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Cascadian Colors: Woodcuts by Waldo & Corwin Chase from the John Impert Collection

The twenty color woodcuts in this exhibition at the Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery are from the collection of John Impert, Seattle art historian and author of Painters of the Northwest: Impressionism to Modernism, 1900-1930. By the 1880s, Seattle was becoming a center for the arts establishing the Seattle Art Association at what is now the University of Washington, and seeing a great deal of popular interest in printmaking. As the major Northwest port for Pacific trade, examples of Asian art found their way into Seattle homes, particularly Japanese ukiyoe prints, color woodcut “pictures of the floating world.” In 1928 the artist and block carver Yamagishi Kazue (1883-1966) arrived in Seattle to teach Japanese woodcut methods. Kazue’s eager students included Waldo and Corwin Chase and the artist/illustrator Elizabeth Colborne (1885-1948). Brothers Waldo Spore Chase (1895-1988) and Wendell Corwin Chase (1897-1988) came from a very artistic family and, like many Northwest artists, were attracted to the rugged beauty of the mountain ranges and national parks, and focused on landscape in their art.

After holding a variety of jobs and experimenting with photography and hand-colored photographic prints, the Chase brothers decided to work together on color woodcuts, attracted by the relatively simple (and portable) tools required. They studied Frank Morley Fletcher’s (1866-1949) manual, Wood-block Printing, and their initial prints in 1927 were surprisingly accomplished. The brothers taught themselves to sew Indian-style teepees and lived in them on the slopes of Mount Rainier while printing their first woodcuts, nearly 80 of which they gave to hikers passing through Glacier Basin in 1927 in an effort to drum up business. Their initial woodcuts were signed “Chenuis,” an Indian word that for them symbolized a joint endeavor.
Relevant research areas: North America, 20th Century, Relief printing

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