Will Barnett, August, 1911-2012
Will Barnet’s artistic career as a painter and printmaker spanned over nearly nine decades! Known for his paintings of casual, domestic scenes of women and dreamlike worlds, Barnet was constantly reinventing his style – inspired first by expressionism while working in his first studio in his parent’s basement as a teenager.
When Barnet was award a scholarship to the Arts Student League in 1931, he packed up his portfolio and left his hometown in Massachusetts for New York City with only $10 in his pocket. As an ode to the Depression-era social dynamics and reflective of his own personal life, Barnet often painted figures of mothers, daughters, which included his own family. Nevertheless, his work exuded a universal quality, along with an edginess and brooding contemplation.
Later, Barnet taught at Yale University, Cornell University and was a visiting professor at many other colleges. Continuously painting until his death at 101 years old, Barnet was the recipient of numerous awards for artistic achievement and had his artwork on display in many of the country’s top museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Thomas H. Benton, Island Hay, 1889-1975
Thomas Hart Benton was an influential player of the Regionalist art movement and was well-known for murals and paintings of everyday American life. Born into a politically active family in rural Missouri, Benton’s father ushered him towards a career in politics, which may have been the very reason why Thomas rebelled and resorted to art instead.
After studying art at universities in Chicago and Paris, he returned to the United States. Benton discovered that painting murals was one of the best ways to express his admiration for the mid-west and yearning to connect with working-class people during the Great Depression. In 1934, Benton was commissioned by his home state of Missouri, to create a mural for the State Capitol building in Jefferson City – the subject matter being, A Social History of the State of Missouri, with which he hoped most residents would be able to identify.
Benton eventually settled into a teaching position at the Kansas City Art Institute and continued painting murals infused with his personal political opinion until his death in 1975.
Thomas H. Benton, Going Home, 1889-1975
Martin Lewis, Subway Stairs, 1881-1962
Before discovering his passion for realist expressionism in printmaking, Martin Lewis worked as a merchant seaman and pothole digger. At the turn of the 20th Century, Lewis left his native Australia for the U.S. where he dabbled in painting presidential campaign stage props, to commercial illustration, to etching – that of which he taught the basics to future prolific American painter, Edward Hopper.
Lewis became a master of ‘intaglio,’ which is to cut into a metal plate with a sharp tool or acid to create a design that will then be inked and printed. His signature ability was to create an of interplay dark and light urban scenes, which conjured a film noir effect. Lewis studied art in Japan for two years which influenced his style in printmaking there-after. From 1925-1935, Lewis created his most notable prints.
Unfortunately, when the Great Depression ended, printmaking fell out of style and Lewis’ career took a hit. However, even today, Martin Lewis’ prints are a part of collections and are on display in many prestigious museums around the U.S. and Australia.
Isabel Bishop, Over the Wall, 1902-1988
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Isabel Bishop’s paintings and prints “primarily depict women in their daily routine in the streets of Manhattan.”
At 16 years-old, Bishop moved to New York City and studied at the New York School of Applied Design for Women and the Arts Student League. During her studies, Bishop adopted realism and Flemish Baroque under her umbrella of styles when she painted. As she aged, Bishop became fascinated by movement and fluidity of everyday life, that which she strived to capture in her artwork.
In 1936, Bishop was the only full-time female instructor at the Arts Student League and in 1946, she became the first woman to hold an executive position in the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Unsurprisingly, she was a supporter of the feminist movement, which is also relevant in her prints and paintings.
Bishop married and remained in New York, continuously inspired by the inhabitants and females of the city’s Union Square area. She continued to paint and create prints in her Manhattan studio until 1984, four years before her death.
Paul Cadmus, The Fleet's In, 1904-1999
Following in the footsteps of his inspirations of the Italian Renaissance, Paul Cadmus is best known for his depiction of the male form through nude figure drawings and paintings by exaggerating curves and emphasizing his subjects’ sexuality. When the painting, The Fleet’s In, was first exhibited in 1934, it provoked public outcry, controversy and was eventually dejected from a show at a gallery in Washington D.C. The attention and outcries propelled Cadmus into national notoriety, as the public was flocking to see this so-called controversial painting. Besser Museum now has the print of that painting proudly on display in our Wilson Gallery.
