Oh my goodness gracious, just as I was finishing up my curator's choice posts from the #WestCoastPrintFair, another fair went live online. The London Original Print Fair offers sixty plus dealers and their inventories of terrific prints. In the face of all those wonderful prints, who am I to not do more posts. This is the first of five posts featuring works from the various dealers at the London fair, which I have never been to. That makes this online version so great. There are so many galleries here that don’t often come to the New York fairs. The dealers range from Old Masters to Contemporary; there is something for everyone.
Please enjoy this first group of offerings from the www.londonoriginalprintfair.com. As was the case last week, these are presented alphabetically by dealer meaning the prints will appear in a rather random order. Today we start with A (Advanced Graphics) and go through C (CG Boerner).
Here is #LondonOriginalPrintFair Curator's Choice, 1/5.
#prints #printmaking #printfair #curatorschoice #contemporaryprintmaking #contemporaryart #woodcut #relief #colorprints #printing #womenartists #collectart #artcollector #supportlivingartists #loveart #masterprinter #art #saga #societyofamericangraphicartists #nonobjectiveart #abstractart #londonoriginalprintfair #royalacademy #ifpda
This post wraps up my picks from the West Coast Print Fair, a new virtual fair that, during the pandemic, compensated for the cancellation of a group of fairs that normally take place in January and February along the West Coast. When I first posted selections from this fair, I promised to articulate what makes a great print. Of course, what makes a great print is in the eye of the beholder. Please know these are my subjective opinions.
The best way I can describe what makes a print great (or a work of art in any media) is to take you inside my mind. Yesterday I laid out the two big concepts: visual impact and emotional impact. There’s a lot contained in both categories. This list of questions helps me think through and assess any work of art.
It’s important to note, however, that a great print does not need to address each and every one of these questions. In fact, I don’t know that such a print exists (I’ll think on that). Here goes.
· Does it elicit any feelings (good or bad)?
· Is it thoughtful? Does it ask more questions than it answers?
· Is it overwrought? Is there unnecessary stuff in it? Could it be said with less?
· Does it have a tight conceptual circle—does the idea translate into a work that expresses the idea clearly and well?
· Does the choice of technique(s) add to its meaning?
· Does it nod to art history in a smart way without being derivative?
· Does it nod to meta? Does it understand itself?
· Does the work take an idea and transform it into a conversation starter?
· Is it by someone other than a white, cis-gender male?
· Does it have visual impact? This does not mean large and colorful and is a truly subjective gut reaction.
· Does it express a great design sensibility?
· Does it have a range of lights and darks, wonderful transparencies, interesting patterns?
· Does it capture atmosphere, reflections, ephemeral things?
· Does it embrace its own delicacy or roughness?
· Is it readable/legible/comprehensible, or utter nonsense?
· Is it more than merely decorative?
· Is it indexical? Is the image of its own making?
· Does it cross disciplines in an interesting/meaningful way?
· Does it tell a great story?
· If I were presenting it to a accessions committee, how much is there to say? Thirty seconds worth or thirty minutes worth?
In a weird turnabout, the emotional aspects are quantifiable--identifying whether the technique adds to the meaning is pretty straight forward. But the visual elements are highly subjective--visual impact is totally in the eye of the beholder. Curious. There is so much more, but I think this is a pretty good start.
I never wanted to do anything else besides create ways to tell interesting stories through great art. I love works that sit at the intersection of new and old, of abstract representation and representational abstraction, of beauty and toughness, of stark crispness, and pure emotion. Have I set too high a bar? Maybe. And this doesn't address my feeling that a work that is appropriate for an institutional collection is not necessarily one I could live with, and vice versa. There is a place for the decorative, after all.
Please enjoy this final group from the westcoastprintfair.com. Remember the randomness derives from the list running alphabetically by dealer. Today we start with Sh (Keith Sheridan) and wrap up with V (The Verne Collection).
Here is #WestCoastPrintFair Curator's Choice, 5/5.
#prints #printmaking #printfair #curatorschoice #contemporaryprintmaking #contemporaryart #woodcut #relief #colorprints #printing #womenartists #collectart #artcollector #supportlivingartists #loveart #masterprinter #art #saga #societyofamericangraphicartists #nonobjectiveart #abstractart #londonoriginalprintfair #royalacademy #ifpda
When I first shared these curator's choice posts on Facebook, I got a comment from a friend asking me to report on what makes a print great. I had yet to formulate a full answer, so I started with this. For me, it comes down to two things: visual impact and emotional impact. Does the work have visual power? Are its formal qualities like composition, execution, technique, top notch? Does the work have emotional power? Does it elicit a feeling, tell a powerful story, make us laugh? Does it have heart—does it reveal something about its maker? Does the formal reflect the emotional and vice versa?
It’s not a science; often it’s a gut feeling. I wrote about it more thoroughly in the fifth of five posts, which you can find on this blog too.
Remember the randomness derives from the list running alphabetically by dealer. Today we start with M (Manneken Press) and go through Sc (Scriptum Inc.).
Here is #WestCoastPrintFair Curator's Choice, 4/5.
#prints #printmaking #printfair #curatorschoice #drawingstoo
Still pondering how to identify what makes a great print (for me, anyway), so stay tuned for that missive.
When I initially posted these selections on Facebook, I got a disgruntled comment about the presence of drawings among my selections. Hence my reminder about finding them among the group.
Regarding these West Coast Print Fair posts, please know that selections are made from what the dealers are offering. Drawings are on the table, as are paintings. Feel free to visit the fair’s web site: westcoastprintfair.com.
And please remember the randomness comes from my ordering the selections alphabetically by dealer. Today we’re starting with G (Roger Genser) and going through L (Josef Lebovic).
Here is #WestCoastPrintFair Curator's Choice, 3/5.
#prints #printmaking #printfair #curatorschoice #drawingstoo
After yesterday’s post, my friend and colleague Laura Albans challenged me to articulate what I look for in a great print. I’ve said it in drips and drabs throughout these Quarantine posts, but I will attempt to gather my thoughts in one place and post them later this week.
I’ve always had a problem remembering that not everyone thinks like I do, and it’s gotten me in trouble more than a few times. My belief in and passion about great printmaking seems so clear and obvious to me as to hardly need explanation. But, prints are tough for the layperson; the many barriers to entry mean one must really want in. I have described myself as a print evangelist numerous times: if I could get a person’s attention long enough to show prints and talk about them I could bring folks into the fold. (Good lord, “I’ll get you, my pretty” just rolled through my head!) I consider this week’s print-fair posts an amuse bouche: something to whet the appetite.
While I attempt to articulate more clearly why I love prints and what makes one great, please enjoy day two of my picks from the West Coast Print Fair. (And yes, there are drawings mixed in!)
Here is #WestCoastPrintFair Curator's Choice, 2/5.
