Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Margaret Rose Preston: Australia's Flora Printmaker

Margaret Rose McPherson Preston (1875 - 1963) was an Australian Modernist painter and printmaker. She was highly influential during the 1920s to 1940s and was known for appropriating Cubism principles and Aboriginal motifs in her work.

Born in Port Adelaide to David and Prudence McPherson, Preston was their first-born child. As a child she was called by her middle name Rose. Preston's interest in art began at the age of twelve, first through china painting, and then through private lessons with the artist William Lister.

Preston's formal art training continued at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School from 1889-1894, with Frederick McCubbin. After Preston’s father’s death, she resumed her studies in 1895 at the National Gallery of Victoria Art School with Bernard Hall, preferring to work on her still life images. She won several awards including the prestigious Still life Scholarship in 1897. In 1898 she continued her studies at Adelaide's School of Design, under H. P. Gill and Hans Heysen.

Preston was an influential teacher. She began teaching private lessons while at the Adelaide School of Design, establishing her own teaching studio in the city's AMP building in 1899. She later taught at St Peter's College, Adelaide and Presbyterian Ladies' College, Adelaide. Among her many students were Bessie Davidson, Gladys Reynell and later, Stella Bowen, who referred to her as "a red-headed little firebrand of a woman, who was not only an excellent painter, but a most inspiring teacher".

Preston became one of the most powerful artists of Australia’s Modernism movement in the 1920s, largely because of her European travels (1903-1907); studying in Munich and Paris, and travelling to Africa. These experiences would deeply influence her work for the rest of her career. Preston briefly studied at the Government Art School for Women in Germany, but did not relate well to their teaching style, nor did she relate to the body of current German art, "half of German art is mad and vicious, and a good deal is dull. I am glad to say that my work stands with the best of them".

In contrast, Preston reveled in the works of French Post Impressionists, and she took advantage to exhibit her work in the Paris Salon of 1905 and 1906. She was introduced to Japanese art and design at the Musée Guimet, and the experience awakened her to new compositional ideas of asymmetry, pattern, a love of flora; and experiments with more primitive subject matter. She went to Paris for a second time in 1912 and relocated to the UK, where she studied pottery and also the principles of Modernist design at Roger Fry's Omega Workshops. Later, she taught pottery and basket-weaving to recovering soldiers at the Seale Hayne Military Hospital in Devonshire.

Margaret Preston’s strong involvement with the Society of Artists. Preston contributed fourteen articles to Art in Australia, thirteen articles to The Home, nine to the Australia National Journal and four articles to the Society of Artists yearbooks.

Preston experimented with etching in London, but it was woodblock printing that she continued to work in, creating dynamic, decorative images which brought her wide acclaim. She made over 400 prints, however it is known that she produced many more. The majority of Preston’s prints feature Australian native flora, because of their irregularity and asymmetry, offering her the perfect subjects for her modernist compositions. Preston preferred to work with hand-coloring and to experiment with new techniques, resulting in daring works of radical design, composition and color.

She turned to Australian Indigenous art as a source for creating a new, national art. Her early interest in indigenous art was more anthropological, than one empathetic with its spiritual sensibilities, but her work matured, revealing a strong spiritual connection with the land, and also reflected her deep interest in Chinese art. Her last series of prints were based upon a religious theme, and are generally thought to have been motivated by the Blake Prize, instituted in 1951.

1911 - Commission from Adelaide citizens' committee, now at the Art Gallery of South Australia.
1930 - Commission for the trustees of the Art Gallery of New South.
1953 - Last major exhibition at Macquarie Gallery, in Sydney
Member of the Anthropological Society of New South Wales

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Australia's Beloved Pioneer Printmaker, Dorrit Black

The land down under is known for a great many attributes of its cultural resources; the Outback, Aboriginal forebears, and the Great Barrier Reef, to name a few. What has been a growing artistic development in the 20th c. are Australia's arts, specifically printmakers. There are flourishing print shops down under and many artists are making a reputation for themselves in and outside the country. One of the earlier leaders in this field was the artist Dorrit Black, who has long been regarded one of Australia's printmaking pioneers.

