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Weird and Wonderful:  Graphics by Leonard Baskin

September 3 ­ October 29, 2006


Leonard Baskin is described as a true renaissance man.  Considered to be a major figure in 20th century American art, he was a writer, a book maker, a watercolorist, a printmaker and a sculptor.  (right: Leonard Baskin (American, 1922 ­ 2000), Chief American Horse, 1973. Color Lithograph, 37 x 24 inches) 

The subjects of his books ranged from the Bible to children's stories to natural history.  He used woodcut, lithography and etching in creating prints and subjects included portraits, flower studies, biblical, classical and mythological scenes.

The son of a rabbi, Baskin was born in 1922 in New Brunswick, New Jersey.  He was educated at a yeshiva before attending Yale University where he acquired his enthusiasm for the art of letterpress printing. 

Baskin received his BA from the New School for Social Research in 1949.  Following graduation he spent time studying in Paris and Florence before settling at Smith College where he taught printmaking and sculpture from 1953 until 1974.  In 1974 he moved to England returning to the United States in 1983.  During those nine years he created a selection of prints, painting and sculptures.    

Baskin produced his first imprint while at Yale and in 1942 founded Gehenna Press (Gehenna is Hebrew for hell), a small private press that specialized in fine book and print production.  He continued to design and illustrate books for Gehenna Press throughout his life making Gehenna Press the longest running, privately owned press in the country.  As an illustrator, Baskin was awarded a Caldecott Honor Book award in 1973, for illustrating the children's book Hosie's Alphabet.

Baskin's public commissions include a thirty foot long bas-relief for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, sculpture at the Woodrow Wilson Memorial in Washington, D.C. and a Holocaust Memorial sculpture on the site of the first Jewish cemetery in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  His honors included a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Gold Medal of the National Academy of Arts and Letters, the Gold Medal of the National Academy of Design and the Jewish Cultural Achievement Award.

Retrospective exhibitions have been shown at the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress the Albertina in Vienna.  Baskin's work is in major private and public institutions, research libraries and museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the British Museum and the Tate Museum in London and the Vatican Museums. (right: Leonard Baskin (American, 1922 ­ 2000), Man of Peace, 1953. Woodcut, 59.6 x 30.9 inches)



The Curator Speaks:  Dr. Bob Bianchi

On Thursday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m., Guest Curator Dr. Bob Bianchi will discuss his role as the curator for this exhibit and he will provide an overview of the exhibition and Baskin's career as the founder of Gehenna Press and as a fine print maker and artist.  Also included will be discussion of Baskin's attraction to certain subjects including Native Americans, the founding fathers and men of arts and letters.   Fee.

Baskin Bodies Bash will be on view in the Interactive Gallery Saturday, Sept. 14 though Sunday, Oct. 29.  This installation is a collaboration involving the Museum and SPC Student Services, the fine art and science departments on the Tarpon Springs Campus.  Stop by and see the product of student creativity inspired by Weird and Wonderful.

On Friday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m., Two Ts & a Cup of Joe will perform in the Museum Auditorium. Please join in an evening of music and irony that complements the imagery of Leonard Baskin's work.  Fee.

Editor's note: RL readers may also enjoy Leonard Baskin: Monumental Prints (10/19/00)

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