August 23, 2011

Paul Landacre Wood Engravings

        Here are a couple of beautiful wood engravings by Paul Landacre (USA, 1893-1963.)   They exemplify the very precise, formal carving style that made him famous.  I find it a really interesting juxtaposition that he habitually used such a stark, mathematical style to portray organic, natural subjects.  If you look at this shell closely, the entire thing is done with just one sort of line, but the density of the crosshatching varies subtly enough to give an incredible delicacy of shading.  This piece is simultaneously realistic and abstract.
        Landacre was largely self-taught, but seems to have had a driving ambition to master the craft and make it in the art world.  He was especially known for scenes of the western US.  Here's one I really love.  I long to see this one in person and be able to examine the carving on that smoke tree.  The different texture of the tree compared with all the straight lines of the mountains is very effective.  He's made it absolutely luminous.
        I'll definitely be keeping my eyes open for more of Landacre's work.

[Pictures: Shell, wood engraving by Paul Landacre, before 1935 (image from the Smithsonian American Art Museum);
Smoke Tree, wood engraving by Landacre, 1953.]

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