planned image. This was a chance to become familiar with the technique and process. Hayter encouraged students to free their minds of preconceived imagery and just let the burin go where it might until they had become fully comfortable making marks. Because engraving is a difficult means of making an image—one pushes a diamond-shaped tool through the copper or zinc to create divets that will carry ink—it is important that one is at ease with it prior to investing time and energy in a large print.
Hayter, himself, engraved several of these sorts of studies over the course of his career, perhaps in order to go back to basics once in a while. These studies really were supposed to be a freeform exercise tapping into one’s subconscious. He even advocated for creating engraved lines by feel rather than by sight. These ideas can be linked to Hayter’s interest in the surrealist practice of automatic drawing, in which one’s subconscious should be accessed thus producing stronger work.
Hayter was active at the Atelier until the end of his life in 1988, meaning scores of artists can claim some time with the master. One such artist is the master printer James Stroud, whose print shop, Center Street Studio, operates outside of Boston. In between his BFA and his MFA, Stroud studied with Hayter at the Atelier in Paris from 1980 to 1981. In the progressive states (he stopped and printed the plate periodically as he added more and more to the composition), the plate is filled with swirling lines that intersect over geometric forms in an orderly yet chaotic way. Stroud reported coming across the plate in his studio in 2014, many years after he engraved it. For fun, he printed a handful of impressions and liked the result. Knowing about the BMA’s planned Hayter exhibition, Stroud not only donated a 2014 impression of the final state, but also the set of earlier states he’d kept all these years. Jim is a superb printer (and artist) and his shop is worth checking out: http://www.centerstreetstudio.com/.
James Stroud (American, born 1958)
Burin Studies (state 1-14 and final), 1980
Sheet (each): 250 × 205 mm. (9 13/16 × 8 1/16 in.)
Plate (each): 184 × 138 mm. (7 1/4 × 5 7/16 in.)
Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of the Artist, 2016.140.1–14 and 2014.100
Ann's art blog
A small corner of the interwebs to share thoughts on objects I acquired for the Baltimore Museum of Art's collection, research I've done on Stanley William Hayter and Atelier 17, experiments in intaglio printmaking, and the Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair.