John Murphy is a PhD candidate in Art History at Northwestern University. [March 2014]

Athletic Aesthetics: Art, Craft and Bolton Brown

Bolton Brown inking stone, reproduced from Bolton Brown, “The Process of Lithography,” Pencil Points 4, no. 3 (March 1923).

Bolton Coit Brown (1864–1936) liked to set himself seemingly insurmountable physical and artistic challenges. Best known today as the collaborating printer of George Bellows’s (1882–1925) great lithographs of the 1920s, Brown was also an accomplished mountaineer and a serious artist in his own right Read More

Collective Brilliance

Leopoldo Méndez, What May Come (Mexico, 1945) (1945), wood engraving in black on grayish-ivory China paper, image 30.3 x 17.6 cm, sheet 42.1 x 32.6 cm. The Art Institute of Chicago. ©2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City.

From 1937 until the mid-1950s, the Taller de Gráfica Popular (TGP) workshop produced the most inventive, provocative and topically relevant prints in Mexico. Published as broadsides, posters, books, handbills and portfolios, TGP prints showcased the possibilities of graphic art as a powerful and polemical instrument. Founding members Leopoldo Méndez, Pablo O’Higgins and Luis Arenal stated in their group’s Declaration of Principles that “art must reflect the social reality of the times” but that art “can only truly serve the people if it is of the very highest plastic quality.” Read More

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