C.A. Seward

1884 - 1939

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Seward’s first effort as an author on the arts was in 1909, an article about George Melville Stone written for Kansas Magazine.  With this piece he established his skill as an articulate and thoughtful writer and throughout the rest of his life he continued to author pieces about art and artists particularly on the topic of fine art prints.  Twenty years after this first article, in September of 1929, Seward completed what became perhaps his most important piece of writing.  This book on lithography, “Metal Plate Lithography for Artists and Draftsmen” was published in December of 1931. In this book, Seward suggested that artists should discard their prejudices toward the medium of lithography. He also contested the established use of lithographic stones as the superior or only surface for making fine art lithographs by introducing the convenience and ease of a metal, zinc plate.  Although produced in a limited edition of 3000 copies, this text continues to be reprinted today.

Seward’s book is still regarded as an important text in the sense that his response as a fine artist was to use the very method that had led to the disdain for the lithographic medium - the metal plate which when combined with photography had allowed printers to flood the marketplace with inexpensive reproduction prints. He used his book to demonstrate that these metal plates could also easily be used to create fine art prints of great merit. Several books on lithography for fine artists by artist/printmakers were published during the 1930s.  In 1930 the Chicago Art Institute had published Bolton Brown’s Scammon Lectures on lithography in a book titled, “Lithography for Artists.” In 1936 artist/lithographer Stow Wengenroth also wrote a book on lithography, “Making a Lithograph” as part of the “how to do it” series for Studio Publications.  The focus of both Brown and Wengenroth’s books was the use of long standing, traditional techniques as well as the use of Bavarian limestones to make fine art lithographs.  In contrast, Seward recommends not only the use of a more accessible and more easily manipulated and stored metal plate in place of the Bavarian limestone surface. More importantly he also suggests that a student “first learn the process by following the suggestions given, then free yourself, study each step, and do the whole thing in an individual way.”

In his introduction Seward explains:“This treatise was written with the idea of supplying the artist with the necessary elementary knowledge of the process with which all too few are acquainted.”...”This book should serve a twofold purpose not only in providing a practical guide for the novice, but also in supplying a handy reverence book containing the necessary technical information, formulas, and methods of procedure in compact form for the sophisticated worker.”

He then proceeds to make use of his own skill as a draftsman and graphic designer to create an easily understood “how to” book on making a lithograph.

In his introduction Seward extolls the medium and challenges his fellow artists to disavow old prejudices and make use of modern technology offered by the innovative use of this medium, “Lithography is the simplest and most wonderful of all the graphic arts, and probably the most abused.  That it is not understood clearly by present day artists is evidenced by their proneness to remember the “Chromo Day” when ever lithography is mentioned.  If they but knew it, not only as the simplest and most versatile, but also as the most autographic, of all the graphic arts, the lithograph would soon be restored to its rightful position in the print world.”

Seward’s colleagues and friends accepted his challenge and produced prints to illustrate this book - Gerald Cassidy, Kenneth Adams, George Biddle, Rockwell Kent, Wanda Gag, Louis Lozowick and Mildred Rackley are among those whose lithographic prints were used to illustrate this book. Seward’s choices for the prints included in his book reveal a great deal and are in stark contrast to the traditional and easily recognized prints reproduced in the Brown and Wengenroth books. Seward’s selections obviously serve their primary purpose of demonstrating various techniques and methods.  These choices also reveal a great deal about Seward’s wide network of artist/printmaker friends.  This group of prints clearly demonstrates Seward’s own personal interests and wide acceptance of great diversity of  the artistic styles and art movements of the 1920s. Those artists who chose cityscapes range from Louis Lozowick’s  New York street scene “Hanover Square,“ to Lloyd Foltz’s “Modern Mills” an equally modern tall building and rail scene of Wichita rail tracks and flour mills. Two equally stylized views - John Richard Rowe’s “Provins” depiction of a European village and Ernest Born’s “Jeanette Park Curve,” Chicago scene add to the diversity of the architectural prints. For the expected, traditional landscapes Seward selected one of his own lithographs, “Sunshine and Showers” and coupled this with two more distinctively different prints, a Gerald Cassidy ”Navajo Woman” and a Birger Sandzen print from his Utah series. Seward also included the expected scene of Kansas barns with William Dickerson’s modernist compositon entitled “My Neighbor’s Barn.” Finally for his “bird lover” artist friends, Seward includes his own “Swans” just to demonstrate that in contrast to the traditional preference for etching the lithographic medium offered an equal means of documenting this favored subject matter.  Seward’s persuasive powers are memorialized with the inclusion of a print by renown wood cut artist, Rockwell Kent, “Revisitation” a most typical contemplative bold figure in a landscape subject is done as a lithograph, “The lower part was drawn on paper with tusche and transferred to zinc. The sky was put in with tusche directly on the zinc.” Seward’s goal was to demonstrate the wide variations presented by the lithographic medium and the book remains a testimony to the interest he engendered from his peers. 

Several letters exist regarding Seward’s challenge to his fellow artists.  Ken Adams and William Rice’s letters are of special interest and can easily be accessed by selecting their names on the site map page of this web site.


Seward - Author “Metal Plate Lithography

               for Artists and Draftsmen”

                                Pencil Points Press, 1931

Images on this page (top to bottom, left to right): cover & 3 interior pages from C.A. Seward “Metal Plate Lithography.”  Images of prints included in the book: Wanda Gag “Evening,” Rockwell Kent “Revisitation,” C.A. Seward “Bruce Moore” Kenneth Adams “Pueblo Maiden,” Mildred Rackley “Study” (later titled Geronimo)  George Biddle “Pollo Y Pulque” C.A. Seward “Swans”

Louise Lozowick “Hanover Square,” Lloyd Foltz, “Modern Mills,” Ernest Born “Jeanette Park Curve,”John Richard Rowe “Provins,”

C.A. Seward “Sunshine and Shower,” Gerald Cassidy “Navajo Maiden,” Birger Sandzeen “Colorado River,”  William Dickerson “My Neighbor’s Barn.”