C.A. Seward

1884 - 1939

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An Introduction by

Stephen Goddard (Associate Director/Senior Curator of Prints & Drawings - Spencer Museum of Art) & Barbara Thompson (Co-Author, The Prairie Print Makers, 1981 catalogue)


On December 28, 1930, the ten charter members of the Wichita-based Prairie Print Makers held their first meeting. Eight of these artists, Charles Capps, Leo Courtney, Lloyd Foltz, Arthur Hall, Norma Hall, Clarence Hotvedt, Herschel Logan, and Edmund Kopietz, were Wichita friends and associates of C.A. Seward, the organizer of this first meeting. Another Seward friend and associate, Birger Sandzen, hosted the meeting at his studio in Lindsborg. Seward spelled out the group’s primary goal in a letter of invitation to William Dickerson, also from Wichita, who became the first artist to receive an invitation to join the group: the object of this group is to further the interest of both artists and laymen in printmaking and collecting.

To accomplish this goal the Prairie Print Makers organized and circulated exhibitions of members’ work, and commissioned an annual print, created by an active member, which was then circulated to the other active members. The Prairie Print Makers offered three categories of membership. Over the years there were more than 125 "Active Members" of the Prairie Print Makers who were practicing printmakers, elected by invitation, and who paid annual dues of $1.00. "Associate Members," the non-artist portion of the group, formed about three quarters of the membership. They were also selected by invitation, paid annual dues of $5.00, and received the annual gift print, as well as other publications of the group. "Honorary Members" of the Prairie Print Makers were individuals who had made noteworthy contributions to the promotion of printmaking or collecting. Those in this category paid no dues but received all the benefits of the Associate Members. Carl Smalley, an art dealer and longtime friend of both Seward and Sandzen, was invited to become the society’s first Honorary Membership when he happened in on that first formal meeting.1

In all, thirty-four gift prints were issued annually from 1931 until 1965 with the exception of 1963, when no gift print was issued. Thompson-O'Neill and Foreman in their 1981 catalog, The Prairie Print Makers, summarized the essential facts concerning the gift prints: the artist was selected by a committee, usually the group's three officers, and the artist was paid $150 (the society paid for the expense of printing, matting, and mailing). The print was usually made during the summer, after annual dues were collected, and it was distributed in November with an illustrated biographical brochure. Printing (usually in an edition of 200) was done either by the artist, Western Lithograph in Wichita, George C. Miller in New York, Lynton Kistler in Los Angeles, or by member artists, James Swann and James D. Havens.

C. A. Seward was the instigator and driving force of the Prairie Print Makers, and was at the center of the unique synergy of the group. As the Director of the Art Department at the Western Lithograph Company in Wichita, Seward hired and mentored staff members Charles Capps, William J. Dickerson, Clarence Hotvedt, and Lloyd Foltz early in their careers as commercial artists.2 Through this initial association, Seward soon became instrumental in introducing these artists, as well as Herschel Logan, a staff member at another Wichita printing company, McCormick Armstrong, to the passion for printmaking he had developed with his close friends, Leo Courtney and Birger Sandzen. Seward possessed a particular skill as a mentor that engendered enthusiasm for not just making prints but for the craft of each printmaking technique and the equal importance of every artist finding their own individual style and subject. His skill as a draftsman and the depth of his knowledge of lithographic processes, particularly that of metal plates, established a high standard for all members of the group.3 Finally Seward’s long history of developing exhibitions brought historical and contemporary prints by established by artists from the U.S. and Europe to Wichita (see below).

All of the founding members of the Prairie Print Makers contributed to the group’s unique synergy. Both Arthur Hall and Norma Bassett Hall, who resided in nearby Eldorado, Kansas, contributed the skill and knowledge they had acquired from a year of study in France with renowned etcher, E.S. Lumsden and his equally prominent wife, noted block print artist, Mabel Rowden. Charles Capps brought his meticulous nature and his disciplined mastery of aquatint. Herschel Logan lent his skill as a craftsman and instinctive aptitude for carving wood blocks that had established his national recognition by the age of twenty-three. Lloyd Foltz contributed his enthusiasm and dedication to perfecting his skill in each medium, and his very specific instinct for creating modern, dynamic compositions. William Dickerson, the first elected artist member, provided expertise from his study and work as an assistant to the eminent stone lithographer, Bolton Brown. Clarence Hotvedt contributed his strength as a draftsman and Edmund Kopietz, who had been mentored by Seward while still a high school student, spread the reputation of the group to Minneapolis where, just previous to the founding meeting of the Prairie Print Makers, he had been appointed as the Director of the Minnesota Art Academy. Birger Sandzen, the eldest member of the group, had studied with the virtuoso etcher Anders Zorn at the University of Lund, as well as with painter, Aman-Jean in Paris prior to his departure for America to join the staff at Bethany College in Lindsborg. Though Sandzen did not actively participate in the group’s many sketching expeditions or print sessions at Seward’s studio, the European-born professor brought an academic and international perspective. Sandzen acknowledged Seward’s important role in developing the group in an interview, noting that: "The impression of his (Seward’s) personality is stamped on nearly every forward move in the art of this state during the past thirty years. He has been the soul of several state-wide progressive art organizations, such as the Prairie Print Makers and the Kansas Federation of Arts," and that Seward “was the mainspring in the organization of the PPM..."4