#prints #printmaking #printfair #curatorschoice #contemporaryprintmaking #contemporaryart #woodcut #relief #colorprints #printing #womenartists #collectart #artcollector #supportlivingartists #loveart #masterprinter #art #saga #societyofamericangraphicartists #nonobjectiveart #abstractart #londonoriginalprintfair #royalacademy #ifpda #etching #engraving #monotype #screenprint #lithograph #printevangelist #baltimorecontemporaryprintfair
If you’ve been following along, you know that nothing makes me happier than going to print fairs. Obviously the global pandemic has limited all sorts of things, including a spate of fairs that occur at this time of year from Portland down to San Diego. Instead, a new online fair has been born, which went live last Friday and which will be up until February 8. If you’ve gone to the site, you’ll know it’s a cornucopia of wonderful offerings. Thanks to everyone who pulled it together—no small feat—and a special shout out to my friend and colleague #MaryWeaverChapin, curator at the #PortlandArtMuseum. Nicely done, Mary.
As I did with New York Print Week last fall, this week I’ll post some “Curator’s Choice” goodies. I tried to limit myself to two objects per dealer and ended up with one hundred prints, drawings, and a painting. For sanity’s sake, I’ll post them in groups this week, say twenty per day. Please know they are organized alphabetically by dealer, which makes for a super random order.
Today’s selections are from galleries starting with the letter A. Know that one portfolio, #PercySmith’s six etchings of World War I imagery, stunned me and I’ve included all six prints.
For ease, I've also included the prices, some of which may surprise you. See if anything piques your interest, then reach out to the dealer and make a deal.
And now, presenting #WestCoastPrintFair Curator's Choice, 1/5.
#prints #printmaking #printfair
One of the super helpful things about reproductive prints is the practice of including the “address” in which the names of the engraver, the artist of the original composition, the publisher, and maybe the benefactor appear along the bottom of the image. This convention has helped every print-room cataloguer, connoisseur, dealer, collector, scholar, and curator make sense of the thousands and thousands of Old Master prints out there in the world.
The nomenclature can be a bit confusing and some of the abbreviations mean the same things, but here are some terms frequently used in the address:
Cael., caelavit: Engraved by
Cum privilegio: Privilege to publish from some authority
Del., delt., delin., delineavit: Drawn by
Disig., designavit: Designed by
Divulg., divulgavit: Published by
Eng., engd.: Engraved by
Exc., excud., excudit: Printed by or published by
F., fac., fec., fect., fecit, faciebat: Made by
Imp., Impressit: Printed by
Inc,. incidit, incidebat: Incised or engraved by
Inv., invenit, inventor: Designed by or originally drawn by
Lith., litho., lithog.: Lithographed by
Pins., pinxit: Painted by
Scrip., scripsit: Text engraved by
Sc., sculp., sculpt., sculpsit: Image engraved by
In today’s example we have inventor (artist of the original composition), sculpsit (the printmaker/engraver), and excudit (the publisher).
Making all these intricacies clear for today’s audiences is challenging. Our convention is to use the term “after” to indicate that X is the artist of the print, which is reproducing (or after) Y’s composition. Label information (we call it the tombstone information) usually omits the publisher, perhaps because it’s confusing enough as it is.
In a previous post, we were introduced to Geertruydt Roghman, a printmaker best known for her series of five prints of women engaged in daily tasks. Remember, these were her own compositions. She also made reproductive prints such as The Massacre of the Innocents, which is a great example of the address helping us understand the sequence of works.
So, Roghman made an engraving of The Massacre of the Innocents after a print by Aegidius Sadeler. Sadleler’s print reproduced the painting by Jacopo Tintoretto, which is in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice. So Roghman’s print is after Sadeler’s print, which is after Tintoretto’s painting. Don’t you love a twist and a turn?
The subject is the Massacre of the Innocents, the biblical story of Herod who set out to kill every infant boy in Bethlehem knowing one of them would become king of the Jews. The passage is in Matthew (2:16): Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men.
It's a gruesome story and the image is relentless in its goriness and depravity. To increase the painting’s impact, there is some thought that Tintoretto would have added a plaster forearm to the bottom edge of the canvas where the woman’s arm is cut off—yes, a three-dimensional appendage. Apparently, that was a thing artists would do to enliven their paintings back then. Interestingly, the woman's arm is tucked under her in both of the prints.
So how did Sadeler, a Netherlandish artist, make his copy? Did he travel to Venice to draw from the painting at the Scuola or was a drawing of it sent to him? Perhaps Sadeler made his version after yet another print of Tintoretto’s painting. But Sadeler’s version was published after Tintoretto’s death, meaning it couldn’t have been commissioned by Tintoretto to popularize the composition. Curious.
We don’t know why Roghman made her version either, which is printed in reverse of both the Sadeler print and the Tintoretto painting. Does that suggest it was an exercise for practice? Was it sold in large numbers? It’s not a great and accurate reproduction if it’s backwards, right? What’s more, why make it so long after both Tintoretto and Sadeler were dead? Intriguing.
#printidentification #publishersaddress #sculpsit #oldmasterprints #printsafterprints #Tintoretto #sadeler #roghman #delineavit #excudit
During History of Prints class, it’s impossible to show everything. After each class, Tru Ludwig and I would reassess our lists and see where we could make cuts in the early periods to make room for the contemporary works at the end that the museum had recently acquired. For a while we had early Italian female printmaker Diana Scultori as the first woman to appear on the chronological list, but she got bumped off at some point (sorry Diana). If I recall correctly, the BMA’s prints by her were not great representations of her work. So, the first woman on the list became Geertruydt Roghman (Dutch, 1625–1657), an artist from an extensive artist family in Amsterdam.
Geertruydt’s father, Hendrik Lambertsz. Roghman (1602–before 1657), was an engraver. Her mother Maritje’s father was Jacob Savery II (1593–c. 1627), a painter and etcher. Her great uncle was the Flemish painter and printmaker Roelant Savery (1576–1639), whose patron was Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor (1552–1612). Geertruydt’s brother Roelant (1627–1692) and sister Magdalena (1637–after 1669) were also artists and the three siblings worked with their father. As we’ve seen in our discussions of Diana Scultori and Elisabetta Sirani (see recent posts), women printmakers were frequently members of a larger artist family. Otherwise, it must have been difficult to access the world of print publishing.
Roghman mostly made reproductive prints—meaning prints reproducing the compositions of other works, which can be paintings or even other prints. Her earliest known work is a portrait engraving of her great uncle Roelant, after a painting by Paulus Moreelse (1571–1638). With her brother Roelant, she made fourteen landscape etchings after his drawings. They were in their early twenties when they made these.
But, Roghman is best known and celebrated for a set of five prints that are her own designs (not after some other artist’s paintings or prints) that show women engaged in daily household tasks. They are remarkable in their originality and banality. In four of them an anonymous woman is going about her day: ruffling some fabric, spinning yarn, cooking, cleaning cookware. In the fifth print, two women are sewing. Interestingly, in two of the prints, lone figures have their backs turned to the viewer.
