May 21, 2013

Rabel's "Teacher"

        Here's a beautiful woodcut by Fanny Rabel (born Fanny Rabinovich, 1922-2008).  By way of biography, Rabel was an assistant to Diego Rivera, and a student and friend of Frida Kahlo.
        I'd love to be able to see a bigger, more detailed view of this piece, but it looks to me like Rabel's made lots of use of a multiple line tool, a blade with a number of closely spaced points so that it cuts several parallel lines at once.  Normally used for engraving metal plates, not cutting wood blocks, these tools produce the precise shading and cross-hatching so characteristic of nineteenth-century engravings.  However, here Rabel has used it loosely, scratchily, to produce highlights much softer than you usually see in a woodcut.  I like the texture it gives the woman's hair and the softness it gives her face.  It also gives a look of delicacy to the lace of her dress.  But I like that Rabel has also used some bolder cuts with a regular gouge.  The contrast makes her solid whites really glow.
        I don't know whether this is a portrait of a particular real woman or not, but she looks kind, patient, determined, a little sad…  Her hands hold her book so tenderly, almost reverently, that I imagine she's had to work hard for her own learning and sees education as a true blessing that she can bestow on her students. 

[Picture: Teacher, woodcut by Fanny Rabel, 1953 (Image from the Cleveland Museum of Art).]

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