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Blacklisted: William Gropper’s Capriccios

William Gropper, Politico from the portfolio The Capriccios (1953–56), lithograph, image 14 x 10 inches, sheet 16 1/4 x 12 1/4 inches. Image courtesy the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Gift of Evelyn Salk in memory of her husband, Erwin A. Salk, 2001.21.43.

“Mr. Gropper, the first question is: Are you a member of the Communist Party?”

William Gropper—painter, political cartoonist, writer and social activist— appeared before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Government Operations headed by Joseph McCarthy in May 1953. He had been subpoenaed to account for his painting William Gropper’s America, Its Folklore (1946), a whimsical geography of the country’s folk heroes, from Johnny Appleseed to Rip Van Winkle, prints of which had been distributed in U.S. Information Services libraries abroad. …Read More

Ester Hernandez: Sun Mad

Ester Hernandez, Sun Mad (1982), screenprint, 26 x 20 inches. Edition of 53 (second edition). Printed by Ester Hernandez, San Francisco. ©Ester Hernandez.

A first-generation Chicana, Ester Hernandez is a key figure in the Chicano civil rights art movement that emerged in America in the late 1960s. Her most famous image, the screenprinted poster Sun Mad, was first created in 1981 and expresses her anger at the human and environmental cost of pesticide use in commercial grape growing in California. A second edition of the screenprint, printed in 1982, has recently been acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum and will feature in the forthcoming exhibition “A World to Win: Posters of Revolution and Protest.” …Read More

Munio Makuuchi: On Boy’s Day I “I.D.” with Rocky Mountain Salmon…/…So where’s the Salmon?

Fig. 1. Munio Makuuchi, On Boy’s Day I ‘I.D.’ with Rocky Mountain Salmon…/…So where’s the Salmon? (1985), drypoint printed in black on Arches paper, image 60.96 cm x 90.17 cm; sheet 74.93 cm x 105.41 cm. First state proof, edition unknown. Printed by Andrew Balkin, ACB Editions, Madison, WI. Smith College Museum of Art. Purchased with the Elizabeth Halsey Dock, class of 1933, Fund.

One of the many benefits of working in an academic environment is the opportunity to discover artists through colleagues in different disciplines. I was introduced to the graphic work of Seattle-born artist/poet Munio Makuuchi (born Howard Munio Takahashi, 1934–2000) by Floyd Cheung, a professor of English at Smith College, who had unearthed examples of Makuuchi’s poetry in 2006 while doing archival research for another project. …Read More

Kitaj in our Time: Prints and Obsessions

R.B. Kitaj, detail of Partisan Review from In Our Time: Covers for a Small Library After the Life for the Most Part (1969), screenprint on paper, 30 1/4 x 22 7/16 inches. Printed by Kelpra Studio, London, UK. Published by Marlborough AG, Schellenberg, FL. The Jewish Museum, NY, Gift of the R.B. Kitaj Estate. ©R.B. Kitaj Estate.

The work of R.B. Kitaj (1932–2007) has received an exceptional amount of attention this past year, much of it in England and much of it favorable—a development that would surely have astonished the artist. Born to a Jewish family in Cleveland, Ohio, Kitaj spent much of his adult life in the U.K. In 1994, however, Kitaj’s long-tetchy relationship with British critics was brought to a rancorous close when his retrospective at the Tate was eviscerated in the British newspapers. This event, followed by the unexpected death of his wife a few weeks later, caused a terminally wounded and, by many accounts, utterly unhinged Kitaj to flee to Los Angeles, where he committed suicide in 2007. …Read More

A Manual for Printing Copper Plates Predating Abraham Bosse’s Treatise of 1645

Fig. 1a. Regeln, so im Kupferdrucken, so woln in abtruckung der Holzstöck fleisig in obacht zunemen (16 November 1628) in Paulus III Behaim von Schwarzbach, Orndliche verzeichnus vnnd Registratur, aller meiner 1. geschnittenen Kupfer, 2. Holzkunst 3., vnnd gegossenen Bleistück, so viel ich nacheinander deroselben zuhanden gebracht (Nürnberg) (1618–1628), p. 215. ©Bamberg State Library. Photo: Gerald Raab.