So why images of daily life rather than moralizing or religious lessons, you ask? The simple answer is that in Northern Europe (Germany, Holland, Flanders), an anti-Catholic movement was born in the sixteenth century. The Protestant movement (protest—get it?) prescribed that people did not need the Church as intercessor but they should instead form a more direct and personal relationship with God. This meant no images in churches, no religious paintings, no religious prints. (It’s more complicated than that, but you get the picture.) This anti-religious-imagery trend marked the rise of other subjects in art: portraits, still lifes, landscapes, scenes of daily life. With Roghman’s series of women doing daily tasks, we get even more of a sense of the reality of women’s daily lives. She was one of the few seventeenth-century Dutch artists to focus on ordinary women.
As the Metropolitan Museum’s web site points out: “In comparing Roghman's images of household servants with those of [Gerrit] Dou and [Johannes] Vermeer, it is tempting to distinguish male and female points of view (as some critics have rather emphatically). Whatever the interpretation, it is important to bear in mind that Roghman's prints were intended for a broad art market, whereas Dou's famously expensive paintings (as opposed to the later prints after them) and The Milkmaid by Vermeer were made with individual collectors in mind.”
Roghman’s prints were an abrupt departure from the religious imagery we had been covering in class up to that point. The figures are so ordinary that their meaning and importance was lost on the students. Only with context did they come to life. Of course, Tru was there to guide us every step of the way.
“Why are there no great women artists?” was the main question tackled by Linda Nochlin in a 1971 essay that changed art history forever. In it, Nochlin didn’t dive into the lives of specific women, rather, she critiqued the systems, schools, and other institutions that were designed to discriminate against women. It was the beginning of a conversation that endures.
Yes, there are few female printmakers recorded in the early history of Western printmaking. But does it follow that there aren’t any or is it that we just don’t know who they are?
Today, please meet Elisabetta Sirani (Italian, 1638–1665), who produced an astonishing two hundred paintings and fifteen etchings before she died at the young age of twenty-seven. Born in Bologna, Sirani was the daughter of Giovanni Andrea Sirani, who was principal assistant to the painter Guido Reni. When her father became ill, Sirani ran the print publishing business supporting the whole family. Luckily for future historians, she was mentored by one Carlo Malvasia, who became her biographer. She was painting professionally by the age of seventeen and she completed commissions for private patrons (usually small-scale devotional paintings) as well as for aristocratic patrons like Grand Duke Cosimo III de' Medici (these were large-scale religious and historical works).
Sirani’s reputation for rapidly painting beautiful canvases drew skepticism as patrons believed her father must be helping her with production. Sirani countered these rumors by opening her studio to visitors to show that she alone was completing the paintings. (One can imagine a society’s shock that such a young artist could be so prolific, especially a female one. And yet, I’m rolling my eyes at their disbelief.)
Apparently, Sirani taught more than a dozen young women who went on to become professional artists themselves (aside from her two sisters, I haven’t found a comprehensive list so far). All before age twenty-seven—impressive, indeed. Her touch reminds me of the prints of father and son Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo. Interestingly, G.B. was born in 1696, thirty years after Sirani died. Wonder if he knew her work somehow?
All these prints are in the British Museum, which has an astonishingly deep collection of prints and drawings. (Check out each print’s accession number and note the year of acquisition, 1799. American collections were not even a spark in a collector’s eye). These works were acquired as part of the bequest of Clayton Mordaunt Cracherode (British, 1730–1799), a collector of books, drawings, prints, shells, and minerals (a classic eighteenth-century student of the Enlightenment). He was a trustee of the British Museum beginning in 1784, and upon his death in April 1799, his holdings entered the museum’s collection.
The Cracherode bequest included forty-five hundred books, many of which are important examples of early printing, and the portfolios of prints included magnificent engravings by Dürer and etchings by Rembrandt and form the basis of the museum’s print collection. By the way, the British Museum’s works on paper collection includes 50,000 drawings and more than two million prints. And I thought 65,000 pieces of paper was a lot to wrangle.
In recognition of the one hundredth anniversary of the ratification of the nineteenth amendment granting women the right to vote, the BMA has just concluded its year of the woman during which it exhibited and acquired only work by female artists. I applaud the effort and am happy to see they have shown some terrific artists during 2020. It is pretty easy in contemporary art to find excellent female artists. Despite the fact that women still account for less than 50% of exhibitions across US museums, the problem is at least recognized. It is much harder to find huge numbers of women working in the early centuries of Western art—say, fourteenth through eighteenth centuries. In the early history of prints, when women artists are noted, most are members of a print and publishing family or are amateur artists. Remember, women were barred from art schools and institutions and there was a serious barrier to entry on multiple fronts. More research is emerging about these should-be-better-known artists. But it takes time and a lot of work.
In the next few posts I want to introduce you to a few early female printmakers. Today, please meet Diana Scultori (Italian, 1536–1588).
Part of the reason we know about Scultori’s work at all is that she signed her prints, which she did from her earliest known composition, The Continence of Scipio, 1542, to her last. The existence of this first dated print has thrown into question her birth date, which is usually noted as 1536. A birth date in the late 1520s is more likely given the math--most of us would agree that accomplishing an engraving at age six is unlikely, no matter how good she was.
Scultori was one of four children of Giovanni Battista Scultori, who lived and operated a print workshop in Mantua. She learned printmaking in her father’s studio and executed a number of prints reproducing the compositions of several artists including Giulio Romano, who was a friend and neighbor. Romano was a pupil of Raphael and was the official artist of Duke Federico Gonzaga of Mantua. Scultori's prints helped spread Romano's renown far and wide.
Scultori received her first public recognition as an engraver in Giorgio Vasari's second edition of Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori (The Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects) in 1568, an early codification of Italian art history. In it Vasari talks about meeting the artist and her father on a trip to Mantua: "To Giovanbattista Mantovano, an engraver of prints and an excellent sculptor, whom we have spoken of, in the Vita of Giulio Romano and that of Marcantonio Bolognese, two sons were born, who engrave prints on copper divinely; and what is more wondrous, a daughter named Diana, who also engraves very well, which is a wondrous thing: and I who saw her, a very young and gracious young girl, and her works which are very beautiful, was astounded." This is a huge deal.
Scultori engraved some sixty-two prints (that we know of), mainly of religious and mythological subjects. With her architect husband, Francesco Capriani da Volterra, she moved to Rome in 1575, where she received a Papal Privilege to make and market her own work. From the middle of the sixteenth century print publishers applied for privileges for specific prints or for all of their publications, which gave a legal base for prosecution in case of breach of the privilege. It must have been remarkable for the Pope to give Scultori the privilege on all her prints, which she signed “Diana” or “Diana Mantuana” (indicating she hailed from Mantua). Later, she married another architect, Giulio Pelosi, after her first husband died in 1594. She herself died in 1612.
I imagine we would know absolutely nothing about her if she had not insisted on signing her works. Did she understand that any unsigned work would be assumed to be by a man? I am guessing she did, and that that confidence was encouraged by her father and brothers in the family printshop. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in that workshop.
Don’t miss how she articulate those clouds in the last detail: stylized and hilarious, in the best way.
