Chistopher Register, Mask of Indifference, undated. Wood engraving.
Frederic Remington (1861 - 1909), Toro, Toro!, 1893. Wood engraving published in Harper's Weekly, December 9. Collection of Lee Silliman.
Wood Engravers’ Network Triennial Exhibition is the second juried exhibition sponsored by the Wood Engravers’ Network. The traveling exhibit features 60 prints by 51 artists from Belgium, Canada, Finland, Ireland, the United States and the United Kingdom. Works by both members and non-members of the Wood Engravers’ Network are surprisingly bold for their modest size, revealing a rich diversity of styles and subjects that prove this historic medium is robust and thriving. Joan Boudreau, Curator of the Graphic Arts Collection at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History juried the show. When looking at engravings, it is important to consider the medium’s historic association to book illustration, graphic design and narrative. As a result of this history, it is natural to see those influences played out in the contemporary exploration of the medium.
This exhibition presents an outstanding collection of large-size vintage Harper’s Weekly engravings by Frederic Remington. These images launched Remington’s illustration career, providing the platform from which he evolved into one of the West’s most famous fine art painters. The engravings not only document Remington’s rise to prominence and wealth, but also chronicle the convulsive events in the closing decades of the Western frontier era. Remington strove to portray people and their role in the pageant of history, and his graphics reveal his emergence as an expert narrative artist.
The engravings in this exhibition – especially the double-page images, with their dramatic contrast and subtle exercise of mid-tones – are exemplars of the wood engraver’s art of the late nineteenth century. Prominently displayed, for example, is Remington’s consummate skill in rendering the horse in motion, although subsequent technological evolution into half-tone reproduction of paintings soon rendered the wood engraving technique obsolete.