February 4, 2014

Block Prints by Angelo

        Valenti Angelo (1897-1982) was an Italian-born U.S. artist active as an illustrator.  He illustrated about 250 books!  (He was also a writer, winning the Newbery for Nino in 1939.  I’ve never read it, but I guess now I’ll have to go check it out.)  As a printmaker his favorite medium was linoleum.  Some of Angelo’s illustrations are the epitome of midcentury modern style, with simple lines, flat shapes, and stylized figures, but he had a long career with plenty of work both before and after the midcentury, so no one style defines him.
        This first block print is similar to a few others I found by Angelo, in his choice of subject, in the high proportion of black, in the small people who are part of the cityscape without being its focus.  Angelo was about 72 when he made it, so although it was a later work for him, he was clearly still going strong.
        An earlier work, by contrast, made when he was in his 30s, has a totally different look.  I wouldn’t have guessed it was even by the same artist.  It’s got so much more white background around the lines, and looks so much more rounded instead of sharp-edged.  When I was looking for work by Angelo I didn’t see any other pieces that look like this one, so I don’t know whether or not this is characteristic of his work from the 1920s.
        Angelo frequently used color in his linocuts: usually somewhat muted, monochromatic color schemes.  As usual, I tend to prefer the black and white, but I’ve included this one color piece I like.  I’m not sure what technique he used to print the different colors.  While he’s clearly using the white line technique to separate areas of different color on a single block, the sky looks as if it’s had yellow ink printed over green ink.  That could imply a reduction print technique, 

although perhaps Angelo just inked it doubly because he liked the way it looked.

        And finally, Cat Art.  I include this cat because it represents an extreme of black with only the thinnest of carved white lines.  It’s an interesting choice, but apparently Angelo was known for his night scenes, so he must have enjoyed experimenting with this style.  It isn’t that he hasn’t carved much - the roundness of the cat’s body is defined by thousands of tiny gouges - it’s just that each carved line takes away so little of the black.
        I think it might be fun to try something with so much black.  I wonder what I would do…

[Pictures:  Subway Entrance. New York, NY, woodcut by Valenti Angelo, 1969 (Image from The Old Print Shop);
Gelber, Lilienthal Inc. Books, woodcut by Angelo, 1920s (Image from Princeton University Library);
Dawn, color linocut by Angelo, 1949 (Image from Keith Sheridan);
Cat, linocut by Angelo, 1952 (Image from The Old Print Shop).]


  1. The last print, of a cat by a window, was done in 1952. I have an original print signed and dated by Angelo.

  2. Thanks so much for that information. I've added it to my post. And lucky you to own an original!

  3. I also have an original of the cat print signed and dated by Angelo in 1952.