Diana Scultori (Italian, 1536–1588), after Giulio Romano (Italian, c. 1499–1546). The archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael adoring the Virgin and Child who occur above seated on a cloud, 1547–1612. Engraving. Sheet (trimmed to platemark): 340 x 270 mm. British Museum: Bequest of Sir Hans Sloane, 1799, V,8.12.
[DETAIL] Diana Scultori (Italian, 1536–1588), after Giulio Romano (Italian, c. 1499–1546). The archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael adoring the Virgin and Child who occur above seated on a cloud, 1547–1612. Engraving. Sheet (trimmed to platemark): 340 x 270 mm. British Museum: Bequest of Sir Hans Sloane, 1799, V,8.12.
When I started in the print department in fall 2005, I got a request to host a Maryland Institute College of Art History of Prints (HoP) class for multiple visits. The professor had taught the class before and had an already established lists of objects. Even being new to the task, I was surprised to realize the breadth of the plan. For each of six visits we pulled out between eighty and one hundred prints starting with Master ES and ending with yesterday. While those classes were a lot of work, they were so rewarding. The immense impact of HoP on hundreds of young artists is due solely to professor Tru Ludwig who is not only a gifted art historian, but also is a practicing printmaker with some badass technical chops. We clicked from the start and taught HoP together thirteen times between 2005 and 2017. In my time in the print room, no other teachers made as powerful a use of the collection.
I had never taken a history of prints class (exactly how many colleges offer one?), and with Tru, I had a front row seat to the best teaching I’d ever seen. What does it take to engage twenty-five art students, some of whom think they don’t need to learn anything? It takes a person whose passion is contagious and whose performance is energetic, full of prime historical and technical information, and who encourages students to get up close and personal with the prints themselves. Print nerds know that looking at prints out of their frames is really the only way to get close enough to see what is going on in line quality, tiny details, and textures. The combination of excellent teaching and in-person contact with actual objects is just the best.
Tru shines when he starts talking about a time period, movement, or particular artist and gets on a roll. Every semester there was at least one spiel that gave me goosebumps or got me teary-eyed, and more than one that made everyone laugh. After Dürer, Rembrandt, Goya, and everyone in between, and having seen hundreds of prints, we’d finally get to the late-nineteenth century. Most of the material from this period is focused on France, but a sudden detour to Germany introduced Max Klinger and his 1881 portfolio, A Glove (Ein Handschuh), to the class.
Klinger (1857–1920) was a bit of an outsider. He created visions from his mind’s eye that presaged twentieth-century thinking about the subconscious and dreams before it was a thing. His work influenced surrealist artists like Salvador Dalí and Giorgio de Chirico, as well as Käthe Kollwitz and Edvard Munch.
Of the thirteen portfolios Klinger published during his lifetime, his first is a favorite. It is based on a set of drawings, Fantasies on a Found Glove (Phantasien über einen gefundenen Handschuh), which was exhibited in 1878 at the Berlin Royal Academy of the Arts' annual exhibition. (He was twenty-one years old.) Encouraged by art dealer and engraver Hermann Sagert, Klinger published the set of etchings as a portfolio two years later in 1881.
A Glove, Opus VI (Ein Handschuh, Opus VI) features ten etchings and a title page that follows a dream/nightmare sequence of a lost ladies’ glove. First picked up at a skating rink, it becomes an obsession for the central character (Klinger himself) and haunts his waking and sleeping moments. The sexual connotations of such an object are obvious, and Tru’s description had all of us tittering with laughter. The portfolio was always a hit with the class.
MoMA’s Heather Hess sums up the portfolio’s narrative nicely: “Klinger meticulously depicts the real and the imaginary with hallucinatory clarity, casting himself as protagonist. At a skating rink in Berlin, Klinger is seen eyeing a beautiful young woman; he swoops down to retrieve her dropped glove. This intimate and potently sexualized object triggers a series of elaborate visions of longing and loss, conveyed through dreamlike distortions of scale and jarring juxtapositions. As desire threatens to engulf Klinger, the fetishized glove takes on a life of its own. It assumes the attributes of Venus, born of sea foam and driving a shell chariot. An outsize version torments him in his sleep, recalling Francisco de Goya's prints. Klinger's grasp on the glove remains elusive, and a fantastic creature finally spirits the object away.” (https://www.moma.org/s/ge/collection_ge/object/object_objid-64063.html)
The portfolio’s popularity is clear; after the first publication, it was issued in several subsequent editions, including one posthumously (meaning after Klinger’s death). This is the publication sequence: the first edition was published in 1881 in an edition of twenty-five; a second edition was published a year later as Paraphrase über den Fund eines Handschuhs in an unknown quantity; both a third (1883) and fourth (1892) edition were published in an unknown quantity; the fifth edition was posthumously published in 1924, as Paraphrase über den Fund eines Handschuhs by Verlag von Gertrud Hartmann-Klinger in an edition of approximately one hundred. Knowing all this becomes important when it comes to value and marketability. Obviously, it is preferable to have the earliest set. But would I buy a posthumous set for myself if I came across one? Hell yes.
It's such an odd, fantastical sequence, and is all the more remarkable because it dates to the early 1880s, comes out of Germany, and is executed by a twenty-something artist. It makes me wonder about the exact nature of creativity and imagination. I mean, from whence do these kinds of visions come? And who is bold enough to make them into a multiple, collectible set of gorgeous etchings?
Tru’s presentation of Ein Handschuh was a highlight every semester. I’d wager that former students (we call them HoPsters) would agree that it was indeed memorable. Any HoPster alums want to chime in?
The museum is fortunate to have two impressions of Félix Bracquemond’s gorgeous portrait of Edmond de Goncourt (one first state and one eighth/final state), and the pair was a permanent fixture on lists for classes studying prints or drawings. Why did I pull the two out constantly? For one thing, it is a kitchen sink etching full of a variety of mark making. Two, having an early state means you can see how and where he started and compare it to the final state. Three, it is a remarkably beautiful and sensitive portrayal of the artist's friend.
For me, however, the easy sell is the smoke emanating from the cigarette Goncourt holds. I mean, have you ever? In fact it was the smoke in this print that made me start a subject list of all sorts of images. Whenever I was box surfing, I would note works that featured any number of objects or themes: clouds, eyeglasses, monkeys, night scenes, games, sports, city, country, four seasons, seven deadly sins, you get the picture. Trying to draw smoke seems to me to be almost as difficult as portraying water in a vase (see my earlier post about Manet’s Lilacs in a Vase). Bracquemond’s elegant spiral of smoke wafts up from the butt with such elegance. (Please don’t mistake this for an advertisement for smoking—it isn’t.)
Bracquemond enjoyed notoriety and success as a printmaker by the time he started work on the etched portrait of Edmond de Goncourt. He had had prints in multiple Salon exhibitions in Paris and his work was included in the first Impressionist show in 1874. He also created designs for dinnerware, was fascinated by Japonisme, and taught etching to many artists including Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet, Théodore Rousseau, Edgar Degas, and Henri Fantin-Latour.
