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.

 

 

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Color Woodcut, Early 20th Century, Engraving, Gallery Opening Receptions, Gallery Openings, Landscapes, Prints, Wood, woodblock print, Woodcut

“Ink & Grain” to open in September

Autumn Road Santa Fe. By Norma Basset Hall. Color woodblock, 1928. Signed in pencil by the artist.

Autumn Road Santa Fe. By Norma Basset Hall. Color woodblock, 1928. Signed in pencil by the artist.

The Old Print Gallery is proud to announce its new fall print show, Ink & Grain, which will open on Friday, September 19, 2014 with a free opening night reception from 5-8pm at the gallery. Ink & Grain is a group show, highlighting 20th century printmakers who excelled in woodcuts and wood engravings. The exhibit will remain on view at the Old Print Gallery until November 15th, 2014.

One of the most ancient forms of printmaking, the woodcut was in huge decline in the 19th century, as printmakers turned to other forms of reproductive mediums. Luckily, the 20th century saw a revived and energized artistic expression for woodcuts and wood engravings. These new woodcut artists experimented heavily with technique, in ways both innovative and nuanced. Printmakers, like Werner Drewes and Barbara Latham, incorporated the grain of the woodblock directly into the composition of their prints- surrendering to its complexities while highlighting its unique, undulating patterns. Others, including Gustave Baumann, Leo Frank, Norma Bassset Hall, and Luigi Rist, experimented with new methods of ink and color application, resulting in stylized prints in a bold, modern palate, as well as softer, luminous color prints inked onto thin Japanese paper.

Sea Shell and Carlic. Luigi Rist. Color woodcut, 1947. Signed in ink on the block. Titled and inscribed "150 Edition" in pencil.

Sea Shell and Garlic. Luigi Rist. Color woodcut, 1947. Signed in ink on the block. Titled and inscribed “150 Edition” in pencil.

Wood engravings also saw a resurgence during the 20th century, especially in the form of artist’s hand-made books and commercial book illustrations. The show includes works by skilled wood engravers Clare Leighton, Lawrence N. Wilbur, and John Murphy, all who made a name for themselves as dynamic illustrators and artists.

Digging Potatoes. By Clare Leighton. Wood engraving, 1935. Signed and titled in pencil. Edition 30.

Digging Potatoes. By Clare Leighton. Wood engraving, 1935. Signed and titled in pencil. Edition 30.

Selected Artists: Gustave Baumann, Asa Cheffetz, Werner Drewes, Leo Frank, Antonio Frasconi, Eliza Draper Gardiner, Norma Bassett Hall, Barbara Latham, Clare Leighton, Alessandro Mastro-Valerio, John J. A. Murphy, Luigi Rist, Mabel Royds, Charles Svendsen, Paul Wenck, Lawrence N. Wilbur, and Adja Yunkers.

 

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