19th Century Prints, Americana, Early 20th Century, Engraving, Genre, Past/Present, Prints, Wood

Past/Present: Harvest

Today, we are drawing inspiration from the crisp fall air and turning leaves, and are featuring two wood engravings of corn harvesting. Wood engravings are made from the end-grain surface of very hard wood, usually boxwood. Rather than cutting away non-printing areas with a knife ( like a woodcut), wood engravings are made with fine engraving tools which are used to engrave the non-printing areas with incredible precision and detail. It is the surface that takes the ink and prints.

Winslow Homer is known as one of America’s most famous painters, water-colorists, and printmakers. He was born in Boston on February 24, 1836, and was apprenticed to the lithographer, J. H. Bufford of Boston, at the age of nineteen.  Homer started a long career as an illustrator for Harper’s Weekly in the late 1850’s and produced a large body of work during the Civil War, showing the intense and chaotic lives of soldiers and volunteers. After the war, Homer’s prints illustrated simpler times, with scenes of women and children at the beach, families on outings in the country, or sweet and tender indoor moments. The prints were a reflection of the nostalgia for earlier times, a sentiment the artist shared strongly with the American public after the Civil War.

Clare Leighton was an artist, writer and wood engraver, best known for her illustrated books documenting English rural life (The Farmer’s Year, 1933, Four Hedges, 1935), and her recording of life in America. Leighton immigrated to America in 1939, and was inspired by the work ethic and beauty of life in the country, at a time period when industrialization and urbanization were booming. Her prints are among the most celebrated and poignant records of American rural life of their period.

Image on Left: The Last Days of Harvest. By Winslow Homer. Published by Harper’s Weekly.  Wood engraving,  December 6, 1873.

Image on Right: Corn Pulling. By Clare Leighton. Wood engraving, 1952.