Bracquemond was a key figure in the etching revival of the 1850s and 1860s in France. Along with the publisher Alfred Cadart and the printer Auguste Delâtre, he founded La Société des Aquafortistes in 1862. The Société published a monthly portfolio of prints over its five-year existence, including work by the most progressive artists of the time: Edouard Manet, Fantin-Latour, Charles Meryon, James McNeil Whistler, and Bracquemond himself. To say he was in the mix would be an understatement. He made over 900 prints during his lifetime, two favorites of which are worth looking up: Le haut d’un battant de porte (Birds Nailed to a Barn Door), 1852; and The Large Rabbit, 1891.
But for me, his Portrait of Edmond de Goncourt, 1881–82, is the pinnacle of his oeuvre. In the portrait, Goncourt is shown surrounded by objects that tell us about him. The most meaningful, perhaps, is the portfolio of prints by his younger brother, Jules de Goncourt, seen at lower right. Jules was an amateur printmaker, but more importantly, together the brothers produced a literary journal that is revered today. It is at once a chronicle of an era, an intimate glimpse into their lives, and the purest expression of a burgeoning modern sensibility preoccupied with sex, art, celebrity, and self-exposure. The Goncourts were known to visit everything from slums and brothels to balls and imperial receptions; they argued about art and politics and were merciless gossips discussing news with and about writers Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, and Emile Zola, as well as artists Edgar Degas, Auguste Rodin, and many others. When Jules (who was ten years younger) suffered a painful and slow death at age thirty-nine from syphilis in 1871, Edmond was at his side. The portfolio in the portrait is a nod to Jules as a beloved brother and close collaborator.
Other objects include, at upper left, a relief by the French sculptor Clodion of a frolicking nymph and satyr (mythical woodland creatures) recalling eighteenth-century French art, about which Goncourt was passionate. Below the relief is a bronze ornament with a bird and tassels, which represents Goncourt’s collection of fifteen hundred Japanese objects. On the right is a large vase reflected in a mirror. Apparently, Goncourt’s writing about art often evoked physical sensations such as touch and smell, which Bracquemond suggests with objects, rich fabrics, and that burning cigarette.
Bracquemond and Goncourt were friends, which I believe is apparent in the portrait’s attention to detail. It is also one of the largest plates Bracquemond ever worked on, adding to its significance. As an artist paying attention to the new conception of the limited edition, with special proofs, papers, etc., Bracquemond took full advantage. As far as we know, there are probably twenty impressions of state I, six impressions of states II–VII, and 175 impressions of state VIII (twenty-five on vellum and 150 on Japan paper).
The images below are of several different impressions of the print, including details of a first state impression from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum, a final state impression from the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, along with the drawing of the same subject in the collection of the Louvre. Other details come from a variety of collections. Please know these choices are based on the resolution of the online images. (The online images of the Baltimore Museum of Art's impressions are not high enough resolution to reproduce here.) As always, collections are noted in the captions.
As a curator and self-described print evangelist, I’ve always found printmaking is a tough sell to non-print people. It requires such a steep learning curve in knowledge, but once people are over the peak, usually they are in. At the museum, I spent a lot of time explaining techniques, like the differences between how etched and engraved lines appear. I didn’t mind repeating my spiel (hence the print-evangelist moniker), but the truth is, it just takes a lot of looking. Easy to do when you can box surf in the vault, not so easy if you only look at prints occasionally.
To help our audience really learn how to feel confident looking at prints, I always thought we should offer a printmaking 101 course—but such a thing would be impossible given time and resources. In my mind the solution was to mount exhibitions featuring each technique’s greatest hits as well as works by unsung heroes. Since I have a serious soft spot for intaglio techniques (etching, engraving, softground, aquatint, etc), I would start the exhibition series there. (Perhaps starting with relief makes more sense historically, but hey, these are my fantasy shows.) Stars of the intaglio exhibition would be Rembrandt, Callot, Goya, Canaletto, Piranesi, Whistler, Meryon, Braquemond, Cassatt, Arms, Picasso, Kollwitz, Milton, and today’s subject, Félix-Hilaire Buhot, who made incredible etchings from 1873 to 1892.
Buhot (pronounced in French as Boo-oh; in English sometimes as Boo-Ho) was born in Normandy and was, sadly, orphaned at age seven. Somehow, he made his way to Paris and made a living as a commercial artist. He began making prints in 1873, and only a year later was singled out by Philippe Burty, a prominent critic who admired Buhot’s belles épreuves (beautiful proofs). The etching revival of the 1860s was already underway when Burty put forward the idea of special proofs to denote rare, superbly inked impressions printed by the artist himself. Burty created a market for prints by promoting the idea of the limited edition (in which an artist sets a certain number of prints to be editioned, and no more), special proofs on colored papers, special stamps, and marginalia. Not coincidentally, central to the etching revival was the concept of the peintre-graveur (painter-etcher), as etching provided a means for a more autographic mark and an involvement with inking and printing, as opposed to the commercial lithography and reproductive engraving trades popular at the time.
Buhot distinguished himself from other artists with his use of marges symphoniques (symphonic margins), also called marginalia or remarques. Margins outside of the main image area are filled with quirky doodles, sort of like notes in a sketchbook, which often offer a different take on the main subject. Buhot also experimented with inking and papers—some of my favorites include his use of an amazing blue ink. In fact, his experimentation meant that almost no etchings of the same image are like any of the other impressions. Hence the term painter-etcher.
Buhot portrayed both ends of the daily life spectrum, from celebrations of national holidays in National Holiday on the Boulevard de Clichy, 1879, to the disastrous effects of winter later that same year in Winter in Paris. The beauty of the latter belies the action. In December 1879, Paris was in a deep freeze and suffering greatly. In his print, it takes us a minute to notice the dogs fighting over scraps in the foreground of the main image, as well as the frozen bodies of horses found along the left side.
Buhot enjoyed popularity in his lifetime in France and in America. His prints were collected by two major American print collectors: Samuel P. Avery, whose collection is at the New York Public Library, and George A. Lucas, whose collection is at the Baltimore Museum of Art. In subsequent years, the National Gallery of Art has also assembled a substantial collection, including many drawings.
I love Buhot’s compositions, use of aquatint, spontaneous-looking doodles in the margins, and painterly application of inks that enhance the portrayal of various weather effects. In the study room we would have called them scrumpy. No surprise, his prints were favorites with visiting students. I’m in. Are you?
One of the best parts about working with a large print collection is solander-box surfing. Once the print originally sought is found, the rest of the prints in the box are there to peruse. Many a wonderful discovery is made this way.
Solander-box surfing at the National Gallery is how I first discovered Asa Cheffetz (I worked there in the 1990s). I tripped over his beautiful wood engraving, Reflections in Crystal, 1946, which was created as a publication for the Woodcut Society. In fact, it was still in its Woodcut Society folder when I came across it. The folder included extensive statements by John Taylor Arms, who wrote, “Cheffetz’s prints evince a happy union of technical skill with poetry and nobility of feeling,” and Cheffetz himself. I was fascinated by how the artist captured the reflections in crystal in black and white. Struck by its graphic quality and beauty, I looked to see what other examples of Cheffetz’s wood engravings were in the box.