Born into a family of artists in Manhattan, at the age of 15, Cadmus left grade school to attend the National Academy of Art and Design. In 1931, Cadmus travelled Europe with a friend and colleague, Jared French, and while gaining inspiration, he created some of his first works of art. French eventually introduced Cadmus to the egg yolk tempera technique in painting which produces jewel-like tones.
Cadmus was a pioneer in the magic realism movement and has been presented dozens of awards and has had prints and paintings displayed in museums all over the world, despite a contentious start to his career. “Gritty social interactions in urban settings” continued to be the primary subjects of Cadmus’s art.
Adolf Dehn, Market in Haiti, 1895-1968
Adolf Dehns’ regionalist styled lithographs and prints were regarded as critical in the representation of the social atmosphere of the 1920’s and 30’s. Dehn frequently printed scenes of the Roaring 20’s, burlesque, opera houses and cafes, in which he interjected a satirical vein oscillating between “spoofing high society and creating beautiful landscapes.”
Born in Minnesota, Dehn was drafted to serve in World War I after high school graduation. He was a conscientious objector of the war and shortly after it ended, he traveled to Paris and Vienna and found himself associating with an intellectual and artistic crowd which included poet, E.E. Cummings.
As he became more widely recognized and financially successful, Dehn travelled extensively with his wife, companion and fellow artist Virginia Engleman. Adolf’s experiences and recollections of color during his time in Haiti and Cuba influenced him to create the print of a bustling Tahitian market, displayed in our Wilson Gallery. In 1968, Dehn died a well-respected artist having had work displayed in over 100 museums around the world. Today, the Minnesota Historical Society in Elysian carries one of the largest collections of Dehn’s artwork.
https://books.google.com/books - Adolf Dehn
Fritz Eichenberg, Wuthering Heights: Heathcliffe Under the Tree, 1901-1990
“Eichenberg was born into a Jewish family in Germany, where the destruction of World War I helped shape his anti-war sentiments,” including his opinions on religion, social justice and non-violence. These timeless themes were often reflected in his work. In 1933,
Eichenberg decided to emigrate to the U.S. with his wife and children, with the rise of Hitler and he being openly critical of the Nazis.
Eichenberg settled in New York City and remained in the northeast for the remainder of his life. Politically outspoken, Eichenberg often wrote and illustrated articles for various magazines and newspapers. He taught at the New School for Social Research and Pratt Institute. Then in 1971, Eichenberg accepted a position at the Albertus Magnus College in Connecticut, where he was voted Outstanding Educator of America the following year.
Eichenberg’s medium was primarily illustration and wood-engraved printing, this path eventually leading him to illustrate for renowned authors such as, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Charlotte, Emily Bronte, Johnathan Swift and Poe.
William Gropper, Diogenes, 1897-1977
‘Born into a life of poverty’ – this fact was the inception and motivation for William “Bill” Gropper to create the radical and politically charged cartoons and prints for which he is most known. His parents, Jewish immigrants from Ukraine and Romania settled in New York City – his mother working for sweat shops and his father, while intelligent, remained unemployed. In 1911, Gropper lost an aunt he was very close to in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire – these conditions and events set the stage for Gropper’s prints and cartoons depicting the failure of the American economy and his antipathy towards capitalism.
William’s travels to Cuba and the Soviet Union with his second wife, set him up to write many publications to various communist papers. In the latter half of the 1930s, “Gropper dedicated his art in effort to raise popular opposition to fascism.” With the end of World War II, Gropper traveled to Poland where he was stirred to pay tribute to the Jews that died in the Holocaust by painting one scene of Jewish life each year.
One of Bills’ most notorious works is a mural entitled, Automobile Industry, commissioned for the Detroit Michigan Post Office, in 1940.
Rockwell Kent, Deep Water, 1882-1971
One might describe Rockwell Kent as a “jack-of-all-trades,” in the sense that he was a painter, printmaker, illustrator, writer, sailor and adventurer. He even dabbled in careers such as architecture, carpentry, dairy farming and political activist. Through various exposures to art from family and friends as a young man, Kent spent summers painting at an art school, Shinnecock Hills in Long Island and eventually was offered a full scholarship to the New York School of Art in 1902.
