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Color Woodblock Prints at Michele and Donald D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, Massachusetts

On exhibit through March 22, 2009


A selection of twenty 19th- and 20th-century color woodblock prints from the permanent collection of the Michele and Donald D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Springfield, Massachusetts, are being exhibited in the museum for the first time through March 22, 2009. (righr: Natt A Piper, American, 1886-1969, "Long Beach Harbor," Woodblock print)

Color woodblock printing as we know it today was developed by Japanese artists in the 18th century, and adapted by European artists. American artists Arthur Wesley Dow and Charles Hawthorn are credited with teaching American artists this technique after studying in Europe. But unlike Japanese printing, where the artist's design is executed by a group of craftsmen, the American artists created the entire image themselves.

A small group of Americans, who studied in Paris with Dow and Hawthorn, formed what became known as the Provincetown School in Provincetown, Mass. Six artists from the group, including Margaret Jordan Patterson and Edna Boies Hopkins, formed the Provincetown Printers, the first color-print society in America.

Margaret Jordan Patterson (1867-1950) first studied woodblock printing in Paris. She was the director of drawing for the art department in the Boston Public Schools from 1909 through 1910. In 1910, she was appointed head of the art department for Dana Hall, a private school in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She was a pioneer in color woodblock printmaking and had numerous exhibitions in Boston at the Copley Society and the Guild of Boston Artists. Patterson gravitated to Cape Cod and maintained a studio there in the summer. There she produced an impressive body of work and was inspired by the meandering inlet coves, windblown trees, rolling moors and dunes, and the flora and fauna. Her painterly style of working is apparent in the floral woodblock prints in the exhibition. Like many single, professional women in the early 20th century, Patterson had a dual career as an artist and teacher. She was trained as a printmaker by Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922), who was one of the first American artists to admire the qualities of Japanese woodblock prints.

Painter and printmaker Edna Boies Hopkins (1872-1937) was another founder of the Provincetown school who created Japanese-influenced color woodcuts. She studied with Dow and B.J.O. Norfeldt (1878-1955) after returning from Europe and Japan. At the turn of the century, Hopkins was considered an important printmaker in the Provincetown, Massachusetts, art colony. While traveling in Japan the artist observed the techniques of the printmakers and incorporated the ideas into her own works. (left: Viola Hansen Patterson, American, 1898-1984, "Hawaiian Group," Woodblock print)

The exhibition also includes work by Rhode Island artist Eliza Draper Gardiner (1871-1955), another pioneer in the art of colored-woodblock prints, and California printmaker Elizabeth Norton (1887-1985). Several male artists are featured in the exhibition including Irish artist Robert James Enraght-Moony, Australian artist John Hall Thorpe, and American artist Nat Piper. Enraght-Moony (1879-1946) was a landscape painter and book illustrator. His prints were highly illustrative, a popular style in the late 19th century.

John Hall Thorpe (1874-1947) demonstrates the association to Japanese imagery and printmaking techniques in his work. The brilliant colors and shallow picture plane are two of the characteristics that resemble the Japanese sensibility. Thorpe was a prominent early 20th century Australian woodcut artist. Natt Piper's (1886-1969) illustrations appeared in architectural magazines across the United States. The Colorado-born artist moved to California where he worked as the building inspector for the city of Long Beach, California. Piper created woodblock prints in his leisure time and became an award winning member of several artists groups including the Santa Monica Artist's Association, the Laguna Beach Artist's Association, and the Painters and Sculptors Society of Los Angeles. Piper's wood block prints are highly saturated with color and demonstrate the dramatic results that can be achieved with this medium.


(above: Eliza Draper Gardiner, American, 1871-1955, "Boy and Goose," Woodblock print)


(above: Edna Boies Hopkins, American 1872-1937, "Zinnia," Woodblock print)


(above: Eliza Draper Gardiner, American, 1871-1955, "Pickaback," Woodblock print)

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