Dorothea "Dorrit" Foster Black (1891 – 1951) Pioneer Australian Modernist painter/printmaker/gallerist.
Born in the Adelaide suburb of Burnside, Black was the daughter of Alfred Barham Black (engineer and architect) and Jessie Howard Clark, an amateur artist. She attended the South Australian School of Arts and Crafts, and attended Julian Ashton's Sydney Art School.

In 1927, Black went to London to attend the Grosvenor School of Modern Art, where she learned about printmaking. The next year, she studied at André Lhote's Academy in Paris and his summer school, and in 1929 she studied Cubism with Albert Gleizes.
By the time Black returned to Australia, she had become a Cubist advocate. She held an exhibition at Macquarie Galleries in Sydney in 1930, the first of six one-woman shows which were to feature her work.

Black established the Modern Art Centre in Margaret Street, Sydney in 1931, the first gallery in Australia to devote itself to modernism. It was also one of the first galleries in Australia to be established by a woman. Over the next few years, the Modern Art Centre hosted small but significant exhibitions by artists who became important advocates of Australian Modernism.

Black did most of her prints in the 1930s. She settled in Adelaide, South Australia, and painted landscapes of the Adelaide hills and the south coast. Black died in the Royal Adelaide Hospital at the age of 59, after a car accident.

Awards and Collections
1931 - finalist for the Archibald Prize for portraiture
National Gallery of Australia
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Final Note* A building named for Black supports the arts for technical workshops of the South Australian School of Art and the Louis Laybourne-Smith School of Architecture and Design. Built by John Wardle Architects, the building's services house ceramic kilns and glass blowing equipment, printmaking and jewelery apparatus, state-of-the-art photography darkrooms, textile, painting and drawing studios and all the machinery required to make furniture or models or work with metal.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The 'Wham!' of Roy Lichtenstein's Prints

You can love him or not, but you can't ignore him. Roy Lichtenstein's prints are signature works during the Pop Art movement in the 1960s. His simplistic use of only 20 colors during his career is interesting by itself, but the complexity of the images and the way he maneuvered himself seamlessly out of the Pop art period to explore other icons of the 20th c. was and is a fascinating education in how an artist teaches himself to become a better artist.
Roy Fox Lichtenstein 1923 –1997 was a part of the American Pop Art movement. During the 1960s, he became a leading figure in the new American-dominated movement, along with fellow artists Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, and James Rosenquist. Using comic strips as his main inspiration, Lichtenstein created tongue-in-cheek, hard-edged compositions in clean, crisp primary colors. His work was also heavily influenced by popular advertising. He described pop art as "not 'American' painting but actually industrial painting". During his career, Lichtenstein made over 300 prints, mostly in screen printing.
Lichtenstein was born in New York City, into an upper-middle-class Jewish family, where his father was a real estate broker, and his mother, a homemaker. He attended public school for a time, then enrolled at New York's Franklin School for Boys. Lichtenstein first became interested in art and design as a hobby, and then through school. In 1939, Lichtenstein enrolled in summer classes at the Art Students League of New York, where he worked under Reginald Marsh. Being an avid fan of jazz music, he frequently drew portraits of Harlem’s Apollo Theater jazz musicians while playing their instruments.
Lichtenstein went to study art at the Ohio State University. His studies were interrupted for three years (1943-1946) while he served as an orderly, draftsman, and artist in the Army during and after World War II. He returned home to visit his dying father and was discharged from the army with eligibility for the G.I. Bill. He returned to OSU and studied under Hoyt L. Sherman, who is widely regarded to have had a significant impact on his work (Lichtenstein would later name a studio the Hoyt L. Sherman Studio Art Center after his mentor). Lichtenstein continued his graduate studies at OSU, was hired as an art instructor, and received his Master of Fine Arts degree in 1949.

