Friday, October 26, 2007

Picasso, go home.

Today I had relief printmaking on the brain in a bad way. A couple of days ago, I was sifting through the printmaking section at the fine arts library and realized that nearly all the books about relief printmaking were in reference to Eastern works, and techniques. This has since had me a bit fired up. However, that one is going to take the back burner to an issue that has always been near and dear to my heart: the common misconception of the invention of color reduction block printing. Whether using woodblock, or linoleum block, traditionally a new block is cut and used for each color of the print in the entire edition. Reduction printing, "the suicide method", as it is fondly referred to, involves the cutting and printing of one whole block across the entire edition before cutting the same block further and printing it over the first layer with a different color. This is pretty much the greatest printing process that exists. Nevermind that, it IS the greatest. All biases aside though, the deal is that Picasso is generally credited with the invention of this method. Now, when I was in my early days of falling in love with print media, I did some research about Alfred Sessler, a printer from Madison, Wisconsin. Through my search, I found statements that claimed his invention of the reduction method before Picasso. It was thought that because of Picasso's widespread "fame" that he was credited instaed of Sessler. This made me want to punch Picasso's lights out for needing to take the credit for everything on Earth. So, I've been living these past few years believing Sessler to be my underdog hero. I would imagine fake boxing matches between Sessler and Picasso where Picasso would try to play dirty by pulling a knife on Sessler, but Sessler would still wipe the floor with Picasso's guts just by fighting fair and square. I was confident that I knew the real truth. Tonight however, I decided to do a little more poking, and what I found out is quite interesting indeed. I found a brilliant and well sited paper about this very issue. I read through it eagerly, expecting to be validated about the Sessler theory. As I read on however, even Sessler was discredited with this invention. Although there are some publications claiming Sessler to take the cheese, there was a printmaker by the name of Murray Griffin who was working in Australia around 1935. Evidence supports his use of this process prior to both Sessler and Picasso who were both working around the 1940's and 50's. It turns out though, that Griffin doesn't win either. In 1899, Gaugin used the reduction technique. There may have been printers that "invented" it before he used it as well. This was slightly disheartening for me to learn, but at least now I know the facts. In the case of color reduction and the Tootsie Pop I guess "the world may never know".

If you want to read this paper, which I know you do, here it is:

1 comment:

Beki said...

I'm almost pretty sure that this blog is the greatest thing on earth. Yes.