Three Printmakers Make Flowers and Plants Their Subjects

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THE TRANSCENDING FASCINATION OF PLANTS

Three 20th Century Printmakers Make Flowers and Plants Their Subjects

By Victoria Chick, Figurative Artist and Early 19th & 20th Century Print Collector

 

BIG BLEND RADIO INTERVIEW: On this episode, artist Victoria Chick discusses three 20th century printmakers – Carl Grupp, Wilbur Niewald, and Victoria Hutson Huntley. Listen or download the podcast on BlogTalkRadio.com, Spreaker.com, YouTube.com, SoundCloud.com.

 

Spring. It’s that season of the year when each progressive day has more minutes of sunshine. The resulting warmer temperatures are savored after a cold winter. Seed catalogs that arrived in January are read with more urgency and orders get placed.


If you are lucky, Spring will drag its feet and there will be a long profusion of blooms ranging from early bulbs that bring forth brilliantly colored flowers that sometimes peep through melting snow. Next to sprout are tulips, early wildflowers, and flowering shrubs like forsythia. It’s a time of promise and has often been a subject for artists.

The urge to gather flowers and pot them or place them in a vase with water is a human inclination shared by many artists including three printmakers who found bringing flowers indoors was inspirational to their art.

Carl Grupp (1939-1974) was a master printmaker who taught for 28 years at Augustana College in South Dakota, the school where he first studied art. Grupp was also a watercolorist and practitioner of the advice he gave his students to become familiar with all art mediums. Yet, he stressed drawing, drawing, and more drawing. It is an interesting dichotomy that Carl Grupp’s etchings, along with the lithographs of Victoria Hutson Huntley (1900-1971), and the etchings of Wilbur Niewald (1925-), are in various tones of black and white even though their live subjects are multicolored. 

Reducing the subjects to basic neutral tones tests artists’ observational ability and displays skill in representing three dimensions and surfaces through gradations from highlights to deep shadows, as well as with line that also simulates texture. We don’t need to see the color to know what is being represented. For example, anyone who has ever seen a geranium interprets Niewald’s geranium as red;   assumes the berries by the bottom of Grupp’s vase are strawberries and, therefore, red;  if they have had the experience of walking in a woods deep with decomposing leaves, intuit that  Hutson-Huntley’s newly sprouted vegetation is apt to be pale green from initially being denied sunlight.

Grupp felt strongly his students should see original work for inspiration. He founded an art museum at Augustana that was initiated with his own collection begun when he won a prize making study in Europe possible. Acquisitions and donations expanded its need for more space four times before he retired.

Wilbur Niewald was a painter and printmaker with a long career as Department Chairman at the Kansas City Art Institute in Missouri. Still painting and exhibiting in his 90s, he believes in going out into nature to spend hours analyzing his subjects before laying paint on canvas. In this way of working, he has had much in common with French painter, Cezanne. Sometimes Niewald brings nature into the studio in the form of a still life arrangement. Apples have been a favorite subject. They are nicely shaped, have variations of color, and they last a long time before beginning to decompose, a quality important to an artist who likes to take his time. Possibly, for that reason, he chose a potted plant rather than a picked bouquet for the still life etching pictured in this article.

 

 

 

 

Victoria Hutson HuntleyVictoria Hutson Huntley, born in 1900, grew up in New York City and began taking art lessons as a teenager at the New York School of Fine and Applied Art and, during the same years, going to night and Saturday classes at the Art Students League where she was encouraged by well – known artists Max Weber and John Sloan. Her early subjects were urban and industrial. After gaining a teaching credential, she moved to Texas where she taught for several years, married, and moved back to the East Coast, teaching art at several private schools and exhibiting her work at galleries. The owner of one of those galleries encouraged her to focus on doing lithographs. When she and her second husband moved to Florida she did concentrate on the medium of lithography.  She was awarded first prize in the International Graphic Art Show at the Chicago Art Institute for prints based on the plants and animals of the Florida Everglades.  In 1948 she produced a book of plants. This illustration, “Indian Pipes”, was done for that book.

These three printmakers never knew each other. But, in these prints, they share a commonality of appreciation for the beauty and complexity of plants.

Victoria Chick is the founder of the Cow Trail Art Studio in southwest New Mexico. She received a B.A. in Art from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and awarded an M.F.A. in Painting from Kent State University in Ohio. Visit her website at www.ArtistVictoriaChick.com

Artist Victoria Chick

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Victoria Chick is the founder of the Cow Trail Art Studio in southwest New Mexico.

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