Los Angeles: Bruce McCallister, 1931. First printing. Single sheet matted in rag board. Fine condition. Image: 6 x 4.75 inches, sheet size: 9.5 x 12.5 inches. Printed by Harold Young from the original block on wove paper with a NAVARRE 1547 watermark, this wood-engraving is from a collection of unbound portfolio plates engraved by Paul Landacre which became the basis for his most coveted work: California Hills and Other Wood Engravings; McCallister, Los Angeles 1931. Strictly limited to an edition of 500, the bound volumes are quite scarce, and carry a dark admonition from St. Nicholas of Arrinstine, in Latin of course, for those intent on destroying the volumes for the images. This wood-engraving was never bound, and thus perfect to be treasured for the beauty of its composition.
Without question one of the finest wood-engravers of the 20th century, Paul Hambleton Landacre (American 1893-1963) inspired a future generation of engravers with his confident and rhythmic patterning of contrasting lines of varying thickness, carved from wood. Through his talent and commitment to perfection he held a firm place in the brotherhood of such artist/luminaries as Rockwell Kent, Lynd Ward, and Fritz Eichenberg. The engravings by Landacre undoubtedly set the standard by which all wood-engraving is judged.
It takes true genius to coax the vision of illumination, thus light from darkness, from a simple piece of end grain boxwood, and through his refined technique, Landacre's carvings truly become the American Landscape: the vastness, majesty or serenity of the fields, shores, mountains and dunes of the early 20th century California landscape, the furry of a prairie grass fire as only previously described by Willa Cather, or the elegance of a woodland nymph amid the dappled sunlight of eucalyptus trees.
By the late 19th century, wood-engraving had all but degenerated into a means of didactic mass illustration, often created by a craftsman, void of the artist's inherent vision. In essence, thorough his commitment to the process and integrity of the wood-engraved technique, Landacre returned the responsibility, and joy, of vision, emotion and thus execution to the artist-engraver. In his article on the technique of engraving wood, Landacre states:
"Even a dull sketch may become fascinating by virtue of the change into crisp white lines against the black and challenging nature of the medium. All sins are forgiven as you enter a new field with your design and even the fact that the lines are created by pushing the tool from you instead of pulling toward you, as in other forms of graphic expression, adds zest to the process". Watson, Ernest W. The Relief Print: Woodcut, Wood Engraving & Linoleum Cut. New York: Watson- Guptill Publications, 1945. Fine. Item #7125