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American painter, sculptor, book designer and magnificent printmaker
1922 - June 3, 2000 (age 77)

With his work ranging from Holocaust homages (exhibition Angels to the Jews) to illustrated children's books (he won a Caldecott Medal for illustrating the children's book Hosie's Alphabet), Leonard Baskin is one of my favorite artists. Ever.

Born in New Brunswick, N.J, Leonard Baskin began primarily as a sculptor. In 1952, he decided to expand his work into printmaking with large woodcuts. Doing mostly figurative work, he frequently visited biblical or mythological themes, exploring both human and animal figures. His power of expression in woodcuts is credited as one of the reasons for it's revival in the late 50's in printmaking and especially with the Pop Art movement. Indeed, his achievements with this medium are the reason I myself began to do woodcuts.

I discovered Leonard Baskin while studying woodcuts in college. Baskin's work struck me to the marrow with it's imagery and amusing humanity. I would even say it moved me if that weren't so cliche. He was the first modern printmaker that I had seen making woodcuts that were simultaneously morbid, beautiful, haunting and smattered with almost childlike truths. After this initial impression, I was not surprised to discover Baskin is considered a dark romantic in the American tradition of Edgar Allan Poe, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Hart Crane, and Rico Lebrun. Since woodcuts were considered an "older process" I was enthralled to see this new side of them. It was like witnessing the birth of a mammoth - ancient and new entwined in one.

Hallmarks of Baskin's work include large-scale woodcut prints in black and dark red with meandering spidery lines lacing together to make a figure. Usually representing both the real and the imagined anxieties of our subconscious, or perhaps some sardonic idea.

One of his most famous works is a bas relief of a funeral cortège for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. His notable prints include Mid-Century Monster and The Poet Laureate. And his sculpture Man with a Dead Bird is in the Museum of Modern Art, New York City.

1941-43 Scholarship, Yale University School of Fine Arts New Haven, CT
1949 BA, New School for Social Research New York, NY
1953 Guggenheim Fellowship
1966 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, The New School New York, NY
1973 Skowhegan Gold Medal for Graphics Skowhegan, ME
1985 Honorary DFA, Portland School of Art Portland, OR
1987 Honorary LHD, University of Judaism Los Angeles, CA
1997 Honorary Degree, Springfield College Springfield, MA

1998 Leonard Baskin: 1947-1998, Hunter Museum of Art Chattanooga, TN
1994 Caprices, Grotesques and Homages: Leonard Baskin and The Gehenna Press, Library of Congress Washington, DC
1991 Angels to the Jews, Midtown Payson Gallery New York, NY
1984 The Albertina Vienna, Austria
1970 National Museum of American Art/The Smithsonian Washington, DC
1968-69 XXXIV International Bienniel Exhibition of Art, Venice, Italy
1962 The Royal Watercolour Society/St. George's Gallery London, England
1958 Pasadena Art Museum Pasadena, CA
1939 Glickman Studio Gallery New York, NY

Of his work I highly recommend the eerily fun children's book Animals that Ought to Be (written by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Leonard Baskin).

References: www.artnet.com/ag/artistdetails.asp?aid=2067
and my own experiences

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