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October 12: The Printmaker

October 12, 2014
Doma-by-Mauricio-LasanskyMauricio Lasansky, whose varied and complex graphic and printmaking techniques helped advance printmaking as a major 20th-century art form, was born in Buenos Aires on this date in 1914. (His Lithuanian-born father, who came to Argentina via North America, spent some time working as a printer and engraver at the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia.) Lasansky came to the U.S. in his late twenties as a Guggenheim Fellow and devoted himself to studying the print collection at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1945, he established the influential printmaking workshop at the University of Iowa School of Art and Art History. He eventually trained numerous artists who founded such departments in other universities and colleges. Lasansky is best known for The Nazi Drawings, thirty-three life-size prints using lead pencil, collage, and water and turpentine-based washes, which he worked on intensively for six years before its 1967 debut at the Philadelphia Art Museum. His work is represented in nearly every major U.S. art museum. Lasansky died at 97 in 2012. “I wanted them to be done with a tool used by everyone everywhere. From the cradle to the grave, meaning the pencil.... The Hitler years were in my belly, and I tried many times to do it. But I was too worldly about them, too aesthetic. The trouble was, I thought of them as art. But then I decided, the hell with it. Why don’t I just put down what I feel?” —Mauricio Lasansky