Early 20th Century, Landscapes, Prints, Woodcut

Werner Drewes

Farm with Figures. By Werner Drewes. Woodcut on Japanese paper, 1931.  Image size 8 3/8 x 11 3/4". LINK.

Farm with Figures. By Werner Drewes. Woodcut on Japanese paper, 1931. Image size 8 3/8 x 11 3/4″. LINK.

Werner Drewes (1899-1985) was born in Canig, Germany. In 1921, he was admitted into the Bauhaus where he studied under artists such as Klee and Muche. Drewes traveled throughout Italy and Spain studying the old masters, particularly Velasquez and El Greco, supporting himself by selling prints as postcards. His vagabond lifestyle took him to the Americas and Asia, where he was inspired the people and landscapes he met along the way. In 1930 he immigrated to the U.S. with his wife, Margaret Schrobsdorf, and his sons. From 1934 to 1936, Drewes taught at the Brooklyn Museum under the auspices of the WPA Federal Art Project. In 1936, he became an American citizen. Drewes joined other Bauhaus artists in New York to form the core of the American Abstract Artists group. He taught at Columbia University from 1937 to 1940, and served as director of graphic art for the WPA Federal Art Project in New York in 1940. In 1944 he studied printmaking at Stanley William Hayter’s famed Atelier 17.

Drewes was a tenured professor at Washington University in St. Louis, from 1946-to 1965. With his sons grown, Drewes’ time at Washington University in St. Louis was a very creative period, with his focus no longer split between his art and raising and financially supporting his family. After his wife’s passing in 1965, Drewes remarried a jeweler and fellow professor from Washington University, Mary Louise Lischer. Retirement led the couple to Bucks County, Pennsylvania where Drewes’ art focused on abstract landscapes and still lifes. Moving once more to escape the long winters, Virginia became Drewes’ final home, where he continued to create and teach until the age of 85. His paintings and prints have been shown at major museums throughout Europe and the United States.

Werner Drewes’ Farm with Figures (shown above) can be seen at our Georgetown gallery in Washington, D.C.  It would make a fantastic addition to any early 20th century collection.


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 Lithograph, Early 20th Century, Lithograph, Past/Present, Prints

Past/Present: Bouquets

past present logo copyWe have a new Past/Present post for our readers today, featuring two vividly colored prints of flower bouquets. Both sharing strong compositional value, the selected prints place the bouquets against a striking black background, allowing the pink, yellow, and blue petals to almost pop off the paper.

The older print is a lithograph from the 19th century publishing firm, Currier and Ives. All Currier & Ives lithographs were printed in black and white, and then hand colored after printing. In contrast, the print by 20th century Cuban-American artist Emilio Sanchez is a color lithograph, meaning the color was adding during the printing process, not later by hand. Despite their different applications of color, they both make stunning prints.

The Currier and Ives print continues the tradition of the floral still life, which first flourished in the Netherlands in the 1600s. With an overflowing arrangement of flowers, additional natural elements like eggs and a nest pictured to the side, and the meticulous detail given to both the petals and the woven basket holding the flowers, the Currier print is an ebullient display of abundance in harmonious balance. In contrast, Sanchez has a looser, amorphous approach to the flowers, emphasizing color and form over detail, and opting for a smaller bouquet and sparse vase. Hope you enjoy!

Image on the left: A Choice Bouquet. Published by Currier & Ives, 125 Nassau St. New York. Lithograph, hand-colored, 1872. Image size 8 1/2 x 12 1/2″ (215 x 318 mm).

Image on the rightFlorecitas. By Emilio Sanchez. Color lithograph, 1997. Image size 15 3/4 x 8 7/8″ (394 x 227 mm). Edition 50. Signed, titled and numbered in pencil.