One of the areas for improvement which my tutor highlighted in my last tutor report was the lack of critical analysis of a range of artists/print makers. She suggested ‘research on a quick overview of lots of printmakers, by building up your own archive on your blog’.
So that’s what I’m going to begin compiling here. I’ve decided to begin my list with Printmakers who are referenced in my course workbook. I may add to this any others which I discover to be of interest along the way.
- Graham Sutherland , 1903 – 1980, British Printmaker/Painter
Sutherland trained as a Printmaker, specialising in Etching at Goldsmith College in the 1920’s. Much of his work during the 1930’s emulated the style and subject matter of Samuel Palmer. His etchings (see links below), were painstakingly detailed, often focused on pastoral or romantic landscapes with some religious connotations.
However his work as a printmaker diminished greatly after the mid-1930’s. He began to almost exclusively work with oil paints, and his style shifted from romantic to modernist, even surrealist. He became an Official War Artist during the second world war and spent some time documenting events across England and Wales. His work is held in collections in Wales to this day as part of his legacy in that region.
2. Mary Cassatt, 1844-1926, American Painter/Printmaker
Cassatt although born in American lived much of her life in France. It was here that she began her association with the Impressionists, and a strong friendship with Degas. She was one of a handful of women who exhibited with the Impressionists in France.
Her piece, ‘La Mandoline (The Mandoline Player’ was her first piece to be accepted into the Paris Salon, the official art exhibition of the prestigious ‘Acadamie des Beaux-Arts’.
She was a highly skilled printmaker, using the mediums of dry point and aquatint for much of her work. As in keeping with the Impressionists ideals much of her work focused on capturing people in their everyday life or social standing and activities. For Cassatt her most explored subject matter was that of the relationship between mother and child. She was known for her tender depictions of women interacting with their children.
She was also known for her work adapting the style of Japanese Wood block prints into her own work. Having first seen ‘Japanese ukiyo-e prints at the ecole des Beaux-Arts’. See more on this via the link below:
3. Edgar Degas, 1834-1917, French Artist
Degas is most commonly associated with the Impressionist movement, although he preferred the term ‘realist’ when describing his approach to art. He was known for working in several different mediums, from painting, to pastel even Photography. Printmaking was another strand of his artistic exploration and one which seemed to offer greater freedom to Degas than other forms.
His subject matter often involved dancers, or women in ‘realistic’ situation or scenes. Below are two examples of work in this vein:
I found it tricky at first to find examples of Degas printmaking. I knew there were some examples of his etchings but these seemed few and far between. I found some examples of his etchings within the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Online Collection.
I find the print above particularly interesting as the colouring reminds me of that of the Chiaroscuro method, focusing on tone rather than depicting lots of colours. I’m also intrigued by the print as a different approach to a familiar subject matter, the title suggests some sort of theatre or dance production which was a reoccurring theme. However what differs is the feel and style of the print, it is much freer than his paintings of such subjects.
In the print above another impressionist artist/printmaker – Mary Cassatt, is depicted by Degas. The two were apparently good friends whose studios were within walking distance of each other.
In my research I came across an exhibition The MOMA hosted which focused on Degas monotype’s back in March 2016 –
I’ve found that this has shed some light on Degas approach to printmaking. Particularly watching this film created for the exhibition which explores some of the methods Degas used when printing in monotype format.
I found it interesting to see how he used monotype to unleash a much more free way of working. To me some of the prints in the video appear almost abstract, they are the result of marks and wiped areas of ink. This seems to contrast some of Degas more famous works, particularly on the subject of the ballet dance which appear much more precise and representational.
I was also fascinated by his interest not just in the first print of the monotype but also creating secondary or ‘ghost’ prints. I’ve often enjoyed the fragile nature of these prints but haven’t really explored these in my own work as I felt they would be just considered unfinished work by tutors.
The three prints above are good examples of a particular approach Degas had when working in Monotype. He liked to produce the prints first and then rework them by adding pastel over the top the effect to me seems to create a sense of movement or flux. This is fitting with the subject of the dancers, and adds for me a sense of mystery to the Landscapes.
I found this article on the exhibition to be very informative, ‘The Modern Degas You Haven’t Seen, by Roberta Smith – New York Times.
4. Wassily Kandinsky, 1866-1944
Wassily or Vasily Kandinsky was a Russian born painter generally recognised as one of the founders of the abstraction movement. Although born in Russia he spent most of his life in Germany and France. He also taught at one stage at the Bauhaus school of art and architecture. He is perhaps best known for his abstract paintings, like the painting entitled ‘Swinging’ seen below.
