Gradients in Japanese Prints
Bokashi is a Japanese technique for hand-applying a gradient to a moistened printing block.
According to Wikipedia, "The best-known examples of bokashi are in the 19th-century ukiyo-e works of Hokusai and Hiroshige, in which the fading of Prussian blue dyes in skies and water create an illusion of depth."
Color in French Art Prints
The earliest prints were all black and white, using methods such as woodcut, wood engraving, and etching. When the technology made it possible to print in full color, tastemakers in France dismissed them, arguing that they were cheap and low-class.
The exhibit includes fine examples of these early intaglio color prints, such as the one above.
When color lithography was developed, artists embraced it as a fast and efficient method that was perfect for large public posters. The show includes many prints by Jules Chéret, the master of the show poster.
Jules Chéret, Lady with a Mask [Comedy], c. 1891, Lithograph in sanguine on paper. The Clark Art Institute, 1955.2391.
I was also impressed by the informal sanguine prints by Jules Chéret, where he explores different arrangements of carefree figures.
The exhibition also includes prints by Pierre Bonnard, Mary Cassatt, Paul Cézanne, Maurice Denis, Camille Pissarro, Edouard Vuillard, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
I was hoping the show would include printed works by Alphonse Mucha. He was Czech, technically, but he was the major star in the Paris print scene, and his graphic works were extremely influential. Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen and Eugène Grasset were also notably missing from the show, perhaps because the Clark doesn't have good examples of the color prints in their collection.
A secondary exhibit called "Competing Currents" about Japanese prints of the 20th century makes a perfect enhancement to the show. I'll share more about that on a future post.
Hue and Cry: French Printmaking and the Debate Over Colors closes March 6. Admission is free for the month of January.
Artistic Integrity and Commercial Art
|Adolph Menzel, "The signal for war was thus given to Europe."|
Engraver: Unzelmann, Friedrich Ludwig (Source)
Book: Die Werke Friedrichs des Großen, vol. 2
Author: Volz, Gustav Berthold
Publisher:Berlin: Reimar Hobbing, 1913
Commissioned work doesn't have to be commercial. Just because you're paid to draw something doesn't mean you have to cynically crank it out. If you're going to do work on commission, it might as well include your personal inspiration and your highest standards.
The same is true with gallery art, which is potentially more commercial than illustration. There's always a temptation to produce work only because we know it will sell, though we may have drifted away from the authentic original inspiration.
If you do illustration work, you typically get to keep your originals. It's wise to keep at least some of your best examples. If you work hard on them, you'll be proud of them and they might be worth a lot more in the future.
An excerpt of my introduction to the book on Adolph Menzel (German, 1815-1905) addresses this point: As a commercial printer, Menzel threw himself into the task of producing decorative illustration work, such as menus, letterheads, greeting cards, and invitations. Anyone else might have written off such jobs as menial. For Menzel, to produce anything less than a sincere effort would be to “throw one’s cake in the water.” He told admiring students that it was essential to do justice to every assignment, and to accept everything as a genuine artistic challenge. “You will then cease at once to consider anything unworthy of your powers,” he said.
Adolph Menzel: Drawings and Paintings (signed from my website)
Source for the Menzel illustration in this post
Mary Nimmo Moran's Etchings
|"Haunted House," etching by Mary Nimmo Moran|
"They were so original, so pronounced in their characteristics, so unlike anything he himself had done or had seen, that he scarcely knew whether to praise or condemn. Four of these first plates, however, were submitted to the New York Etching Club, and were promptly accepted for exhibition."
"They were warmly praised by the critics, and the unknown artist was elected a member of the club."
"For twenty years, from her first hazardous beginnings to her death in September, 1899, Mrs. Moran was loyal to her first ideals and true to her own strong individuality."
|Painting by Mary Nimmo Moran|
Brush and Pencil Magazine, April, 1901, page 10
Mary Nimmo Moran on Wikipedia
Hokusai Manga on Amazon
Book on Zorn's Etchings Arrives in a Month
Animal Linocuts by Norbertine Bresslern-Roth
Analysis of a Watson Lino Print
As you look at the image, can you guess how many plates he used, and in what order they were printed?
Answers below (scroll down):
There are four plates. Fortunately, Mr. Watson isolated them for us.
1. He starts with a pale yellow shape under the entire silhouette of the buildings. The yellow was probably not quite as dark as it appears below.
2. A graded blue-green plate goes under the large areas of the sky and water. A few of the birds are cut out to the white of the paper, and he has also cut out some sparkles in the water.
3. A plate for the shadows of the buildings. These shadows overlay the initial pale yellow run. This plate is inked unevenly to give it texture and to make some of the birds darker.
4. Finally, a dark blue-green key plate provides the windows, ropes, wavelets, and details of the figure.
Watson was able to multiply the effect of each of plates 2 and 3 by inking them with more than a single color. He said: "It is quite possible to 'paint' rather freely with the rollers in this manner, producing an infinite variety of gradations of hues."
|Quiet Anchorage, lino cut by Ernest Watson.|
Oscar Droege's Color Woodblock Prints
Droege was born in 1898, serving in both World Wars. He was kept prisoner by the Soviets. During peacetime he traveled with a friend through Germany, France and Scandinavia on bicycles and paddle boats in search of subjects for his art. He died in 1983.
Brief online biography of Oscar Droege
Examples of Farbholzschnitt (color woodblock prints)
Other practitioners of the color woodblock print include:
Carl Thiemann (1881-1966)
Martha Cunz (1876 -1961)
Josef Stoitzner (1884-1951)
Engelbert Lap (1886-1970)
Heine Rath (1873-1920)
Sherrie York is a young artist working today who carries on the tradition in color lino cut
YouTube: Hubert Pische demonstrates how to create a color woodcut (in German)