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Celebrating a Wisconsin Printmaking Legend, and More

October 1, 2018
By Christa Story

Midwest Masters, currently in the Neese Gallery, is an exhibit of innovative intaglio prints. While these prints appear to be random, they can be linked by a common thread tracing back to one of the most influential schools of art in the 20th century, the Atelier 17. Founded by Stanley William Hayter (British, 1901–1988) the Atelier 17 was known for the many important printmakers that came to work there, as well as significant printmaking innovations—namely color viscosity printing and soft-ground etching. Atelier 17 focused on tradition and discovery—and its doors were wide open.

"Midwest Masters" in Neese Gallery

Midwest Masters presents prints by artists in the Wright Museum’s permanent collection who evolved at the Atelier. These artists include Mauricio Lasansky, David Driesbach, and Dean Meeker. Along with Warrington Colescott and Frances Myers, these artists spent most of their artistic career in the Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, printing and teaching complex intaglio techniques the next generations of students.

Art and art history double major Lemon Ennis Wood’19 and art and mathematics double major Shambhavi Upadhyaya’19 made significant contributions to the research and installation of this exhibition.

Midwest institutions like the University of Iowa and University of Wisconsin-Madison were fortunate to have this next generation of printmakers, and thus became the national centers for printmaking.

One of these artists was Warrington Colescott (American, b. 1921), a California native, who accepted a job to teach drawing and design at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1949. He remained there for 37 years, and was part of the nation’s first four-year college to offer all four types of printmaking—relief, intaglio, lithography, and screenprinting.

Colescott passed away this month at his home in Hollandale, Wisconsin at the age of ninety-seven, but his legacy carries on at Beloit College. Scott Espeseth, an associate professor of art, worked under Colescott and now teaches printmaking to Beloit students.

As Espeseth recalls:

"I was Warrington Colescott’s studio assistant from 1998 to 2001. I worked with him to publish a number of editions during that time, but I also helped maintain his property in Hollandale. Warrington was a fair employer and generally stood up for the little guy in life just as he did in his prints. I learned tremendously from our conversations, and in many small ways it was the best job ever. Each day began with a long drive in the country to the studio and estate. There I would have a coffee with Frances and Warrington before heading to the studio for a full morning’s work. Lunch came at noon, usually sandwiches, always accompanied with wine, olives, a cheese course, cookies and coffee, and good company. Afterward, we would stumble back to the studio for more printing before calling it a day by dark. It was an excellent model for how to live and work without really noticing the difference between the two."

The Wright Museum recognizes Colescott as one of the most important Wisconsin artists, leaving behind a biting and beautiful oeuvre. The Wright’s permanent collection houses eleven of Colescott’s bright and witty intaglio prints.

"Your Day in Court", illustration part of "Midwest Masters"

Your Day In Court, 1971
Warrington Colescott (American, 1921–2018)
Color drypoint, etching, aquatint, woodcut, and soft-ground etching, with roulette, vibrograver,found letterpress plate, and relief rolls through stencils
Long-term loan from the Wisconsin Arts Board