December 17, 2020

Winter Games

         Today we are enjoying our first proper snowstorm of the season.  It would be a Snow Day, but with kids remote-learning anyway, school has not been cancelled.  (On the other hand, remote learning is never such a full schedule, and my ten-year-old neighbor is outside my window now, fooling around with a snow shovel.)  My daughter hopes to join a friend for snowpeople once the roads are cleared.  So today seems a good day to celebrate playing in the snow — with block prints, of course.
         First is a scene by Werner Drewes (Germany/USA, 1899-1985 - previous post here).  It’s almost reminiscent of something by Breughel in its busyness and humor.  There is sledding, a snowman, and a snowball fight, plus the person who has fallen down; I can’t tell whether he has skis, or whether the snowman is holding a bundle of twigs or something.  One of the more interesting effects is the black sky.  Are all these activities taking place at night?  Or even during an eclipse?
        By contrast, the lone sledder by Wharton Esherick (USA, 1887-1970) is a clean black and white with few details.  The footprints in the snow imply that the person has trudged up that whole distant slope for the pleasure of one long, smooth, uninterrupted swoop.
        Thomas Morrison Marker (USA, 1901-1978) has depicted more social sledders, although this hill, too, is fairly pristine.  All the good sledding hills in our neighborhood quickly become completely criss-crossed and packed to a shine.  One thing I really like about this print is the choice of a textured paper.  The texture of the paper works perfectly as the texture of the snow, adding nuance to all that carved-away whiteness.
        Next up is a snow sport that I have never seen: ski-joring by Lil Tschudi (Switzerland, 1911-2004).  In fact, I’d never heard of it before finding this block print, but it’s basically the snow equivalent of water skiing, in which the skier is pulled, in this print by a horse.  
I love the unusual use of a round composition for an activity that emphasizes speed and would be spread out quite horizontal in the more obvious view.  It’s very dynamic, with its curved lines and energetic poses.
        I conclude with an adorable piece by Boris Artzybasheff (Russia/USA, 1899-1965 - previous post here).  It’s an illustration of “The Story of a Bold Rabbit,” but as I have not yet read the story, I’m taking the image as a simple picture of rabbits gathering on a snowy night.  They look quite frolicsome, and the snowflakes make beautifully detailed stars.  Perhaps the rabbits will soon go sliding down the hill like the people in the other block prints.

[Pictures: Winter, woodcut by Werner Drewes, 1933 (Image from Smithsonian American Art Museum);

Winter Play, wood engraving by Wharton Esherick, 1928 (Image from Wharton Esherick Museum);

Coasters, block print by Thomas Morrison Marker, 1935 (Image from The Annex Galleries);

Ski-Joring, linocut by Lil Tschudi, 1937 (Image from Cleveland Museum of Art);

The Story of a Bold Rabbit with Cock Eyes and a Short Tail, block print by Boris Artzybasheff from Verotchka’s Tales by M. Siberiak, 1922 (Image from Internet Archive).]

1 comment:

Pax said...

My friends in Fairbanks ski-jor with a single dog (sled dog, husky, or large pet). Looks like fun.