April 26, 2013

Herschel Logan's Block Prints

          Herschel Logan (1901-1987) was a printmaker who concentrated on everyday scenes of Kansas in the 1930s.  He made many woodcuts of farmhouses set among trees and fields beneath wide skies.  Although he often showed the abandoned and derelict buildings that must have been symbols of the Great Depression, his images are more peaceful than political.
        During the time that Logan was active as a printmaker he was very prolific and popular, but he seems to have been largely forgotten by the 1950s.  Or perhaps he was never more than a regional success.  In any case, I think it's a shame because I find his work very pleasing.  I like the balance between black and white, between solid and textured spaces.  I like the buildings he portrays, both the quaint farmhouses and the occasional industrial structure.  I like the style, which I see as very typical of 30's art, of framing the scene with an uncarved edge.
        Most of Logan's scenes are serene or quiet, but this one shows a dramatic moment.  He isn't really capturing motion, since the moment is frozen in time, but he certainly captures the power and menace of the dust clouds about to swallow the farm in their path.  There's nothing serene about this image.  Logan has used tiny dots rather than lines for the texture and shading of the dust cloud, and an effective but unexpected touch is the use of the dots mixed in with the lines showing the sky around the clouds.

        Logan clearly had favorite themes he returned to over and over.  Maybe he was only repeating a successful formula, or maybe he was exploring themes that were meaningful to him - no one would call him avant garde.  But in any case I find these pieces very attractive.  They're simple without being simplistic, with a lovely balance of light and shadow.

[Pictures:  Brick Plant, block print by Herschel Logan, 1932;
Summer Afternoon, block print by H. Logan, 1923;
Dust Storm, block print by H. Logan, 1938;
On Fifth Street, block print by H. Logan, 1932 (Images from Legend Fine Arts).]


Karl Janssen said...

Unfortunately his name is spelled Logan with an "a". Here in Kansas he is known as one of the founding members of the Prairie Print Makers, along with fellow relief printmakers Lloyd C. Foltz, Leo Courtney, Birger Sandzen, and Norma Bassett Hall. Their work is in the permanent collections of many of the museums in the state, so we are lucky enough to see their prints quite often in local exhibitions. Thanks for doing a piece on him. I enjoy your blog.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Hello, Karl,
Thanks for the correction. The dumb thing is, I thought my spelling looked wrong so I double checked it... but clearly I was under some delusion when I was looking it up. It's a good thing I have helpful readers to set me straight! =)
- Anne