Taken with Thoreau and Emerson’s austere writings, Kent was “inspired by the stark beauty of wilderness,” which led him to paint beautifully unique landscapes. After his divorce from his first wife, Kent often took extended holidays to remote parts of the world such as, Greenland, Alaska and Tierra del Fuego. These exotic travels provided inspiration for Kent’s visual art and his writings.
Kent once wrote, “I don’t want petty self-expression. I want to paint the rhythm of eternity.”
With the onset of World War II, Kent started focusing his energy on progressive political activism, his outspoken support to end fascism in Europe and with his connection to Russia, his art soon fell out of style. In 1960, Rockwell donated 80 paintings and 800 prints to the Soviet Union. In 1971, he died of a heart attack and was buried on the grounds where his cabin stands in the Adirondack Mountains of New York.
Jack Levine, Girls of Tunridge Alley #1, 1915-2010
Jack Levine’s prints and paintings of political satire and human folly are exhibited today in museums around the world. Some satirical works went so far as to cause controversy such as his painting entitled, The Feast of Pure Reason, which depicts a police officer, politician and businessman scheming together. On the other hand, Levine was much admired for his biblical scenes. The Vatican even bought one of his paintings entitled, Cain and Able.
Levine’s artwork is marked by the early facts and atmosphere of his life growing up in poverty with Jewish immigrant parents, in Boston. Studying painting with a future professor and friend from a young age and with a stroke of luck, they both were taken under the umbrella of Harvard University from 1929-33. Levine was drafted into World War II in 1942 and continued to paint throughout his service. After the war, Levine continued to focus on social realism and with the onset of the Civil Rights Movement, his art reflected the tumultuous times.
Levine turned to print-making later in life and his dubious work continued to represent his views of humanity, as does this quote, “The satirical direction I have chosen is an indication of my disappointment in man, which is the opposite way of saying that I have high expectations for the human race.”
John Marin, Sailboat, 1870-1953
Known for his abstract landscapes and dynamic water colors, John Marin was a part of a clan of distinguished modern artists that included, Georgia O’Keefe, Arthur Dove and Marsden Hartley of the early 1900’s. He is credited for being one of the first American artists to paint “abstractly” and for influencing the “Abstract Expressionists” of post-war 1940s.
Maine’s rocky coastline and the bridges of New York City were two primary subjects of inspiration for Marin. It could be attributed to one of Marin’s first jobs as a young man in an architect’s office that he became so adept with improvising the urban landscape. Marin became known for his ability to interplay translucency and opacity, as well as linear elements and movement. In 1909, Marin had his first solo exhibition at famed art promoter, Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery in New York City. Stieglitz continued to promote his work until Marin’s death in 1946.
Reginald Marsh, Bathers in the Hudson, 1898-1954
Scenes of Depression-era New York, Coney Island beach scenes, vaudeville and burlesque performers and jobless men were favorited subjects in Reginald Marsh’s prints, paintings and water colors. Thomas H. Benton, Marsh’s colleague, introduced him to egg tempera painting, which creates jewel-like and golden tones, that he used to create depth and body.
While Marsh attended Yale University, he was the top-notch illustrator and cartoonist for the campus’s humor magazine, before he graduated in 1920. Marsh went onto illustrate and sketch for the New Yorker magazine and other prominent New York-based publications. When Reginald discovered print-making, he was very meticulous and scientific about the tools, technique and process, noting the temperature of the room, the duration that the prints soaked in acid and the nature of the ink.
Marsh’s New York City women depicted in his art are burgeoning with sexuality and his Coney Island beaches and landscapes are riddled with influence by the “Old Masters” of the Renaissance. Thousands of unpublished prints and sketches were unearthed at his estate when Marsh died, at the young age of 56.
