“The list of artists who studied art in the Twin Cities in the 1910s before moving to New York includes the names of some of the best-known printmakers of the 1930s and 1940s,” we learn in Robert L. Crump’s new book. “Vera Andrus, Harry Gottlieb, Elizabeth Olds, Arnold Blanch, and Lucile Lundquist Blanch all attended the Minneapolis School of Art.” If none of those names ring a bell, you may not be among the target audience for Minnesota Prints and Printmakers 1900-1945.
The book, companion to an exhibit currently on display at the James J. Hill House, is the final testament of Crump, a print collector who died after completing the manuscript. It’s an encyclopedic chronicle of the subject, and it’s fortunate that Crump took the project on, as it’s unlikely that anyone currently living has anything approaching his enveloping knowledge of his esoteric subject.
|minnesota prints and printmakers, 1900-1945 by robert l. crump. published by the minnesota historical society press (2009). $49.95. on april 23 at 7:00 p.m., brian szott, curator of art at the minnesota historial society, will be at the james j. hill house to present a free talk based on crump’s book.|
Why? Because, as Crump makes tactfully but unambiguously clear, there’s not really much reason to care about Minnesota prints and printmakers in the early 20th century unless you have a very special affinity for the art of the Gopher State. We produced our share of good printmakers—foremost among them Wanda Gág and Adolf Dehn—but no more than our share, and some of our finest printmakers didn’t even bother to make prints of Minnesota subjects. “While it is true that many artists never ‘printed’ Minnesota,” concedes Crump, “we might speculate about the scenes of Lake Superior’s shores or the Mississippi River that artists like [George Taylor] Plowman or [Cadwallader Lincoln] Washburn might have captured with copper plates or Bertha Lum with woodblocks.” Yes, and we might also speculate about the sesquicentennial rock musical Prince might have written starring Paul Westerberg in the role of Bob Dylan, with a cameo by Dylan himself in the role of “Pig’s Eye” Parrant.
Crump’s book commends itself to local art historians. For those who are not local art historians, it does not. The book is reasonably attractive, including several pages of color prints, but the writing is dry as a drypoint plate, and the 1.5-page note on printing techniques that taught me what a drypoint plate is comprises pretty much the beginning and end of any concession to non-specialists. By all means, go see the exhibit—but for a souvenir to take home, stick with Millions of Cats.