White-line Woodcuts (Almost) Out of Reach

Cover of Territorial Hues, The Color Print and Washington State, catalog for and exhibit at the Cascadia Art Museum.

Cover print: On Puget Sound, Elizabeth Warhanik (1880-1968), white-line woodcut ca. 1928


Last year, you read about my extensive adventure to Morgantown, West Virginia to see some Provincetown Prints by Grace Martin Taylor. There are no direct routes between New Boston and Morgantown - You Can't There From Here - but the exhibit was completely worth the flights and drives to get there and back again. Works on paper don't see the light of day very often. It is possible that many of Taylor's prints will remain in dark drawers for the rest of my life.
So when google alerts told me that the Cascadia Art Museum, near Seattle, was hosting a color print exhibit of northwestern artists late last fall, I felt like it was a special invitation to head out west. After researching some flights and examining my holiday schedule, however, it became clear that this show would go on without me.
Even though the exhibition included white-line woodcuts. Sigh.
Maybe these prints will never cross my path, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy them. As Mason Cooley said, "Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are."
To Amazon I went and ordered the catalog. It is full of lovely color plates from the exhibit.
Only a few white-line woodcuts were included, but the book explains that the Provincetown Printmakers traveled out to Washington to spread the technique and, in turn, some westerners studied with our New England masters on Cape Cod.
According to David F. Martin, the author of the catalog, a color print exhibition in Seattle in 1916 included a bunch of Provincetown Prints. 
He quotes two reviews from the time period that made me chuckle:
It would not be a complete exhibition in the year 1916 if the work of Ada Gilmore, Bror Nordfeldt and Ethel Mars had been omitted, and they furnish a riot of primitive coloring and wood blocky figures that will prove interesting to some - as an indication that modernity has placed its mark on even this expression of art - and of mirth to others, and possibly annoyance to a few.
-"With the Fine Arts Folk." The Town Crier, Seattle, November 11, 1916, p 13.
And how funny is this:
The most extremely modern prints exhibited are the above mentioned group by Ethel Mars, Ada Gilmore, and Mary Jones. The color is so vivid, almost gaudy, and the subjects and their poses so unusual that it takes some little time to become attracted to these prints, but there is something rather live and bright about them that is after all, quite pleasing.
-"Prints Form New Exhibit in Fine Art Rooms." Seattle Daily Times, November 12, 1916, p. 63.
Even back then, some people loved white-line woodcuts and some just didn't get it.
While, I couldn't be there in person, I appreciate that the Cascadia Art Museum displayed these prints and published a catalog so I could enjoy them from New Hampshire.

Leave a comment