December 3, 2019

Snow Day Already!

        Today is our first snow day of the school year (an early one, too), and that means it’s time to celebrate with block prints.  We’ll begin with what is probably my favorite of today’s collection, by Iain McNab (Scotland, 1890-1967).  I like the different textures of the carving.  This is a wood engraving, so you can note the use of a multi-line tool for the snow behind the bottom crotch of the tree.  A multi-line tool tends to give a much softer look than is possible with regular wood block carving tools.  I also like the various details in the picture, such as the woman’s umbrella and the laundry hung out even on a snowy day.  I doubt it’s drying very fast!  Our street can get quite bad when it snows, but if we look out our back window, across the back yards, to the busier street beyond, we can spy glimpses of how cars are driving there, and get a better idea of conditions over-all.  McNab’s scene reminds me of this, with its view to the next street over - but it looks pretty snowy on that street, too.
        Having just come in from shovelling our driveway, I am reminded of the advantages of a horse-drawn sleigh.  No need to shovel for the horse or the runners!  This scene by Herbert Pullinger (USA, 1878-1961) is reminiscent of all the old-fashioned “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” stereotypes.  It’s also an engraving, and you can once again see how fine are the lines in the background cross-hatching.  I especially like the variety of lines that make up all the trees and branches in the middle ground.
        Next up is a slightly more minimalist scene by Utagawa Hiroshige (Japan, 1797-1858).  The snow is suggested as much by the over-all color scheme (or lack-of-color scheme) than by any actual carving or details.  The vertical orientation makes this into a slice of a scene, and emphasizes the height of the bridge.  I worry that if the bridge is snowy, it might be quite slippery and difficult for the little person crossing!  Japanese wood blocks are inked with watercolors by brush rather than tackier inks by brayer, and in this piece the brushstrokes are visible in the grey background.  They add a very subtle texture.
        And finally a snowy house by Wharton Esherick (USA, 1887 - 1970), a contemporary of the first two artists featured today.  This is Esherick’s own house, and it fills the picture entirely, and goes right beyond the edges, which is an unusual composition.
        The snow has stopped falling here now, and I’ve cleared our own front steps, but we’re definitely looking like winter!

[Pictures: London Snow, wood engraving by Iain McNab, 1955 (image from National Galleries Scotland);
Walnut Lane Bridge, wood engraving by Herbert Pullinger, 1935 (Image from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts);
The Monkey Bridge in Winter, woodblock print by Utagawa Hiroshige, 19th century (Image from Art Institute of Chicago);
December, woodcut by Wharton Esherick, 1923 (Image from Wharton Esherick Museum).]


Pax said...

I looked at Pullinger's print and thought that bridge looked awfully familiar. Then I read the title: "Walnut Lane Bridge". It's over the Wissahickon Creek in Philadelphia. What fun! I am aware of two other artists who sketched scenes along the Wissahickon probably slightly earlier: Joseph Miles and Franklin D. Edmunds. These two men were about the same age as Pullinger but died younger. I wonder if they knew Herbert?

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

What fun to recognize the scene, Pax!