October 14–December 9, 2023
From 1930 to 1940, the artist Grant Arnold (1904-1988) operated a lithographic workshop in the basement of the Woodstock Artists Association. His encouraging presence and robust activity as a printer played a major role in the art colony’s development during the decade of the 1930s, when it was a center for artistic lithography. Arnold was also productive as a printmaker, and authored Creative Lithography and How to Do It, published in 1941, a still widely read book that explores the technical ins and outs of this complex and demanding medium.
Arnold was born in Brooklyn, New York. In his late teens he began attending classes at the Art Students League in the city, and in 1929 joined Charles W. Locke’s lithography class, where he became totally absorbed in the lithographic process. When Locke was away the other students asked Arnold for advice, as well as to help them print their work. It was not unusual for artists interested in lithography at the time to struggle with the printing process, and work with a knowledgeable or professional printer. The chemistry involved in lithography is so subtle that even the most experienced of printers encounter things that go awry. The establishment of printing studios in New York City following the end of World War I by George Miller and Bolton Brown (who divided his time between Woodstock and Manhattan) helped foster the conditions under which artistic lithography would develop and prosper in America in the decades of the 1920s and 1930s.
In the spring of 1930, Arnold was approached by Arnold Blanch to see if he was willing to go to Woodstock for the summer to set up and operate a lithographic studio in the basement of the Woodstock Artists Association to print for artists in town. Arnold became close friends with Hervey White, who originated the idea of hiring a lithographic printer, and provided a place for Arnold to live on the Maverick art colony in West Hurley. Arnold quickly became acquainted with the artists who lived on the Maverick, who joined with many others in seeking him out as a master printer over the course of the decade, and creating the lithographs on view in this exhibition which form the core of the Grant Arnold Collection of Fine Prints housed in the Tyler Art Gallery of the State University of New York at Oswego.
Grant Arnold Printmaker
After settling upstate fulltime in 1932, Arnold became especially productive as a printmaker. His lithographs and most of those he printed in Woodstock relate to the American Scene Painting movement of the 1930s. In 1936, a reviewer remarked, “Mr. Arnold holds the unique position of being one of the few skilled lithographers in this country and ranks with the best in the world. . . Besides his instructing, he has been able to continue his own art. As a craftsman he follows the entire lithographic process, making his own sketch, drawing it on the stone and doing the actual printing on his hand press.” The reviewer also praised the “compositional clarity” of his lithographs, and remarked that his “completed work is a perfect blend of subject matter with the medium.”
Printing in Woodstock, 1930-1934
The Woodstock Artists Association provided the lithograph shop in the organization’s basement rent-free and paid for all the initial supplies that were required, including crayons and drawing ink. The basic cost for supplying a grained stone, and printing an edition of five impressions was eight dollars, with twenty-five cents the cost for each additional print. The editions generally ranged in size from 10 to 25 prints. The basement was comfortably cool and damp in the summer months; the humidity was perfect for printing and dampening paper and blotters. The brook at the rear of the building served as the source for the soft water used to grain the stones and to use while printing.
By the end of the summer of 1930 Arnold had accumulated 25 prints and $400 in extra revenue. With their approval he kept a signed printer’s proof of each edition of an artist’s work. These prints make up a large portion of the Grant Arnold Collection of Fine Prints at SUNY, Oswego. Since Arnold did not always secure a printer’s proof it is not possible to know the complete extent of his activity as a printer in Woodstock over the course of 1930-1940. The artists that Arnold printed for ranged from well-known figures in the art colony to art students who came for a brief visit or stayed for the summer.
Following marriage in 1931, Jenny Arnold regularly served as Arnold’s assistant, wetting the stones, passing along damp sheets, and placing prints to dry between blotters. In the spring of 1932 the couple moved out of their apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, and settled in Woodstock, a decision driven by their fondness for the town. Hervey White rented them the Canal Boat on the Maverick for $100 a year, and the artist Carl Eric Lindin gave them a drum stove to bolster their winter heating. Over the course of the next eight years, Arnold printed hundreds of lithographs by himself and others. From late 1936 to early 1937 he briefly worked as a lithographic printer for the Resettlement Administration in Washington, D.C.
Government Sponsored Art Projects and Other Lithographs of the 1930s
From 1934 to 1939, Arnold worked on various government sponsored art projects in Woodstock as a printmaker and printer, beginning with the Public Works of Art Project and ending with the Federal Art Project. He was assigned to print lithographs for local artists who were on the various projects, and to draw and print one lithograph a month of his own, for which he received $75 in bimonthly payments. Works of art created under the auspices of the federal government were distributed to schools, libraries, post offices, federal and state office buildings, police stations, and courthouses and jails.
During the course of his time on the Federal Art Project, Arnold primarily created lithographs of his own works. They were printed in editions of 25 impressions, as were the editions for each of the artists for whom he made a print. Among the lithographs that have been identified as being printed early on by Arnold for the federal government are Marion Greenwood’s Chiquita, Grace Greenwood’s Chapel, Karl Fortess’s Rural Landscape, and Paul R. Meltsner’s Industrial Landscape and Death of a Striker. After a brief period in late 1936 and early 1937 working as a lithographic printer for the Resettlement Administration in Washington, D.C., Arnold printed for Clarence Bolton and Elizabeth Bush Woiceske in Woodstock under the auspices of the Federal Art Project. Arnold continued to print for artists unaffiliated with the relief program. Among the artists he printed for in Woodstock in the mid-1930s was John McClellan.
The Final Years in the Hudson Valley and A Move Away
The Federal Art Project came to an end in August 1939. In mid-October of 1940, Arnold joined the United States Coast and Geographic Survey in Washington, D.C. as an artist lithographer, and initially printed nautical charts of the coastline and inland waterways of the United States. Following America’s entrance into World War II in December 1940, the survey focused on producing charts and maps of Africa, France, Great Britain, and the Philippines.
Upon leaving Woodstock, Arnold dismantled his Fuchs and Land press. Over the course of the next 30 years he devoted little time to his own work, and eventually sold the press to Philip DeLazlo, a dealer in secondhand presses. Arnold spent the summers of 1941 to 1945 in Woodstock, off from working in Washington, D.C. Following his departure to Washington, local lithographic production returned to pre-1930 levels. Arnold later remarked that the artists in town did not make a lot of lithographs before his arrival, or immediately after he moved away.
Following the Arnolds’ son William’s birth in 1941, the artist sought a stable long-term source of income. From 1944 to 1971, Arnold taught courses in fine art, printmaking, and mechanical drawing at various junior high schools and high schools in New York State, including in nearby New Paltz and Saugerties. During his summers in town, when he was off from teaching, he sold impressions of older prints at the Saturday Market Fair. In 1950, Arnold moved away from the area upon accepting a position as the art teacher at Watertown Senior High School, in Watertown, New York, where he taught until retiring in 1971. Following retirement, the Arnolds moved to nearby Oswego, where the artist eventually worked as an adjunct professor. After a break from the medium of lithography for 27 years, he created new lithographs of his own, based mostly on drawings of rooftops, rural roadways, and views of Lake Ontario.
In the 1970s, Grant Arnold donated his collection of lithographs, including more tha 350 prints of his work and those he printed for others in Woodstock, to the State University of New York at Oswego. In 1986, Arnold was awarded the Tamarind Citation for Distinguished Contributions to the Art of the Lithograph. The artist died in his sleep in 1988 while recovering from pneumonia in Oswego Hospital.