Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Light from Dark: woodcuts old and new




A woodcut speaks in a language that is abstracted, abbreviated, encoded and timeless.

John G Hurtin,   Baronet, will cover this season  (New York State, s.n., 1800) The gouge marks in the ground beneath the figures' feet show the carver's bold approach. 
With a sharp blade, the artist removes wood from the surface of a smooth wooden plank, paring away what is not needed.  What is left is a raised design that will carry the ink to the paper.   The process of working from dark to light (through cutting) forces the artist to make bold choices, black or white choices.   It requires directness in both cutting the block and in editing the message that one is trying to convey.

Chestnut Street Theatre, Pauvrette! or, Under the snow! … (Philadelphia, 1864)


There are many kinds of woodcuts to be found in our collections.  In the McLean Conservation department we are delighted every time we open up a book and discover a treasure hidden inside.  Whether boldly cut with broad strokes of the gauge, or carved with finesse, woodcuts command attention, even 200 years later, and speak in a timeless and universal visual language
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Ercker.  Beschreibung allerf├╝rnemisten mineralischen Ertzt vnnd Bergkwercks (Frankfurt, 1598)  In this foundry scene, puffs of smoke are magically rendered into puffy symbols of smoke, and the metalsmith works with quiet intensity.
As I make my own woodcuts, I feel connected with the anonymous makers who came before me.  As an artist and Conservator, I am inspired by their immediacy, the clarity of intent, and their hand-hewn charm.  Come to the Library Company of Philadelphia to discover more examples of woodcuts from our collections, on view outside the Reading Room beginning September 30.


Andrea Krupp, Mountainside, 18 x 18, 2014 

Andrea Krupp, Riding to the Althing, 16 x 12, 2014

Andrea Krupp, Saga 2, 16 x 20, 2014
NORTH of HERE, an exhibit of Iceland-inspired woodcuts and monoprints by Andrea Krupp, opens October 10, 6:00-9:00pm at Twenty-two Gallery  in Philadelphia.  A Gallery Talk “Iceland, Inspiration and the artistic process” will be held October 11, 3:00pm, at the same location.  All are welcome!



Andrea Krupp
Conservator