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The History of  American Printmaking: Selection from the Permanent Collection

 

Recently the ASU Art Museum received a gift of 190 prints from Melvin and Ellen Hellwitz. At the core of this gift are many examples of the best American printmakers from the early half of the 20th century. This gift offered a unique opportunity to highlight that time period, adding a few other prints from the permanent collection, and form the exhibition: The History of American Printmaking: Selections from the Permanent Collection.

Though there are a few prints from the 1920s, the focus of the exhibition is the volatile time of the 1930s-1940s. The nation was in a period of isolationism during the Great Depression and was bracing for the possibility of entering the Second World War. Roosevelt's New Deal generated temporary economic reforms which incorporated support for American art and artists through government programs that brought art into the public sector, schools and government buildings: the Section of Painting and Sculpture in the Treasury Department and the Federal Art Project in the Works in Progress Administration. As a result of the government support, there was renewed interest in printmaking as a medium that could reach a broad segment of the population and the artists of the period were encouraged to produce works with a distinctly American spirit.

The resulting work was categorized as the American Scene movement, seperated by some critics into two branches: the Regionalists and the Social Realists.  Regionalists reflected rural American, romanticized views of country life as seen in the work by Thomas Hart Benton, Slow Train through Arkansas, 1941; John Steuart Curry, Sanctuary, 1944; and Grant Wood, Shrine Quartet, c. 1939.  Social Realists depicted life in the American city, often with social and political commentary, such as in Margaret Lowengrund's Breadline, 1930s and Rockwell Kent's, And Now Where, 1936. The private presses and publishing firms were also very important in the development and propagation of the American Scene prints. The Associated American Artists (AAA) published etchings and lithographs by American artists and advertised their purchase - for $5. each  - on the back of periodicals. This increased access to prints from the city art markets to a larger American audience, brought prints to more urban areas, such as Arizona. Many of the prints included in this exhibition were produced by AAA and acquired by the Hellwitzs and other donors, such as Mr. Oliver B. James, Mr. & Mrs. Read Mullan, Helen Shipley, Mr. & Mrs. Orme Lewis, and Robert Bell and Stirling Puck.

The American Scene movement declined with the insurgence of aesthetic influences from European artists escaping World War II.  But the movement continues through this collection of prints, generously gifted by ASU Art museum supporters.

 

CHECKLIST OF THE EXHIBITION

John Taylor Arms
Lace in Stone, Rouen Cathedral, 1927
Etching, 14 1/4 x 11 3/8"
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Read Mullan  1963.589
 
Milton Avery
Untitled, 1937
Drypoint, 3 1/4 x 7 13/16"
Gift of Ellen and Melvin Hellwitz  2001.023.079
 
Peggy Bacon
Frenzied Effort, 1925
Drypoint, 5 3/4 x 9"
Gift of Mrs. Melvin Hellwitz  1990.198.001
 
Clifford Beal
Untitled
Drypoint, 11 3/4 x 8 3/4"
Gift of Ellen and Melvin Hellwitz 2001.023.169
 
Thomas Hart Benton
Slow Train through Arkansas, 1941
Lithograph, 9 15/16 x 12 11/16"
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Read Mullan  1964.664
 
Isabel Bishop
Putting on the Coat; The Coat (or Taking Off her Coat); Reaching for the Coat, 1941-43, reprinted 1981
Etching, various dimensions
Museum purchase with funds provided by the Newton Rosenzweig Family Philanthropic Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix Endowment Fund  1981.106-108
 
Asa Cheffetz
Midsummer Vermont
Wood engraving, 4 1/4 x 6"
Gift of Ellen and Melvin Hellwitz 2001.023.175
 
John Steuart Curry
Sanctuary, 1944
Lithograph, 11 3/4 x 15 3/4"
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Orme Lewis  1961.261
 
Arthur B. Davies
Woman in Shadow, 1920
Lithograph, 12 3/4 x 9 1/8"
Gift of Ellen and Melvin Hellwitz  2001.023.052
 
Adolph Dehn
Minnesota Landscape, 1931
Lithograph, 8 3/4 x 11"
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Melvin Hellwitz 1989.007
 
Mabel Dwight
In the Crowd, 1931
Lithograph, 9 3/8 x 11 3/4
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Melvin Hellwitz  1988.135
 
Emil Ganso
Oasis, 1940s (?)
Lithograph, 11 7/8 x 17"
Gift of Ellen and Melvin Hellwitz  2001.023.075
 
Marsden Hartley
Apple, Pear and Pomegranate, 1923
Lithograph, 10 3/16 x 14 916"
American Art Heritage Fund 1961.314
 
Morris Henry Hobbs
The Snowball Man, Old New Orleans, 1938
Etching, 2 1/2 x 2 1/4"
Gift of Ellen and Melvin Hellwitz  2001.023.115
 
Rockwell Kent
And Now Where?, 1936
Lithograph, 13 1/8 x 9 3/8"
Gift of Helen B. Shipley  1989.240.001
 
Paul Landacre
Children's Carnival, 1946
Wood engraving, 8 1/2 x 12
Gift of Mr. Oliver B. Jones 1951.089
 
Armin Landeck
11 W. 11th Street, 1939
Drypoint, 12 7/8 x 9 13/16"
Gift of Ellen and Melvin Hellwitz  2001.023.143
 
Claire Leighton
Net Menders, 1933
Wood engraving, 7 3/8 x 6 1/8"
Gift of Ellen and Melvin Hellwitz  2001.023.016
 
Martin Lewis
Chance Meeting, 1941
Drypoint, 10 1/2 x 7 1/2
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Orme Lewis  1966.769
 
Margaret Lowengrund
Breadline, 1931-34
Lithograph, 7 7/8 x 10"
Given in Memory of Mary B. Stoner  1997.026.001
 
Luigi Lucioni
Untitled, 1942
Etching, 8 x 5 7/8"
Gift of Ellen and Melvin Hellwitz  2001.023.083
 
John Marin
St. Paul's Against the El, 1930
Etching, 9 11/16 x 6 7/8"
American Art Heritage Fund  1961.228
 
Reginald Marsh
The Limited (Train), 1931
Etching, 5 x 11 7/8"
Gift of Mr. & Mrs. Orme Lewis  1962.383
 
Leo Meissner
Dune Grasses
Wood engraving, 5 13/16 x 4 3/8"
Gift of Ellen and Melvin Hellwitz  2001.023.160
 
Thomas W. Nason
Deer Isle (Maine Coast), 1941
Wood engraving, 6 7/8 x 9 1/16"
Gift of Ellen and Melvin Hellwitz  2001.023.171
 
Arnold H. Ronnebeck
Rio Grande Canyon, New Mexico, 1931
Lithograph, 9 1/2 x 14 1/8"
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Hellwitz 1988.162
 
Rudolph Ruzicka
A Summer Day, 1936
Woodcut, 5 1/8 x 8"
Gift of Robert M. Bell & Stirling M. Puck  1997.153
 
Sam Thal
Chad's Place (1920-40?)
Etching, drypoint, 8 7/8 x 11 15/16"
Gift of Ellen and Melvin Hellwitz  2001.023.067
 
Stow Wengenroth
Untitled
Lithograph, 8 5/8 x 12 9/16"
Gift of Ellen and Melvin Hellwitz  2001.023.166
 
Ronan W. Wolceske
Wind Blown Birches, 1931
Drypoint, 10 1/8 x 13 7/8"
Gift of Ellen and Melvin Hellwitz  2001.023.074
 
Grant Wood
Shrine Quartet, c. 1939
Lithograph, 8 x 12"
Gift of Mr. Oliver B. James  1951.099

 

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