The Woodcut Society was one of a startling number of print-related publishers, associations, societies, and clubs formed in the 1930s. Their history is a whole other topic; for now, know the Woodcut Society published two of Cheffetz’s wood engravings.
[The Woodcut Society is fascinating. Cori Sherman North describes it thusly: “Stemming from an interest in collecting hand-printed bookplates, in 1932 Kansas City grain merchant Alfred Fowler (1889–1959) established the Woodcut Society with the sole aim of increasing ‘interest in fine woodcuts as a medium of artistic expression.’ He planned to commission and publish two new woodcut prints each year, proposing a subscription-based organization limited to 200 members who, for $10 in dues per year, would receive the woodcuts mounted in a presentation folder printed by the Torch Press of Cedar Rapids. As the Woodcut Society was primarily geared toward print collectors, and ‘intended to be savored in the intimate setting of one’s private library,’ the folders each opened to the print facing a page essay by a noted print authority or penned by the artist.”]
In addition to Reflections in Crystal, Cheffetz’s subjects range from bucolic New England landscapes of barns in snow and in the heat of summer to working fishing vessels tied to piers. He also created two favorite urban images, one of rooftops in snow and the other of laundry lines behind city tenements. The American scene was precious to him. He wrote: “I love this fertile land, and the simple way of life of its rugged people. I love the very temperament of the land in all its moods.” His wood engravings were always popular with students in the BMA’s study room. They are simple yet so effective and fine.
As you scroll through the images, don’t miss the calendar from c. 1934. Twelve prints are mounted in a folder, which is hand notated by Cheffetz. When opened it always surprises students that they are all separate, tiny prints, and not twelve prints on one sheet. Each month is represented by a separate print, each of them is ¾ x 1 inch. Yes, you read that right, less than one inch square. The calendar always sets mouths agape.
I always feel I should include some information on the artist, so here you go. Cheffetz was born in Buffalo, NY, and ended up living in Springfield, Massachusetts, for most of his adult life. He studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and subsequently at the National Academy of Design in New York. Following serving in the Navy during World War I, he worked in what he called the “routine of business” (read, not art) until he could devote himself to art full time after 1927. New England’s landscapes continually featured in his work. He wrote: “The passion for the New England scene remains undiminished to this day. I have since continued to cut wood, and continue to be fascinated by the spell of my own countryside.”
He is less well known than many, but I think he deserves a look. I love his sensibility, the graphic quality of his compositions, the delicacy of the cuts, the way he captured atmosphere and weather. Oh, and those reflections. See if you agree.
I’ve loved Martin Lewis’ etchings and drypoints of urban and rural scenes from the 1920s and 1930s since I tripped over an impression of Shadow Dance in a solander box at the museum. That print’s light, the shadows, the translucency of the dresses, and the composition are soooo good. And that’s a self-portrait—the man on the left is Lewis himself. His prints would feature prominently in my imagined exhibition City/Country.
Maybe I’m drawn to Lewis’ work because of my time in New York as a young professional. I mean, I never walked to the Whitney in heels and a flapper dress with a cloche hat, but I did hoof it across town in a suit and white sneakers, work shoes tucked in my oversized purse. Of course, I was blasting some good eighties ballads on my Walkman—Paul Young, anyone? I was young and had recently discovered that I wanted nothing else than to be a curator. I was full of hope for my future and was thrilled to be living in the Big Apple.
Living in New York, with its water towers, brownstones, skyscrapers, parks, yellow cabs, and subways made me appreciate the urbanism popularized by Alfred Stieglitz and his stable of early-twentieth-century artists. The Whitney’s permanent collection cemented my love for them. There were gorgeous paintings hanging on the third floor of the Whitney’s Breuer building including canvases by Georgia O’Keeffe, Joseph Stella, Charles Sheeler, and my two first loves, Charles Demuth and Edward Hopper. Demuth’s My Egypt and Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning were pilgrimage stops for me when I wandered the galleries before opening.
Lewis may not be as well-known as other artists working in New York in the first half of the century, but his prints are worth a look. Plus, he is credited for introducing Hopper to printmaking—the two remained lifelong friends. Both these artists’ print prices are sky high now, and it always makes me laugh when these prints have original prices scrawled on them: $25 or even $15 (see Derricks at Night--$25 is marked at lower right). Wouldn’t it have been nice to reward the artists with today’s prices during their lifetimes?
Lewis was born in 1881 in Victoria, Australia. As a youth, Lewis worked on cattle ranches in the Australian Outback, in logging and mining camps, and as a sailor. In 1898, he moved to Sydney and studied art for two years (his only formal training). It is unclear if he learned printmaking in Sydney, although we do know a local radical paper, The Bulletin, published two of his drawings.
In 1900, Lewis arrived in San Francisco and made his way to New York shortly thereafter. Like many other artists, Lewis made his living as a commercial artist. He produced his first etching in 1915 and soon taught Hopper how to make them. In 1920, Lewis used his entire savings to travel to Japan to study and make art. After two years there, he returned New York and resumed his commercial art career, while also making his own paintings and prints. From 1944–1952 Lewis taught a graphics course at the Art Students League.
Over thirty years, Lewis made some 145 drypoints and etchings. His prints, like Shadow Dance and Stoops in Snow, were admired during the 1930s for their realistic portrayal of daily life. (Remember there was still a divide between artists who worked in an “American style” versus European Modernism.) Call me a fan. I love Lewis’ compositions, the range of lights and darks, the transparencies, the “alone in a crowd”-ness of them. If only we could afford them. See what you think.
When I started working for Full Circle, I was curious to see what kinds of art was in its stable, and what I could do to bring any of it to light for you. One painting, which is hanging in Catalyst Contemporary’s “backroom” among other represented artists’ works, I just love. It’s by Damon Arhos and it’s a self-portrait. I’ve always been fascinated by self-portraits and why they are rife throughout art. Let’s look back for a minute before we get to Arhos’ painting.
In Western art the first self-portrait is believed to be by Jan van Eyck in 1466. Why then; why him? Likely it has to do with the development of clear, useful mirrors. Until then, there was no way to see ourselves with any accuracy. Those first mirrors must have surprised and delighted.
Consider, too, that historically there had been little distinction between individual artists and artisan-craftsmen of guilds, so no cause for taking one’s own likeness. Individualism was not a thing yet. When and who decided that an artist’s work was the product of immense and unusual talent worthy of a signature and individual notice? I’m sure there are other examples, but my printmaking mind goes directly to our old friend Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) since he was a master of self-promotion and marketing. He drew his first self-portrait at age 13—but it is a drawing and its circulation was limited. Hell, he wasn’t even a professional artist at that age. But I’ve always been impressed that by 1500 (age 28) he had the kahunas to portray himself in the guise of Jesus Christ. I mean, honestly.
Self-portraits were a way of promoting one’s talent, a calling card if you will. Plus, the model was accessible and cheap. But more than that, they are a means of introspection. Self-portraiture enables artists to look inside, figure out who and what they are, how they want to be seen. Many artists have made them, but how many have really dug in and investigated their own selves in a serial manner? Obviously for me, printmakers come to mind: Rembrandt, Käthe Kollwitz, Max Beckmann, Lovis Corinth, Jim Dine. It’s fascinating to think about what drives us to picture ourselves and to what end. I’d suggest artists use self-portraiture to reflect on what it means to be human, creative, alive.
