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A Harmonious Life: The Design and Book Art of Dard Hunter

 

The Minnesota Museum of American Art presents the exhibition A Harmonious Life: The Design and Book Art of Dard Hunter, from August 16, 2003 to January 4 2004, in its second floor galleries in Landmark Center, downtown St. Paul. Organized by the Museum and curated by former Museum Curator Lin Nelson-Mayson, it features Hunter's designs for the Roycroft Colony as well as handmade books and typefaces that he created. This exhibition, developed with the artist's grandson, Dard Hunter III, will be the first retrospective to include Dard Hunter's progress from early years through the Arts and Crafts graphics to his influential books about papermaking. Public programs include a slide talk by Dard Hunter III on September 20. The exhibition also will coincide with the 2003 conference of the Friends of Dard Hunter Society, hosted by the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Planning is underway for a national tour of the exhibition after it closes at the Minnesota Museum of American Art. (right: Dard Hunter, Roycroft campus image, 1910, Collection of the Dard Hunter Studios )

Dard Hunter (1883-1966), born in Chillicothe, OH, became influenced by the Arts and Craft style and went to work for the Roycroft Colony in East Aurora, NY in 1904. He also studied at the influential design school Wiener Werkstatte in Vienna, from which he incorporated geometric patterns and stylized figures into his later work for Roycroft. Hunter's harmonious designs for books, leather, glass, and metal helped unify the Roycroft products and distinguish them from other Arts and Crafts objects.

Inspired by a London exhibition of hand papermaking and printing, Hunter built a paper mill near his home in 1912. Remaining true to the Arts and crafts philosophy that valued handmade over machine made objects, he relied on the mill's water wheel for power. Hunter mastered the processes of papermaking, experimented with watermarks, and designed and produced a font of type. In 1919, the Hunter family returned to Chillicothe where he began The Mountain House Press. During the next 46 years, Hunter traveled to remote regions of the world, recording papermaking techniques and publishing them in 20 books. His enduring contributions to both Arts and Craft design and to handmade paper continue to influence generations of artists.

See the website Dard Hunter: American Craftsman Artist, Papermaker, Printer for more on the life of the artist. Read more about the Roycroft Colony in East Aurora, NY in The Webpage of the Roycrofters.

 

Dard Hunter Biography

William Joseph "Dard" Hunter (1883-1966) was born during the industrial revolution to an Ohio newspaper family. In 1900, his father moved the family to Chillicothe, OH, to run a newspaper, and hired his son as a newspaper artist. Hunter later toured with his brother Philip, an accomplished magician, as the "chalk talk artist," entertaining audiences between magical acts. In 1903, the brothers stayed-at the New Glenwood Hotel in Riverside, CA, one of the first hotels designed in the Arts and Crafts style. Hunter was so influenced by the style that he went to East Aurora, NY, to take a job with Elbert Hubbard, director of the Roycroft Colony, which was the leading American Arts and Crafts community.

At the Roycroft Colony, Hunter was encouraged to experiment with graphic design, stained glass, and metalwork. Inspired by the designs of Josef Hoffmann of the Wiener Werkstätte (Viennese Workshops), he incorporated the geometric patterns and highly stylized figures into his designs for Roycroft. Hunter's harmonious designs for books, leather, glass, and metal helped unify the Roycroft products and distinguish them from other Arts and Crafts objects.

Disillusioned with the commercialism of the Roycrofters, Hunter went to Vienna in 1910 to study lithography, book decoration, and letter design. He later moved to London, where he was inspired by an exhibition of hand papermaking and printing. Hunter returned to America and bought a house in Marlborough-on-Hudson, New York, and built a paper mill nearby that relied entirely upon a water wheel for its power. He mastered the processes of papermaking and experimented with watermarks.

Hunter's first "book harmonious," made completely with his own labor, design, paper, type, and printing, was The Etching of Figures by William A. Bradley, published by the Chicago Society of Etchers as their 1915 end-of-the-year keepsake gift. True to the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement that a handcrafted object was more beautiful than one made by machine, Hunter made the paper and the set of metal type by hand and printed the book on a hand-operated press, as the culmination of years of research and experimentation.

In 1919, the Hunter family returned to Chillicothe where he began The Mountain House Press. From 1923 to 1950, he traveled to remote regions of the world, researching the world history of hand papermaking and printing. Hunter wrote and published 20 books on the topic, eight of which he printed by hand.

Hunter felt that his greatest accomplishment was the establishment of the Dard Hunter Paper Museum. He stated that the Paper Museum was begun "with the hope of stimulating interest in the ancient craft of papermaking and promoting understanding of present-day paper and its relation to the graphic arts." Originally housed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1939-1954), it now forms the core collection of the American Museum of Papermaking located at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia.

By the time of his death, Dard Hunter was responsible for a renaissance in hand papermaking and printing. His enduring contributions to Arts and Crafts design and handmade paper continue to influence generations of artists.

Editor's note: RE readers may also enjoy from the Web:

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rev. 11/3/07


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