April 17, 2017

Block Printmaker Lankes

        Here are some really gorgeous pieces by J.J. Lankes (USA, 1884-1960).  In fact, I’ve had a hard time limiting myself to just a few.  Lankes has a very characteristic style, with lots of views of landscapes, trees, and old buildings, lots of clouds and skies, and the romance of a fading rural culture.  He has a trick of giving things a sort of reverse shadow, a glow of carved out white along them that contrasts with his skies, which are often quite dark with shading lines.  He also has lots of fine pattern and texture: grass, bricks, shingles, and stone.
        The first piece here is the most typical of Lankes’s work.  Nothing too exciting, you might think, but he takes a fairly unremarkable scene and gives it a quiet nobility.  He always seems to respect his subjects, and that’s exactly one of the things I like best about relief block printing: to make an image of something is to proclaim its value.
        The top of the sky in the first piece looks very like water, which is interesting.  In the third one the sky is pretty regular in the open spaces, but all mixed up in a scribbly way with the spaces between the tree branches.  I love the looser, less controlled carving there, contrasted with the very precise details of the building and wall.  The suggestion of the wrought iron railing is masterful; I am in awe of how Lankes decided where to make white lines, and where to leave black to get the effect so perfect.
        Lankes is another of those artists that I think deserves to be much better known.  You may be seeing more of him here in the future!
        I’ve featured lots of other L printmakers in previous posts:

[Pictures: Briarfield, wood block print by J.J. Lankes, 1930 (Image from John Steins);
Near the Paulaner Braueri, wood block print by Lankes, 1926;
Octagon House Garden, wood block print by Lankes, 1923 (Images from The Woodcut Art of J.J. Lankes by Welford Dunaway Taylor, 1999).]

A-Z Challenge, all posts for the letter L

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