Read the original German text of the manual here.

See an annotated listing of instructive, workshop practice texts up to 1628 here.

In the Stadtbibliothek Bamberg there is a 17th-century manuscript that catalogues the numerous copper printing plates, wooden printing blocks and lead casts collected by Paulus III Behaim von Schwarzbach (1592–1637) of Nuremberg. Appended at the end of the manuscript are instructions for the printing of copper plates, dated 16 Nov., 1628 (Fig. 1a). …Read More

German Text of Behaim’s Printing Manual

Read an English translation of the manual, with an introduction by Anja Grebe and Ad Stijnman, here.

See also an annotated listing of instructive, workshop practice texts up to 1628 here.

[p. 215]

Actum Anno 1628. 16. Novembris Regeln, so im Kupferdrucken, so woln in abtruckung der Holzstöck fleisig in obacht zunemen. Kupferdrucken. ›Kupfer zuwaschen von der Truckschwärz‹

…Read More

Pattern Recognition: A Letter from Montreal

Andrée-Anne Dupuis-Bourret, Studio View. Photo: Andrée-Anne Dupuis-Bourret.

In $100 and a T-shirt: A Documentary About Zines in the Northwest, someone suggests that the flourishing zine scene in Portland, Oregon, owes its existence to the rainy weather: there’s nothing else to do but stay inside and make zines. When I asked artist Dominique Pétrin if Montreal were a supportive place for the arts, she answered, “Montreal is a great city to live as an artist. I can afford a studio and a place to live by myself and still have a wonderful quality of life … but winter is harsh.” Perhaps those bitter winters explain why it is that Montreal is exploding with dynamic new art. For a large portion of the year, there’s nothing else to do but stay inside and print. …Read More

Just the Right Color: Ellsworth Kelly’s Red

Left: Ellsworth Kelly, Color Trial Proof 3 of Red [deep indigo] (2005), lithograph, 84.5 x 75.9 cm. ©Ellsworth Kelly and Gemini G.E.L., LLC, Los Angeles. Center: Color Trial Proof 1 of Red [cherry red] (2005), lithograph, 84.5 x 75.9 cm. ©Ellsworth Kelly and Gemini G.E.L., LLC, Los Angeles. Right: Trial Proof of Red [red-orange] (2005), lithograph, 84.5 x 75.9 cm. ©Ellsworth Kelly and Gemini G.E.L., LLC, Los Angeles.

A few years back at Gemini G.E.L., the print publishing workshop in Los Angeles, I was doing research for a catalogue raisonné of Ellsworth Kelly’s prints. The catalogue, published in 2012, was occasioned by a retrospective of the artist’s prints organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Kelly, an ambitious printmaker, had created at this point over 300 printed editions since the 1960s. He was first known, however, and is perhaps best known to most, as a painter of vibrantly colored geometric shapes. …Read More

Coloring Within the Lines: The Use of Stencil in Early Woodcuts

Fig. 1. Workshop of the Very Small Hours of Anne of Brittany, The Nativity (ca. 1490, France), stencil-colored woodcut, 23.1 x 16.4 cm in coffer (ca. 1490, France), wood, iron, leather, horsehair, and linen, 22 x 33 x 15 cm. Art Institute of Chicago, restricted gift of Mr. and Mrs. William Vance; the Amanda S. Johnson and Marion J. Livinston Fund, 2009.49.

Recently there has been a renewal of scholarly attention paid to coffrets à estampes, fascinating wood and metal boxes from the late 15th to early 16th centuries whose inner lids were usually decorated with colored devotional woodcuts. While historians are still trying to decipher what function these enigmatic containers served, they agree that the boxes appear to have been fabricated in Paris and that a majority of the prints can be attributed to the workshop of the Master of the Very Small Hours of Anne of Brittany, now identified as the painter Jean d’Ypres, who was active in France between 1490–1510 (Fig. 1). …Read More