Raphael Soyer, Study of A Young Girl, 1899-1987
Born in Russia at the turn of the 20th Century to a family entrenched in poverty Raphael Soyer, a Jewish American, a print-maker and painter focused on social realism. Soyer’s family moved to the Bronx, New York City in 1912, where he and his 5 siblings were urged by their father to pursue academics and the arts. Soyer was particularly interested in capturing the mundane aspects of humanity within his art, which may explain why he focused on portraiture of the impoverished in industrialized settings in New York City. Raphael painted women and men on the streets of the city, dancers, bums, office workers and even fellow artists including, Edward Hopper, Allen Ginsberg and Gitel Steed.
Strongly opposed to abstract art, Soyer was dedicated to a realist representation. Raphael had his prints and paintings on display in reputable museums across the country, taught in many New York university art programs, and illustrated several books.
Theo Wujcik, Ed Ruscha, 1936-2014
One of ten children, born to Polish immigrant parents in Detroit, Michigan in 1936, Theo Wujcik was “punk, a professor, a painter and printmaker.” Constantly drawing as a child, Wujcik drew military event posters while serving in the Army Corps of Engineers in France. Urged to attend school to study art after his service, Wujcik finally made his way back to Detroit where he studied under the modernist, Sarkis Sarkisian.
In 1970, Wujcik was offered the position as director of Graphicstudio, at the University of South Florida. He accepted and moved to Tampa. Wujcik made lasting impressions on his students through his hard-work ethic and originality, and he created life-long friendships and professional collaborations with artists, Ed Ruscha, James Rosenquist and Robert Rauschenberg.
In the early 1980s, Wujcik started dumpster diving for unique materials that he would use in installations, and spent time in local clubs. Inspired by punk music of the 80’s, his mixed media and prints were reflective of these times. Wujcik is credited with developing the chiseled-engraving technique in printmaking that of which defined his style, as well as his creation of the chain-link fence motif “as a metaphor for exclusion, protection and oppression involving current social-political and environmental issues.” Without a doubt, Wujcik’s style and work had made a huge impact on the art community locally and nation-wide.
Benton M Spruance, Caustic Moments, 1904-1967
On top of being a lithographer, print-maker and art historian, Benton Spruance produced more than 500 unique prints during his lifetime. Born in Philadelphia in 1904, Spruance spent most of his life there developing as an artist, except when he was awarded the Cresson Traveling Scholarship, which granted him to travel to Paris in 1928. In 1933, Spruance held his first solo show in New York City and was appointed as a professor in the Department of Fine Art of Arcadia University in Philadelphia, a position he held for the rest of his life.
With the onset of World War Two, in 1935-1940, Spruance’s lithographs are marked with a deliberate socially conscious agenda with images portraying the violent cycle of war. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he even volunteered to join the armed forces but was turned down due to poor health. Spruance’s repertoire also included grim and moody portraits of women. In the 1950’s, Spruance was involved with the urban regeneration of Philadelphia and ensured that there was art on display in all public buildings across the city, a contribution that was much appreciated by the city.
Asa Cheffetz, Lighthouse, 1897-1965
Asa Cheffetz is best known for his self-taught mastery of wood-block engraving, a technique used for printmaking, where one carves a design into wood, ink is applied to the remaining segments, and then is pressed to create an image.
Cheffetz was born in Buffalo, NY, then moved to Boston study art. Later, he moved again to attend New York City's National Academy of Design. Cheffetz's appreciation for the rural New England landscape shines through in his engravings and prints. To boot, his detail-oriented and precision for capturing light and shadow in his work was a skillset that other engravers envied. In addition, Cheffetz was an illustrator for several publications including, "An Almanac for Moderns."
Asa Cheffetz, Winter Weather, 1897-1965
Adrian VanSchutolen, Americana, 1941-
“Art has something to do with expressing who we are,” Adrian Van Suchtelen once said of motivating his students. Van Suchtelen was born in Indonesia in 1941, then immigrated to the United States in 1957 after having lived and studied in Holland. Los Angeles was Adrian’s home while he studied at the Otis Art Institute. His next stop was Logan, Utah where he joined the faculty to teach drawing, painting, printmaking and sculpture at Utah State University in 1967, which resulted in a “rewarding 37-year career.”
Van Suchtelen displayed his admiration and appreciation for the flux of the four seasons in a recent exhibit that featured a comprehensive sample of his lifetime’s work. As a professor, Van Suchtelen focused on sparking his student’s individual creativity, which he found immensely rewarding. Today, Van Suchtelen applies that mentality to drive himself to create art daily in retirement.
