Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Trees in Majesty: Prints by Roi Partridge
Okay, everyone. Take in a deep breath. Hold it. Then let it out slowly. Listen to your breath as you release it and imagine it to be the wind blowing through the branches of Roi Partridge's trees. If you can imagine that, you will understand what I feel when I see Partridge's works.
Partridge is an artist who loves the landscape and, apparently, trees. After looking at his work, one can sense not only a descriptive ability to render landscape, but a real sensibility for the only objects which dominate his compositions - trees. They have real presence, character, mass/volume, depth and powerful strength. Partridge understands the subject well, but understands moreso where to place the subject in the composition to great effect.
One can look upon Partridge's trees and understand the ancient concept whereby certain cultures worshipped them as conduits between the underworld and the heavenly realm. These were the only earthly objects that Mesoamerican and pre-Judaic cultures named Holy, or World Trees; having the capability to anchor themselves into the underworld while taking peoples' ritualistic gifts of torn cloth and hair to intertwine in their branches and take their gifts up into the heavens.
Partridge's feel for the landscape shows his interest in Japanese prints. (In fact, he had amassed a large collection of Japanese prints from his travels, ultimately donating them to Mills College in Oakland, California.) Still, his respect of the landscape is evident in how his drawn line is sinuous and tactile. One can feel the surface of his trees in how he draws them. Their contrast to the background - either billowing clouds or majestic mountains - is delicately handled and effectively recreates the space he witnessed.
They are living beings, his trees, and they make us want to go find them. He draws them as like Asian painters would paint the most beautiful branch out of a full tree. Their goal was to show us the most beautiful of all the branches. Partridge has chosen a group of trees to show these are the most beautiful amongst what could be many others. He has given us more than one branch, and our gift is the experience of seeing them.
Roy ‘Roi’ George Partridge (American, 1888–1984) was a printmaker and teacher known for his sumptuous landscapes.
He was born in Centralia, Washington, the son of a newspaper publisher and a mother who played piano accompanying silent films in Seattle movie houses. At the age of four his family moved to Seattle, and in 1907 the family moved to Kansas where Partridge was enrolled in studio courses at the Fine Arts Institute of Kansas City, (now known as the Kansas City Art Institute).
In 1909 he traveled to New York City to study at the National Academy of Design, and then went to study etching in Munich. He spent three years in Paris where he worked as a printmaker under the mentorship of Bertha Jaques. Partridge returned to Seattle when Germany’s troops were approaching Paris during WWI. In Seattle, Partridge was one of three Seattle artists who worked together under the name "The Triad". Partridge's future wife, the photographer, Imogen Cunningham, was also included in his artistic circle.
The Graphic Art of Roi Partridge: a Catalogue Raisonné by Anthony R. White, was published in 1988.
The Amarillo Museum of Art, Bancroft Library at University of California, British Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Honolulu Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, Mills College, Mobile Museum of Art, New York Public Library, Oakland Museum, San Diego Museum of Art, Scripps College, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Walker Art Gallery, and Weisman Art Museum at University of Minnesota.