These days, are self-portraits still relevant, especially in this era of selfies, or do they seem old fashioned? What if the self-portrait was only one element in a work that explores more than the physical features of a face? The painting hanging in the backroom at Catalyst Contemporary, which I mentioned at the top of this post, is by Damon Arhos who unfolds queer culture and seeks to promote love and acceptance while investigating social and political issues of gender and sexuality across media. He uses pop culture references fused with the personal to make his work approachable to viewers, and also to be true to himself.
In Agnes Moorehead & Me (No. 1/Figure Portrait), 2019, Arhos digitally combined his own face with that of actor Agnes Moorehead as the basis for the painting. The two are merged in a stylistic way with an acidy palette—I love that mustard color. It's one of a series of Moorehead paintings.
But why Moorehead? She was an accomplished actor who is now best known as Endora, the mother of the main character in the 1960s television series Bewitched. Endora and her brother Uncle Arthur, played with zeal by gay actor Paul Lynde, became lightning rods for the gay community in subsequent decades due to the characters themselves, but also because of assumptions made about the actors’ personal lives. For Arhos, who would have watched Bewitched in reruns, Uncle Arthur was the first positive, if coded, gay character to come across the television screen. And Endora was full-on glamour and fabulousness. What better character to use to explore one’s identity and challenge gender normativity? In Arhos’ hands, the merged image of two faces is reductive and colorful, playful and serious, objective and subjective. He’s used the idea of a self-portrait but turned it into something that is not recognizable as such. Rather, it becomes a symbol for absorbing different identities into oneself in order to expand the possibility of a more open concept of self, one without boundaries or constraints, norms or rules. It speaks of openness, love, inclusion, everyone’s uniqueness, as well as wishes and hopes for a day when one can be whoever one wants to be. In other words, it’s a masterwork.
Damon Arhos (American, born 1967)
Agnes Moorehead & Me (No. 1/Figure Portrait), 2019
Acrylic on hardboard panel
40 × 30 × 2 in (101.6 × 76.2 × 5.1 cm)
Catalyst Contemporary, Baltimore
Jan van Eyck (Netherlandish, c. 1390–1441)
Portrait of a Man (Self Portrait?), 1433
Oil on oak
26 x 19 cm (10 ¼ x 7 ½ in)
National Gallery, London
Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528)
27.5 x 19.6 cm (10 5/8 x 7 5/8 in)
Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528)
Oil on panel
67.1 cm × 48.9 cm (26.4 in × 19.3 in)
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
Rembrandt van Rijn (Netherlandish, 1606–1669)
Self-Portrait with Saskia, 1636
Plate: 10.5 x 9.4 cm (4 1/8 x 3 11/16 in)
Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam
Max Beckmann (German, 1884–1950)
Plate: 239 × 179 mm (9 3/8 x 7 1/16 in)
Art Institute of Chicago: H. Simons Fund, 1948.21
Lovis Corinth (German, 1858–1925)
Death and the Artist (Tod und Künstler), from the series Dance of Death (Totentanz)
1921, published 1922
Etching, soft-ground etching, and drypoint
Plate: 23.9 x 17.9 cm (9 7/16 x 7 1/16 in)
Block Museum, Northwestern University, Evanston: Gift of James and Pamela Elesh, 1999.21.13
Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867–1945)
Image: 20.5 x 18.5 cm (8 1/16 x 7 3/8 in)
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
Jim Dine (American, born 1935)
Berlin 1, 2013
140.4 x 99.2 cm (55 ¼ x 39 in)
Albertina, Vienna: Gift of the Artist and Diana Michener, DG2015/68
Lovis Corinth (German, 1858–1925). Death and the Artist (Tod und Künstler), from the series Dance of Death (Totentanz) 1921, published 1922. Etching, soft-ground etching, and drypoint. Plate: 23.9 x 17.9 cm (9 7/16 x 7 1/16 in). Block Museum, Northwestern University, Evanston: Gift of James and Pamela Elesh, 1999.21.13.
Sometimes an artist you really want to hang on the museum’s walls is only represented in the collection by minor works (in both visual impact and size). Don’t get me wrong, I love a small work—I had a running list of tiny prints that I thought would make a great show—but when it comes to contemporary works on paper, they need to be able to “hold the wall” because of the size of the galleries and the scale of the non-paper works they may hang near. My wish list included several artists in this category, most notably John Baldessari, Kara Walker, William Kentridge, and Kerry James Marshall. The museum’s collection has works on paper by these artists, but few with substantial wall power.
I chased Baldessari’s print, Roller Coaster, 1989, three times. The first time I saw it on the wall at the IFPDA Print Fair in the booth of the work’s publisher, Brooke Alexander. On opening night, the work was already on hold for a collector. The second time, it came up at auction. I got permission to bid on it and lost out to another bidder. The third time was at the print fair again, and again, I was too late.
Baldessari is a tough nut to crack. Irreverent is the best word I can think of to describe his work. But there is just something about Roller Coaster: the shaped print, the way the arc of the roller coaster moves from one end of the sheet to the other, the wall power, its size. It is so easy to like.
I also chased William Kentridge’s powerful Casspirs Full of Love, ironically also from 1989, multiple times. Two different dealers offered it to us multiple times over the years, but the price was just high enough to be out of reach. If only I could have said yes.
Whereas the Baldessari is clever and fun, the Kentridge is shocking. Severed heads appear to be stacked in a cabinet of some sort. MoMA’s web site helps us parse it out: “The title of this work refers to a message sent from mothers to sons on a popular radio program for South African troops: ‘this message comes from your mother, with Casspirs full of love.’ Casspirs are armored military vehicles; their name is an anagram for CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) and SAP (South African Police), the organization that developed them. These vehicles, designed for international military operations, were deployed against black township communities in South Africa during states of emergency imposed by the apartheid government.”
I think you can agree that both have wall power for different reasons. I could think of an exhibition with each as its centerpiece. Obviously not the same show. Well, unless one was looking at the year 1989.
John Baldessari (American, 1931–2020)
Aquatint, photogravure printed in black, green, and red
Sheet: 39 × 67 1/2 in. (99 × 171.5 cm.)
Published by Brooke Alexander
William Kentridge (South African, born 1955)
Casspirs Full of Love, 1989
Drypoint and engraving with roulette
Sheet: 65 3/8 x 38.7/16 in. (166 x 97.6 cm.)
Plate: 58 9/16 x 32 in. (148.8 x 318 cm.)
Published by the artist and David Krut
November 11, 2020, is the 102nd anniversary of the end of World War I. It is known as Armistice Day in the US—generically now called Veterans’ Day—and in the UK it is called Remembrance Day. (Brits wear those red poppies pins to mark the day.) I believe remembering and knowing our shared history is critical. Ignorance too easily leads to repeating actions that could/should be avoided. World War I was a tremendously deadly conflict, and its devastation should never be forgotten. Exact numbers of the dead are not known—even though the war was the first in which soldiers were issued identification tags—but estimates range from 9 million to 22 million deaths, including both military and civilian. Marking days like this reminds us of how much we had to lose and how much we gained. And how fragile it all is.