Aaron Bohrod, Church in Luxembourg, 1907-1992
Destined to become an artist at the young age of nine, Aaron Bohrod recalled, “It was fun to scribble.” Growing up on Chicago’s west side at the start of the 20th Century, Bohrod had many opportunities to formally study art as a child. Bohrod eventually made his way to New York City as a young adult. There he studied under another of our featured print-makers, John Sloan, who impressed Bohrod to find inspiration in “humble, every-day subjects.” When Bohrod returned to the Midwest, he followed Sloan’s advice and sought out parks, alleys, garage eaves and roof tops as places of inspiration to capture people going about their daily lives.
In 1948, Aaron accepted an artist-in-residence position at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and resided in the capital city until his death in 1992. During the 1950’s and in full swing of his career, Bohrod’s style shifted to the highly realistic trompe-l’oeil, that of which gives “an illusion of real life.” Bohrod’s prints and paintings are in collections of many highly-esteemed museums across the United States.
Armin Landeck, Approaching Storm; Manhatten, 1905-1984
Armin Landeck was born in Crandon, Wisconsin in 1905 and attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Eventually, he moved on to earned a degree in architecture from Colombia University. After traveling Europe for 18 months, Armin returned to the United States and had trouble finding work in architecture during the Great Depression. Landeck was compelled to return his focus to art.
Landeck took up a teaching position at the Brearly School in Connecticut that he held for nearly 30 years. In the 1940s, Landeck frequently collaborated on teaching and exploring new printmaking techniques with another of our featured artists, Martin Lewis. When experimenting with dry-point, etching and copper engraving, his work took a turn for the abstract in the 1950s. Landeck’s style can be identified by barren cityscapes of New York and his unique use of lines. He continued to produce prints until the day he died in 1984.
Reynold Weidenaar, Last Run, 1915-1985
A home-grown artist out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Reynold Weidenaar was inspired by the Regionalist style and was a student of another of our featured artists, Thomas Hart Benton. The Regionalism Movement is devoted to accurately representing small town, rural life through art and Weidenaar brought his own life’s experiences into it.
After his studies at the Kansas City Art Institute from 1938-40, Weidenaar was awarded the Guggenheim Fellowship and another scholarship which granted him the chance to travel around the world. This opportunity prompted Weidenaar to record his impressions of these new experiences – Mexico, being one country that inspired him the most. In the 1950’s, Weidenaar experimented with mezzotint printing, the process of achieving detailed tonality by carving fine lines and dots into metal plates.
Even though Weidenaar was an adventurous world-traveler and restlessly creative, he is also praised locally for his three prints interpreting the Mackinac Bridge under construction in 1956, which are on display at Mackinac Island State Park. Weidenaars’ achievements and successes are also touted at Grand Rapids Art Museum and on their website.
Thomas Nason, Farm, 1885-1971
Thomas Nason was an influential leader and perfectionist in the art of chiaroscuro wood-engraved printing. The bucolic and rustic culture of New England was Nason's home and inspiration for his craft throughout his lifetime.
Born in 1885 in Massachusetts and after having served in World War I, Nason shifted his pursuit of business towards the art of print-making. He meticulously taught himself wood-engraving through observation and trial-and-error. Nason worked for many respected art publications and was commissioned to create special illustrated volumes by notorious institutions such as, the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Eventually, Nason formed a complimentary professional relationship with poet, Robert Frost, for whom he illustrated scenes of nature and rural life, represented in Frost's prose including the poem, The Road Not Taken. Regionalism and modernism themes are captured in Nason's work as it evolves with time from the Depression-era to post-war America. Throughout changes in the art, economic and political worlds, Nason's farm in Lyme, Connecticut remained his greatest inspiration until his death in 1971.
J.W. Golinkins, At Chicago, 1896-1977
Doris Lee, Afternoon Train, 1905-1983
Doris Lee came to be known as one of the most successful female artists of the Depression era, as she constantly reinvented her style in painting and printmaking. Lee incorporated Regionalist themes in her work, heavy with nostalgic, idyllic and fanciful aspects of American life, where color played a major role in portraying mood.
