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1 Work on Paper in Collection

Frances Hammel Gearhart


(1969 - 1958) United States

Frances Gearhart was a self-taught printmaker who is recognized for her woodblocks of the Western United States including Yosemite, the Rockies, and the Sonora Desert. Printing with rice paste and watercolor, in the Japanese tradition, Gearhart captured the magnificence and drama of the landscape.

Gearhart's unusual manner of printing the key block (or the foundation color) in blue instead of black ink enhanced the atmospheric mood she sought to convey. The light blue in Tatoosa Vista not only serves as mountain sky but also accentuates the depth and drama of the snowy peaks. Brushstrokes visible in the sky indicate that Gearhart applied the ink to the wooden blocks with a dry brush, another technique borrowed from the Japanese. The vertical nature of this work is also typical of Gearhart who frequently stacked elements, one behind the other. The dark blue patch in the bottom right of the image adds to the sense of dramatic space.

Gearhart did not begin making woodcuts until she was 50 years old. Critics notice an affinity between the woodcuts of Gearhart and Japanese artist Hiroshi Yoshida, a painter and printmaker in the Occidental style who visited the United States and made a number of prints of the Western landscape.

Born in Illinois, in her youth Gearhart moved with her family to Southern California. She worked for a time as an English history teacher in the Los Angeles public schools. She and her sister, May, exhibited together frequently. In 1923 they had an exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art where twenty-seven of Gearhart's woodcuts were displayed. Gearhart was a founding member of Printmakers of Los Angeles (now California Printmakers Society). In 1930 the American Federation of the Arts organized a traveling exhibition of her works and in 1933 she had a solo exhibition at Grand Central Galleries in New York. Today her works are held in public collections in the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Rhode Island School of Design and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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