There are many artists on both sides who created work in response to the war, but I want to introduce you to British artist and World War I veteran, Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson (1889–1946), whose prints I always wanted to acquire for the museum. When you work in a vast collection of prints, one gets lulled into a sense of “we must have something by X artist.” It always surprised me to find the collection lacked anything or anyone. But the BMA’s collection has no prints by Nevinson, whose works from the war period I find to be stunning.
Timing and inflated prices often prevent curators from filling gaps—it’s super frustrating. In my time at the museum several artists’ prints that were on our wish list had prohibitively high prices: Provincetown white-line woodcuts by Blanche Lazell, early American modernist etchings by Edward Hopper, color linoleum cuts by the Grosvenor School, color prints by Mary Cassatt, etchings by master-of-urban-scenes Martin Lewis. The same is true about prints by Nevinson; his prices were out of range for our acquisition budget. Ah well. Let me show you why his prints are on my list.
Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson, sometimes recorded as C.R.W. Nevinson and called Richard, was an artist who made his mark with scenes of World War I, a conflict in which he took part. He spent the beginning of the war in the Friends’ Ambulance Unit tending wounded French and English soldiers. He was appointed an official war artist in 1917. In addition to prints, he also created paintings.
Artistically, Nevinson’s early friendship with the founder of Italian Futurism, Filippo Tomasso Emilio Marinetti, had an immense influence on the former’s style, particularly in its machine-age aesthetic. He also befriended, and then had a falling out with, radical writer and artist Wyndham Lewis who formed the Vorticists group. Nevinson, whose sensibility was a natural fit for the Vorticists, was banned from the group. No matter. After making some remarkably modernist, powerful, and beautiful prints, eventually Nevinson decided that mode of image making wasn’t adequate to convey the horrors of war and he began to create imagery in a more realist manner. It’s always curious when an artist’s stylistic trajectory seems to travel backward but take a look at these prints from the ’teens and judge for yourself.
The third fair during New York Print Week is the Satellite Fair, which includes exhibitors from across the spectrum. Maybe this is why my choices today are so numerous and run from 1895 to yesterday. Maybe this shows I’m a bit ADD, but that is why being a curator of prints, drawings, and photographs was so perfect for me. One can take a deep dive into an artist or subject, then pop back up and move on to something else, something completely different. One can be all over the place, and in fact, one has to be to manage a collection of any size.
I always said I had my specialties in works on paper—British watercolors of the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, American works on paper from Homer to early-twentieth century Modernism, and modern and contemporary prints and photographs—but that really I am a generalist.
How to account for me leading off with a French work from 1895 and ending with a print about the Coronavirus? Well, I love a good print of great design and execution, no matter the source. I love early-twentieth century urban scenes, mid-century abstraction, biting social criticism, a beautifully executed etching and aquatint (of any subject), and pure beauty. So here are my selections from the Satellite Fair.
New York Print Week, even if experienced remotely, is the most wonderful time of the year.
The second fair we never miss during New York Print Week is the Editions and Artists Books fair, known as E/AB. If the IFPDA fair is the grandfather of print fairs, E/AB, managed by the Lower East Side Print Shop (no small task), is the scrappy twenty something hipster. It attracts younger, newly established, and smaller shops as vendors, along with more established ones that prefer E/AB’s hipper vibe. That means you may not be as familiar with many of the artists on offer, but you’ll likely find something at a lower price point. In other words, it’s a great place to start as a new collector.
UnMute Yourself, 2020
14 7/8 x 20 7/8 inches
Printed by Martin Mazorra
Vladimir Cybil Charlier
What happens to a dream deferred (Dream Deferred portfolio), 2020
Archival Inkjet print with screenprint
Sheet: 18 x 12 inches
Image: 15 x 10 inches
Printed by Pepe Coronado
FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture
Monument Quilt Project, 2020
Fabric and thread
96 x 96 inches
Ship of Fools, 2020
Polymer gravure with chine collé
Image: 21 ¾ x 17 inches
Sheet: 30 x 22 inches
Printed and published by Flatbed Press
Parastou Forouhar (Iranian, b. 1962)
Water Mark, 2015
Two-color lithograph and nine-colors pigmented over-beaten flax pulp paint on abaca sheets
37 ¼ × 22 ½ inches
Published by the Brodsky Center at PAFA, Philadelphia
Nets I-VII, 2019
Suite of seven lithographs
Each sheet: 12 3/4 x 10 inches
Printed and published by Deb Chaney Editions
The Vast Sky, 2018
Accordion-fold volume with screenprints
13 3/4 x 9 7/8 inches
Printed and published by Anémona Editores and TPT Gráfica
Portfolio of eight multi-block linoleum cuts on handmade Japanese Hamada Kozo paper
Each sheet: 19 1/2 x 18 inches
Printed by Erin McAdams, Harry Schneider, Max Valentine, and assisted by Wendy Li
Published by Mullowney Printing
Raven Chacon (Navajo)
Horse Notations, 2019
23 3/4 x 30 inches
Printed by Judith Baumann
Published by Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts
Polymer photogravure (two plates printed with 35 colors plus black)
23 1/2 x 23 1/2 inches
Printed by Jennifer Mahlman
Co-published by Eminence Grise Editions and Hales Gallery (London)
Diving Humpback, 2016
Etching printed in black and blue, a la poupee
64 x 106.5 cm
Printed by the artist
Glasgow Print Studio
Six-plate aquatint etching with hard ground, soft ground, spit bite, sugar lift, and dry point
Plate: 28 x 22 inches
Sheet: 40 x 30 3/4 inches
Printed by Wingate Studio
Published by Kasmin Gallery
Softground etching, drypoint, engraving, and aquatint
Sheet: 38 x 30 7/8
Plate: 30 x 24 inches
Printed and published by Harlan & Weaver
Mark Thomas Gibson
Etching and aquatint
13 1/2 x 15 3/4 inches
Printed by Burnet Editions
Published by IPCNY
The First Time, The Heart (First Pulse, Flatline), 2017
Diptych: lithograph on hand-flamed and sooted paper, lithotine lift and shellac
Each: 11 1⁄2 x 14 1⁄4 inches
Printed and published by Island Press, Washington University in St. Louis
30 x 40 inches
Printed by Peter Haarz
Published by Petrichor Press
Willem de Kooning. Geniuses are nothing if not complicated in their methods and motivations, 2015
Accordion-bound volume with graphite, acrylic, ink and collage
Closed: 9 x 6 inches; open: 9 x 44 inches
Composition with Registration Marks and Other Marks, 2017
Five-plate aquatint etching with burnishing, soap ground, and spit bite
Plate: 24 x 18 inches
Sheet: 31 3/4 x 24 1/2 inches
Printed and published by Wingate Studio
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.