Lee’s painting entitled, Thanksgiving, won the prestigious Logan Prize at the Chicago Art Institute in 1935, depicting a bustling kitchen scene in gleeful but urgent preparation for the big meal. Because of her instant notoriety, Lee was immediately commissioned by the United States Department of the Treasury to paint two murals for the General Post Office in Washington D.C.
During the 1940’s and 50’s, Lee gradually adopted an abstract style. Life magazine commissioned Doris for travel articles and illustrations that took her around the world to places such as North Africa, Cuba and Mexico. Such international experiences and her subtle humor influenced her artwork until her retirement in the late 1960s.
Adja Yunkers, Miss Everready, 1900-1983
John F Sloan, Night Windows, 1871-1951
John Sloan spent much of his career as an artist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania however, his most notable works are etchings of, New York City Life, 1905-06. While growing up in a struggling family in Philadelphia where his father was often absent due to work, Sloan was greatly influenced by his mother to pursue his creative and artistic interests. His education began inconsistently through night classes while he balanced a life and job. After little education, Sloan became an illustrator for a few local Philadelphia newspapers, and was notorious for his “elaborate and colored art-nouveau picture puzzles and his comic strip riddles.” Frustrated with America’s economic policy and political climate, Sloan joined the Socialist party in 1910, yet his discontent did not always bleed into his artwork.
Sloan was inspired by the American southwest and spent many summers in New Mexico concentrating on his form. Female nudes, hair dressers, city crowds, saloons and street life are a few of the many scenes and subjects he focused on in his paintings and prints. Sloan’s students and admirers know him well for his “sharp tongue” and dedication for experimenting with and advancing his personal style and technique. Today, Sloan’s legacy is on display in many major museums across the country such as, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. and even a United States Post Office in Bronxville, New York.
Jack Coughlin, Satyrs & Nymphs
Born in Connecticut in 1932, Jack Coughlin became known for his portraits of literary figures and musicians. Coughlin studied at the Rhode Island School of Design when abstract art was burgeoning with popularity, however he defined his style to figurative traditions in European and American art. Coughlin’s prints were published in many literary and political magazines, including many publications and books out of Ireland. Coughlin was “celebrated for his combination of traditional and innovative techniques during the resurgence of intaglio, lithograph and woodcut printmaking,” and taught for 35 years at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. Coughlin created his portraits with great respect and sensitivity. As of 1994, Jack retired as an emeritus professor of art.
Though not wealthy monetarily, as a young boy Letterio Calapai’s life was rich with art, music and poetry while growing up in Boston, Massachusetts to Sicilian immigrant parents. After attending Massachusetts Normal Art School and exceling at oil painting, he entered a figure painting competition in Florence, Italy but unfortunately, in 1928 a massively destructive fire ruined all work that he planned to enter. Nevertheless, Calapai persisted his career forward in New York City where he learned metal engraving and intaglio printmaking techniques, and he developed his personal style to include religious and literary themes.
In the mid-1940s, Calapai established his own intaglio workshops and taught art at the New School for Social Research, where he found great meaning and pride in motivating his students and keeping in touch with them throughout their careers. His later work is marked with abstract expressionism. Calapai died on his 91st birthday leaving behind a legacy of work at his studio in Glencoe, Illinois.
John Taylor Arms
Contrary to many opinions of Gothic art as macabre and barbaric, John Taylor Arms “believed in the uplifting quality of Gothic art and the power of close observation,” which was the style of some but not all his work. In this vein of his work, Arm’s etchings of Gothic churches, cathedrals and their gargoyles from French and Italian countryside, can be found in many museum collections nationwide.
Arms discovered his passion for art after graduating with a degree in architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1912, and after his service in World War I, with the United States Navy. In 1919, he produced his first etchings of the Brooklyn Bridge. Arms developed a detailed eye in during architecture school that was evident in his prints. It is said that he used a sewing needle and magnifying glass to achieve that high level of precision. Arms enjoyed a successful career in graphic design in the 1920s and 30s, was elected into the National Academy of Design in 1930 and died in 1953, as a pioneer in the printmaking world.