Printmaking: An Artistic Medium Blending the Old and the New

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Printmaking is one of the most exciting arenas of worldwide artistic advances, as breakthroughs in technology and ancient traditions are combined to create a harmonious artistic medium that blends the old and new. Printmakers are known not just for their unique artistic focus, but also for the way that they push the boundaries of the medium, using new techniques and tools to create increasingly powerful images. Born at the beginning of the 20th century, Prentiss Taylor was one such artist who was able to create works spanning the full breadth of printmaking’s evolution. His emotionally charged and technically powerful works are inspirational to viewers and artists even today.

Prentiss Taylor was one of many artists to come out of the Harlem Renaissance, a period of cultural awakening in the United States that saw African American visual art to gain in prominence. Taylor became famous as an illustrator, creating lithographs that were used to illustrate the works of Langston Hughes, the most famous African American author of his generation. Taylor considered himself a surrealist, creating compositions that blended the natural with the synthetic in order to create improbably dreamscapes. His most popular compositions were of the American South, using his regional knowledge as well as his penchant for expressiveness to create eerily familiar lithographs that still seemed alien and otherworldly.

Following in a tradition of self-exploration by photographers and printmakers, Taylor used the latter half of his career to create a series of autobiographical lithographs which kept the surreal narrative style of his earlier works. He also began to turn his lens onto aspects of the American culture that he believed needed his attention, especially as his frustration with the slow progress of African American civil rights began to draw his attention to more political lithographs. The following two works are typical of Taylor’s catalogue, although the breadth of...
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