Thursday, January 12th, 2017...10:00 am

Artistry of Linocuts

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This post is part of an ongoing series featuring recently cataloged items from the Julio Mario Santo Domingo Collection.

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This lovely artist book Geheimzinnige Personen : omtrent de flarden des levenswas was created by a Dutch artist, Margit Willems.  It loosely translates to Mysterious Persons: on the scraps of life and features 23 linocuts with text on separate pages.  You might be asking yourself what exactly is a linocut?  It is a printmaking technique that takes a linoleum sheet, often mounted on a wooden block, which is then used as a relief surface.  The artist uses tools to cut into the surface of the linoleum so that the uncarved areas will reveal a mirror image of the parts to show when printed.  Essentially the cut away areas will be white and the remaining area will be black on the linocut.

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One of the early strong innovators in printmaking (including linocuts), book design, typography and illustration was Czech émigré Vojtěch Preissig.  Preissig came to America around 1910 where he taught at Colombia University and then the School of Printing and Graphic Arts at the Wentworth Institute here in Boston.  While he was at Wentworth Preissig designed recruitment posters for the United States during WWI that were aimed at Czech immigrants.

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Most of Willem’s linocuts do not use a great deal of color in this book, but when it is used it has a strong impact.  Her linocut that depicts an elderly woman who was robbed in Tubbergen (thus giving up her pincode) is an example of that.  You can see that she created the linocut as well as the typeset letters in black ink. Then she reused the typeset numbers inverted them and printed them with red ink.  It creates a striking image and also displays the skill of the artist in creating the image through several different (often laborious) steps.

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Geheimzinnige Personen : omtrent de flarden des levens can be found in collection of the Fine Arts Library.

Thanks to Donna Viscuglia, Cataloger and Alison Harris, Santo Domingo Project Manager, for contributing this post.

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