May 27, 2011

Block Prints by Carroll Thayer Berry

        Carroll Thayer Berry (1886 - 1978) made many wood and linoleum block prints with an emphasis on the sights of Maine, where he spent most of his life.  He did spend some time at the Panama Canal, and was one of the first artists assigned to the Camouflage Corps during World War I.  For the most part, though, his pieces depict the land- and seascapes of New England.
        Above is one of my favorites, with a lovely balance of black and white.  It's a linoleum block print.   By comparison, here's another representative piece.  In this one, a wood engraving, the carving is much finer and works as shading.  It makes the waves look nice and dramatic.
        Berry developed a particular method of prints made with two blocks.  One block was the primary picture, with all its outlines, details and texture.  This was printed in black.  But he also printed a second block in an accent color.  This block had less detail and provided shading and highlights to the image.  I tend not to like these two-toned blocks as much as the plain black and white ones.  Partly, of course, its my standard preference for black and white.  (Although I do admit to toying with the idea of doing some two-block prints myself (or reduction prints) in which I could add some grey to my palette.)  But it seems to me that Berry's prints don't need this extra tone, and are not improved by it.  Perhaps its Berry's choice of accent colors, which tend to look very dated to me.  Frankly, I think his two-block pieces tend to look a little cheesy.

        Berry's plain black and white pieces, on the other hand, I like very much.  I like the scenes of pretty houses and idyllic villages and boats at harbor.  I like how he captures water with such an unwatery medium as block printing.  I like that Berry seemed to be sticking to what he liked despite the tides of artistic fashion.

[Pictures: Studios at Ogunquit - Maine, linocut by Carroll Thayer Berry, c. 1936;
     Pemaquid Light - Maine Coast, wood engraving by C.T. Berry, c. 1947;
     Port Clyde - Maine Coast, wood engraving with two blocks by C.T. Berry, c. 1966 (See the Liros Gallery for lots more.);
     Brig Sally of Wiscasset, linocut by C.T. Berry, c. 1935;
     Booth Tarkington's Schooner - Kennebunkport, linocut by C.T. Berry, c. 1938;
Wiscasset Home of Mrs. Metcalf, linocut by C.T. Berry, c. 1939.]

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