Early 20th Century, Prints, woodblock print

Luigi Rist

Grapes. By Luigi Rist. Color woodblock, 1943. Image size 7 5/8 x 9 1/4 inches. LINK.

Known for his unique and complex approach to printmaking, Luigi Rist (1888-1951) was a lifelong resident of Newark, NJ and started his art career as a painter. At the age of 41, while in Brittany monitoring for painter Sigurd Skou, he met Morris Blackburn, a Philadelphia painter who became a lifelong friend. The two visited an exhibition of Japanese woodcuts in New York, where Rist became fascinated by the medium. By the age of 53, he had immersed himself in the exploration of Japanese woodblock creation and manipulation. Through experimentation, Rist developed his own tools and techniques, using multiple blocks and numerous layers of color to produce prints in which still lifes become almost abstract forms, defined by the subtle nuances and brilliance of his color application.

Photocopy of  a handwritten  "Forbidden Fruit" printing "flow sheets", which documents the day-by-day account of the 50 steps needed to produce the print from 10 blocks. Image source from www.luigirist.com.

Photocopy of a handwritten Forbidden Fruit printing “flow charts”, which documents the day-by-day account of the 50 steps needed to produce the print from 10 blocks. Image source from www.luigirist.com.

His exacting methods were well documented in his copious working notes. Written on lined legal pads, his notes helped him navigate the dizzying number of woodblocks used in each print. Sometimes Rist used up to 16 cherry-wood blocks (8 blocks carved on each side) for one image. Because Rist’s prints required between 50 and 100 impressions to make a finished print (different sections of one block were used for different colors, and frequent overprinting was done to build up color), his notes were a way to recreate each print in the edition. Rist would also create his own color flow charts.

The key to Rist’s stunning color lay in the use of rice paste, a mixture of fine rice flour and hot water, mixed together on a double-boiler. Rist would mix-up a fresh batch of rice paste every morning. He would then weigh out powdered pigment, slowly adding water to create  his inks, making sure his “mixture was the consistency of heavy cream. Using a flat stick, a dab of the rice paste was applied to the area of the block to be printed; with a soft Japanese brush the creamy pigment was also applied to the block, and the paste and pigment were blended with the brush on the block itself. The type of brush used, the direction of the stroke, all made for different effects. The addition of the paste changed the character of the color from a granular or matte finish to one more brilliant.” (For more on his technique and invented tools, please read Luigi Rist: Printmaker in Japanese Tradition by Barbara Whipple.)

Both Grapes and Pears are in our current exhibit, Ink & Grain, on the OPG gallery walls. Stop by our Georgetown gallery before November 15th to see the show in person.

Pears. By Luigi Rist. Color woodblock, 1948. Image size 8 7/8 x 7 1/16 inches. LINK.

Pears. By Luigi Rist. Color woodblock, 1948. Image size 8 7/8 x 7 1/16 inches. LINK.



19th Century Prints, Botanical, Color Woodcut, Early 20th Century, Lithograph, Past/Present, Prints, Woodcut

Past/Present: Honeysuckle

past present logo copyToday we are happy to share a new Past/Present post, featuring two stunning honeysuckle prints. The older print is a scarce lithograph, with original hand color, from “Flora’s Dictionary,” by Mrs. E.W. Wirt of Virginia.  With a publication date of 1837, Mrs. Wirt’s book is one of the earliest colored botanical works published in America.  Rather than depicting a single flower, each plate shows a carefully selected grouping.  As Bennett notes, “The arrangements of flowers are beautifully balanced and the coloring is brilliant.”  (Bennett, “American Color Plate Books, 115).

The woodcut is by English woodcut artist Mayel Allington Royds (1874-1941). Royds grew up in Liverpool and turned down a scholarship at age of fifteen to the Royal Academy of London, in order to attend the Slade School of Art and study under the formidable Henry Tonks. After an apprenticeship in Paris working in the studio of Walter Sickert, Royds accepted a teaching post at the Havergal College in Toronto. She later returned to the UK to teach at the Edinburgh College of Art where she met three people integral to her artistic development and life: Samuel Peploe, a Scottish post-impressionist painter highly regarded for his mastery of color, Frank Morley Fletcher, under whose influence she took up Japanese color woodcuts, and her future husband, Scottish etcher E. S. Lumsden.

Together Lumsen and Royds traveled to Tibet and India, their experiences serving as inspiration for her later woodcuts, both in design and in the use of saturated, rich color. The scenes she created of India from 1920 to 1930s are some of her more renowned work. From 1930 to 1933, Royds created a series of flower prints, which utilized her bold color work and Japanese woodblock technique. These stunning compositions, including Honeysuckle, are now part of the permanent collection at the National Gallery of Scotland. Royds was a regular contributor to the Society of Scottish Artists, the Society of Artist Printers, and the Graver Printers in Colour, exhibited her work in Scotland, Manchester, and further abroad.

Hope you enjoy these two prints!

Image on the left: Honeysuckle, Coral Honeysuckle, Wild Honeysuckle, Hop. Plate XXIV.  From “Flora’s Dictionary,” by Mrs. E.W. Wirt of Virginia. Embellished by Mrs. Anna Smith. Published by Fielding Lucas, Jr., Baltimore. Lithograph, original hand color, 1837. Image size (vignette) 7 x 5″ (175 x 130 mm).

Image on the rightHoneysuckle. By Mabel A. Royds. Woodcut printed in color, 1935-38. Edition unknown. Image size 8 x 6 /12″ (203 x 165 mm).