However prior to his work in a purely abstract and painterly from Kandinsky produced works using Woodcut, etching and Lithography printing methods. According to Carmen Hermo’s article, ‘Kandinsky’s Early Representational Woodcuts’
“In 1895, Kandinsky traded a promising career in law for a position as art director of a printing firm in Moscow. The next year, he left his homeland for Munich, bringing with him knowledge of classic printmaking techniques like woodcut, etching and lithography”.
The following images are examples of some of the woodcut print’s he produced before his obsession with abstraction began in earnest.
In ‘Lady with a Fan’ the colour elements were achieved using a watercolour wash, I particularly like the delicate even subtle effect this has against the boldness of the black of the print. Whilst it’s not a purely abstract piece I do think it has a semi-abstract feel to it, with the forms and shapes simplified to allow them to be recognised but not overtly decorative.
The prints, ‘Church’ and ‘Women in the Woods’, were part of a series of woodcuts Kandinsky produced in 1907. They have a romantic feel to them and emphasis Kandinsky’s interest in Russian folk art and culture during his early artist work.
I really admire the character in both these prints, they give a warmth and inviting feel to the prints. I particularly like the way he uses pattern in both, from the prints on the women’s clothing to the almost repetitive shapes of the clouds of ‘Church’ and tree canopy in ‘Women in the Woods’s. The texture of the woodcut also adds to the charm of the prints (in my opinion).
I found it trickier to find reliable examples or sources of Kandinsky’s Etchings and Lithograph’s online. I did find reference to an exhibition which focused on these methods, ‘Small Worlds: Wassily Kandinsky’s Experiments in Printmaking – Springfield Museum.
However the museum site did not give any examples of the works which were displayed for the exhibition. But I did find a review of the exhibition, ‘A Rare Suite of Kandinsky’s Experimental Prints Goes on View, by Clair Voon in Hyperallergic’.
Unfortunately the article doesn’t specify which technique the pieces were created with, I could hazard a guess but this felt a little risky so I search for some images which stated the method used by the artist.
In the examples above, ‘Plate 11’ & ‘Small Worlds II’, its clear that Kandinsky’s printmaking in these mediums differed greatly from his earlier woodcuts. They certainly sit within his body of abstract art, and given their dates, 1922, 1935, both were created during or close to his time working at the Bauhaus. The lithograph ‘Small Worlds II’ to me has a very similar feel in terms of richness of colour and depth to a painting so I wonder what prompted him to create a print instead of a painting.
The etching ‘Plate 11’, is much rougher and textured than the lithograph, but is just as abstract in it’s subject matter. It seems like both methods were quickly bent to suit the abstraction of the artist. As someone who tends not to feel comfortable when work in a more abstract manner using printing technique it’s interesting to see someone who uses the method to such an aim.
5. Lucian Freud, 1922 – 2011 British painter & draftsman
Lucian Freud, the grandson of Sigmund Freud, was well known as painter and draftsman. But he went through periods of exploring drawing through the medium of printmaking namely etching.
The first example below, ‘Girl with a Fig Leaf’ is one of the few etchings Freud created during his initial experimentation with the medium in the 1940s. As with many of his works the cropping of the subject and large leaf placed in front of the figure give the piece a sharpness. His skill as a draftsman is immediately apparent, and his use of texture in different lines and marks is impressive.
The work below, ‘The Painter’s Mother’, represents the 1980’s when Freud began experimenting with etching again in earnest. Again the tight cropping around the subject face adds a severity or intensity to the piece. I think the absence of any other background imagery or visual references adds to the intense focus matched by the subjects apparent stare at the viewer.
Here it seems Freud has embraced some of the unpredictability of the medium, allowing there to be marks and smudges around the figures head. These marks seem more accidental than the layered pencil lines which form the contours of the subjects face. I think it’s also interesting to see how he uses overlapping lines to create the areas of shadow or depth in the portrait.
Apparently Freud liked to work from the etching plate as in the same way he would paper or canvas, upright and on an easel. The etchings were created with the sitter or subject matter in front of him, requiring hours of their time. However like Picasso, Freud relied on an editioner to pull/produce the prints from the etching for him.
in ‘Woman with an Arm Tattoo’, Freud focuses on a lady who appears frequently in other paintings and etchings. Again the isolation of the figure makes for a dramatic image. She appears vulnerable, sleeping or resting. Up close the detail of his pencil marks is incredible, her hair is a built up from layers of cross hatching.
I think these works show how skilled and sensitive Freud’s etchings were. I’m also intrigued by his approach to portraiture – this could be good to return to in further detail later in the module (as portraiture is an area of study).