April 24, 2017

Block Printmaker Osimo

        Bruno da Osimo (Italy, 1888-1962) was active in wood block printmaking during the same period as Emil Nolde, of the previous post, and like Nolde he took as his last name the town of his birth.  Their styles, however, couldn’t be more different.  Osimo’s work is very controlled, and although he did a lot of stylized work depicting themes of Greek mythology, among others, most of his architectural scenes are very detailed and realistic.  However, one unusual element that he frequently includes is writing.  Carving lettering is not easy.  It’s very fiddly and time- consuming, and if you mess up a little it’s really noticeable.  (This is particularly on my mind right now as I’m designing a set of prints with a fair bit of writing, and I’m wondering how deeply I will end up regretting it!)
        The sheer amount of carving in the first piece is quite amazing.  First of all, there’s that writing, going all the way around the border.  Then there’s the little leaves filling half the block - and black leaves on white take a lot more carving than white leaves on black.  And finally the bricks.  Unfortunately I can’t make out sharp detail on these on-line photos, but it looks like white bricks and black mortar, which, again, is one of the hardest, most fiddly patterns to carve.
        The level of detail on the second piece is also pretty crazy, but perhaps the most interesting thing is Osimo’s choice to depict the building with the strong shadow falling right across it.  You’d think he might take a little artistic license and ignore the shadow in the interests of showing the building more clearly, particularly when it’s the sole focus of the piece rather than being part of a whole cityscape.  But whether he was working from a photograph or his own plein air sketches, he’s obviously chosen to depict this building with maximum realism.
        The third piece is my favorite.  The carving is beautiful, the composition is interesting, and the scene really captures my imagination.

        Somewhat to my surprise, I don’t seem to have any previously-featured artists that begin with the letter O.  That seems hard to believe, but there it is!

[Pictures: Convento di Santa Chiara, woodcut by Bruno da Osimo, 1925?;
Santa Maria della Piazza Ancona, woodcut by Osimo, 1925 (Images from ebay);
Agobbio, woodcut by Osimo, (Image from Gonnelli).]

A-Z Challenge, all posts for the letter O


Kristin said...

I like the shadow in the middle print. They look like they could illustrate fairy tales with castles.

Finding Eliza

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

You're right - which I'm sure is part of why I like them!