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Graphic Force, Humanist Vision: Leonard Baskin Works on Paper


"Our human frame, our gutted mansion, our enveloping sack of beef and ash is yet a glory. Glorious in defining our universal sodality and glorious in defining our utter uniqueness. The human figure is the image of all men and of one man. It contains all and it can express all…to search the maze of man’s physicality, to wander the body’s magnitudes is to search for the image of man. And in the act of discovery lies the act of communication. A common communal communication of necessity." – Leonard Baskin (1922-2000), Northampton, Massachusetts, April 23, 1959

An internationally acclaimed sculptor, printmaker, painter, calligrapher, essayist, book designer, and poet, Leonard Baskin was a major figure in 20th century American art. Beginning in the 1940s and 1950s when American art movements such as abstract expressionism all but eliminated the human form from painting and sculpture, Baskin boldly maintained its central role in his work. He declared, "I emblazon for my totem man himself." Through figuration, Baskin's overarching concern was expressing the power and depth of the human condition at its most primal.

Baskin was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1922 and grew up in Brooklyn under the tutelage of his rabbi father. Known primarily as a sculptor, in 1952 he gained recognition as a printmaker with the immense woodcut, Man of Peace. Bound by a masterful, energetic use of line and a palpable compassion, the human image in Baskin's graphic oeuvre is marked by a striking intensity, woven with rich art historical and literary references. !T! This exhibition highlights humanity in Baskin's works on paper–from his series of portraits of the great visual artists of the past to the heroes of Native America, from literary personages to wondrous creatures, mythological beasts with only a semblance of humanness. In exploring Baskin's prints and drawings, Graphic Force, Humanist Vision reveals the immediacy and poignancy of his artistic legacy: the common consciousness of humankind.

This exhibition of some 60 drawings, prints, and artist books, is largely from the Museum's collection. The late Francis J. Newton, former executive director and curator at the Museum, gifted the majority of these objects.

Curated by Marnie Stark

Exhibition Title

Graphic Force, Humanist Vision: Leonard Baskin Works on Paper



Curated by

Marnie Stark

Organized by

Portland Art Museum

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