C.A. Seward

1884 - 1939

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This was his first experience in an urban area and first exposure to the work of other artists. Economic necessity soon made it necessary for him to begin fully supporting himself and it was his fortuitous event that he found a job at the McCormick Armstrong printing company in the fast growing Kansas town of Wichita. It was in Wichita and through this work situation that he encountered the two men who became the influential mentors of his life, Robert Aitchison and C.A. Seward.


Aitchison was the director of the Art Department at the McCormick Armstrong Company while Seward held the same position at the Western Lithograph Company. Aitchison was a ardent bibliophile, Rotarian and active member of the civic community. Seward had come to Wichita in 1907 and opened the first commercial art studio. By the time Logan arrived in Wichita Seward had been successful in his desire to create an arts community in this rapidly growing city.  Aitchison helped refine and develop Loganʼs talent as a commercial artist while Seward mentored his interest and skill as a printmaker. Logan described his first experience with making a print during an interview for a catalog about all of the founding members of the Prairie Print Makers. His story described how by chance he overheard a conversation one day when Seward was visiting his boss, Robert Aitchison at McCormick-Armstrong Company.  Their discussion was about woodcuts, a term which was unfamiliar to Logan.  When Logan asked Aitchson what a woodcut was, he suggested that Logan could learn from Seward, and that same evening he went to Seward’s studio.  Logan explained that this ”was the beginning of an enduring friendship with this gentle and modest man.”  The catalog further explains that despite his exposure to other means of expression through association with Seward and the others, Logan made only a single lithograph and a few drypoints.


It was through Seward that Logan became a member of the group of seven artists (Logan, Seward, Courtney, Foltz, Capps, Hotvedt, Dickerson and Norma & Arthur Hall) who met regularly at Sewardʼs home studio to discuss their work and exchange ideas as they developed their skills as print makers. It was this group that became the nucleus of the Prairie Print Makers. Logan was invited by Seward to become its youngest founding member. He traveled to Lindsborg and the studio of the organization’s senior member, painter and educator, Birger Sandzen for the initial meeting of the Prairie Print Makers. From this point the group grew to include over 150 artists living throughout the United States, Canada and Hawaii. Although now  the managing director of Mid-Continent Engraving Company in nearby Salina, Kansas, Logan would remain actively involved with this group until Sewardʼs death in January of 1939.The annual exhibitions of the Prairie Print Makers as well as that of the annual national, juried American Block Print exhibition served to expose Logan and the entire arts community of Wichita and Kansas to the work of printmakers living throughout the United States and Canada. In addition, in 1932, Arthur Fowler initiated the Wood Block Society in nearby Kansas City and this group also sponsored exhibitions and commissioned an annual print. Thus the work of other well noted woodblock printmakers, Claire Leighton, J.J. Lankes, Gustave Baumann, William Rice, Frances Gearhart, and Walter Phillips were familiar to Logan. This exposure undoubtedly educated his eye but seldom diverted his attention away from his focus on everyday scenes of rural Kansas.


Between 1921 and 1938, Logan created around 140 different prints, mostly woodcuts, in editions of around 50.  He also collaborated with three friends to create a small book, “Other Days.”  Ernest Scroggins wrote the text, Seward created the layout and design and Logan created woodblock images for illustrations.  In the images for this book and all of his prints Logan style is characterized by the dramatic juxtaposition of rich black and stark white, robust volume, a sense of the eternal in the frozen moment, and a sharpness of focus that monumentalizes everyday Kansas scenes. In 1938, the year after creating three of his most compelling prints, Tornado, Threshing, and The Dust Storm, Logan virtually abandoned printmaking later stating that after the long illness and death of his friend and mentor C. A. Seward he simply lost interest in making prints.  “With the passing of my wonderful friend, my interest in the graphic arts further declined.” Logan then focused on other artistic and entrepreneurial ideas including authoring and designing several books on guns. In 1967 Logan left Kansas and retired to California, where, among many other activities, he made and collected miniature books.


Logans block prints retain their importance not simply because of technical skill or as some have inferred their realism. Logan’s prints eloquently portray a sense of place, they capture the essence of the rural communities then so prevalent throughout the Midwest.   With their strong, sensitive balance of dark and light patterns Logan’s wood block prints remain visually compelling though perhaps their subject matter will always be mystifying to those whose life experiences have never extended beyond urban cities. 

 
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Sources: Images - woodcut of C.A. Seward, “Other Days in Pictures and Verse, Herschel Logan, Everett Scroggin and C.A. Seward. Interviews and letters and “The Prairie Print Makers”, Barbara Thompson-O’Neill, George Foreman & Howard Ellington, 1981, and “Herschel Logan: Man of Many Careers,” Anthony L Lehman, The Westerners, Los Angeles Corral, 1986 and many consultations with Stephen Gleissner, Curator of the Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, Kansas which is the home of a large collection of the woodblock prints of Herschel Logan.

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Herschel C. Logan 1901 - 1987

Illustrator, Author and/or Publisher: a selected list

Other Days in Pictures and Verse, 1928

Hand Cannon to Automatic: A Pictorial Parade of Hand Arms, 1944

Cartridges: A Pictorial Digest of Small Arms Amunition, 1952

Underhammer Guns,1960

Little Portraits of Famous Americans, 1973

Letters of Thomas Jefferson, 1975

The American Hand Press: Its Origin, Development and Use, 1980