In 1957, he moved to upstate New York and began teaching at the State University of New York at Oswego. In 1960, he started teaching at Rutgers University alongside Allan Kaprow. In 1961-1965, Lichtenstein began his first pop images using cartoons and commercial printing techniques. Leo Castelli started displaying his work at his gallery in New York in 1961 and he had his first one-man show in 1962; the entire collection was bought by influential collectors before the show even opened. In September 1963 he took a leave of absence from teaching to focus time on his artwork.
"I think my work is different from comic strips -- but I wouldn't call it transformation; I don't think that whatever is meant by it is important to art".
Lichtenstein reproduced masterpieces by Cézanne, Mondrian and Picasso before embarking on his Brushstroke series in 1965. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art commissioned him to make a film with the help of Universal Film Studios. It was called Three Landscapes, about marine landscapes, directly related to a series of collages with landscape themes he created between 1964 - 1966.
Also in 1970, Lichtenstein purchased a former carriage house in Southampton, Long Island, built a studio on the property, and spent the rest of the 1970s in relative seclusion. Over the next ten years his style began to loosen and he expanded on what he had done before.
During a trip to Los Angeles in 1978, Lichtenstein was fascinated by lawyer Robert Rifkind's collection of German Expressionist prints and illustrated books. Small colored-pencil drawings were used as templates for woodcuts, a medium favored by Emil Nolde and Max Pechstein, as well as Dix and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. A major series of Surrealist-Pop artwork from 1979–81 is based on Native American themes. Having been inspired by Edgar Degas’ monochromatic prints from a show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, he created the motifs of his Landscapes in the Chinese Style series are formed with simulated Benday dots and block contours, rendered in hard, vivid color, with all traces of the hand removed.

Lichtenstein married twice, once to Isabel Wilson, with whom he had two sons, and again to Dorothy Herzka. From 1970 until his death, Lichtenstein split his time between Manhattan and Southampton. He also had a home on Captiva Island. He was committed to his art until the end of his life, often spending at least 10 hours a day in his studio. In 1997, he died of pneumonia in New York.
1964 New York State Pavilion, World's Fair, New York City.
1969 bedroom suite painting for Gunter Sachs, Palace Hotel, St. Moritz.
late 1970s - 1980s, major commissions for works in public places: the sculptures in Miami Beach; at Port Columbus International Airport; the Equitable Center, New York; and Barcelona.
1994 Times Square Mural , Times Square subway station.
1977 paint a Group 5 Racing Version of the BMW 320i for the BMW Art Car Project.
1977 Skowhegan Medal for Painting, Skowhegan School, Skowhegan, Maine.
1979 American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York.
1989 American Academy in Rome, Rome, Italy. Artist in residence.
1991 Creative Arts Award in Painting, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts.
1993 Amici de Barcelona, from Mayor Pasqual Maragall, L’Alcalde de Barcelona.
1995 Kyoto Prize, Inamori Foundation, Kyoto, Japan.
1995 National Medal of the Arts, Washington D.C.
The DreamWorks Records logo – last design project

1995 National Medal of Arts

Parsons School of Design, The Ohio State University, Art Students League, Franklin School for Boys (now Dwight School)
Honorary Doctorate degrees:
George Washington University (1996),Bard College, Royal College of Art (1993), Ohio State University (1987), Southampton College (1980), and the California Institute of the Arts (1977).

1967 first museum retrospective exhibition, Pasadena Art Museum, CA
1967 first solo exhibition in Europe at museums in Amsterdam, London, Bern and Hannover
1968 participated in documenta IV
1977 participated in documenta VI
1994 second retrospective, the Guggenheim Museum, NY
1987 first living artist to have a solo drawing exhibition, Museum of Modern Art from
2010 "Roy Lichtenstein: Meditations on Art" Museo Triennale, Milan
2010 The Morgan Library & Museum
2012 major retrospective at the Art Institute of Chicago, National Gallery of Art in Washington, Tate Modern
2013 major retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris
1996 the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. – largest single repository
The Art Institute of Chicago
Dorothy Lichtenstein, and of the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation
Museum Ludwig, Cologne
National Gallery of Australia's Kenneth Tyler Collection