Paths to the Press: Printmaking and American Women Artists, 1910-1960

October 21, 2007 – December 18, 2007

“Paths to the Press: Printmaking and American Women Artists, 1910 1960” was the first major survey of U.S. female printmakers active during the first half of the twentieth century. This traveling exhibition organized by the Beach Museum of Art explored the avenues by which U.S. women pursued studio printmaking and the connections—both social and conceptual—among them and their work.

The work of over eighty women—some well-known and others less recognized—appears in the exhibition. These and other women who turned to printmaking in the decades following 1910 created some of the most compelling and technically sophisticated images in U.S. printmaking history. In 1910 Bertha C. Jaques co-founded the Chicago Society of Etchers and helped launch a revival of American fine art printmaking that counted hundreds of female artists. Among them were Blanche Lazzell and Helen Hyde, who in the 1910s and 1920s made major contributions to color printmaking.

New printmaking programs in art institutions, the WPA, and print societies in the 1920s and 1930s helped artists included in the exhibition, such as Peggy Bacon, Constance Forsyth, and Elizabeth Olds, gain professional training and earn income. These and many artists in the exhibition active after World War II passed on skills to students in university printmaking programs, independent presses, and other spaces.

Examples of work by artists such as Mary Cassatt and Bertha Lum, who were active as printmakers before 1910, set up the period defined by the exhibition and testify to American women’s early and sustained interest in studio printmaking. The exhibition ends its survey about 1960, when an emerging group of print publishers began to offer new production and marketing opportunities for both women and men.

The 104 prints in the exhibition have been drawn from the collection of Belverd and Marian Needles of Winnetka, Illinois; K-State’s Beach Museum of Art; Northwestern University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art; the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas; Louisiana State University Museum of Art in Baton Rouge; the Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts; and the University of Kansas’ Spencer Museum of Art.

“Paths to the Press” began its tour in 2005 at the Block Museum of Art. It also made appearances at the McNay Art Museum and the Louisiana State University Museum of Art in Baton Rouge.

A 261-page exhibition catalogue is available. The catalogue is the first major reference on U.S. female printmakers of the early to mid-twentieth century. It includes five scholarly essays and illustrated catalogue entries on each artist written by nearly two dozen American printmaking scholars, dealers, and collectors.
“Paths to the Press” is partially funded by Belverd and Marian Needles. Major catalogue support was provided by Donna Vanier.