The Prairie Print Makers were not without precedent as a print society. There was a tradition of earlier print organizations in the world and later in America. To further understand the contribution of the Prairie Printmakers to the history of printmaking in America it is useful to quickly survey the antecedents. There were early nineteenth-century organizations that fostered enthusiasm for printmaking, such as the Apollo Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in New York City (founded 1839), and the Etching Club in London (founded 1840). Primacy is often given to two Paris based groups, the Société des Aquafortistes (the Etchers' Society) founded in 1862, whose members received portfolios monthly; and the Société des Peintres-Graveurs (Society of Painter-Engravers) founded in 1889.

Largely based on the successful model of the Société des Aquafortistes, similar organizations began to appear in America as early as 1866 when the French Etching Club was founded in New York. By the 1880s, the Boston Etching Club, the Philadelphia Society of Etchers, the Cincinnati Etchers Club, and the Brooklyn Scratchers Club were active. However, it may not have been until 1910, with the advent of the Chicago Society of Etchers, that an American club began to issue editions of prints. The Chicago Society of Etchers and the California Society of Printmakers, were the primary antecedents for the founding of the Prairie Print Makers.5

Prints had long been considered to be an ideal popular art form because of their affordability, and the audience of print collectors expanded significantly in the early decades of the 20th Century. In his three-part series on collecting prints written for The Western Magazine of Art – Community Arts and Crafts, C.A. Seward, encouraged new collectors to join these prints societies as associate, non-artist members as a means of access to information about printmakers.6

Several factors set the Prairie Print Makers apart from other print making societies of their time. Their location in Wichita, Kansas, a relatively small, yet highly entrepreneurial city in the center of the Midwest, combined with the unique qualities that the ten founding members brought to the group, created a synergy that distinguishes this organization in the history of American print societies.7

Seward took on the role of the first Secretary-Treasurer of the organization and held this position until his death in 1939.8 In a 1980 letter, Capps explained that it was Seward, in his role as Secretary, who did all the heavy lifting, “expanding the membership lists, as well as organizing, scheduling, packing, and shipping the traveling exhibitions. He also assisted in the selection, commissioning, production, and distribution of the society’s annual gift print.”9

Seward had laid a critical portion of the groundwork for the immediate success of the Prairie Print Makers through previous activities. By 1918, twelve years before the group’s founding, Seward began organizing exhibitions of an impressive group of artists in his design studio and gallery in Wichita, often in collaboration with his friend, Carl Smalley, and later under the auspices of the Wichita Art Association. These exhibitions included well-known European printmakers from Rembrandt and Durer to Whistler as well as contemporary American printmakers including: Frank Benson, Oscar Borg, George Elbert Burr, William Auerbach Levy, and the Provincetown Printmakers, Brooklyn Society of Etchers, Cleveland Society of Artists, the Chicago Society of Etchers, and the California Society of Print Makers.10 In 1928, Seward had also organized the third national juried block print exhibition in the United States. This annual American Block Prints exhibition and sale introduced additional printmakers throughout the country to the presence of Wichita as an important center for printmaking.

The Prairie Print Makers’ annual gift prints testify to the groups’ high regard for craftsmanship and their enthusiasm for all printmaking mediums. The Gift Prints included seven etchings, four drypoints, four aquatints, one linocut, one color block print, one colored etching, three wood engravings, and seven lithographs. The group’s dedication to craftsmanship is also evident in the letterpress book produced by two of the members in collaboration with the poet Everett Scrogin, several years before the formation of the group. This book, Other Days in Pictures and Verse, was published in 1928 in an edition of 100. It featured the woodcut illustrations by Hershel Logan and decorative borders by C.A. Seward, and is a nostalgic evocation of the simple and good life threatened by the encroachment of modern times. This sentiment is clearly stated in the introduction, "the quaint old woodcuts are the work of one who saw and lived, and understood the scenes he has depicted; he passed quickly by the shiny, modern auto station, and found romance in the Old Blacksmith Shop." The introduction also proudly states "This book is a consummation of the hopes and fears and triumphs and tears of Three Good Friends—artists all." Other Days also appeared in a trade edition that includes all the images, but not printed from the original blocks.

It was certainly this spirit of friendship and shared values that prevailed when, upon C.A. Seward’s invitation, the Prairie Print Makers first convened in 1930 in Lindsborg. The photograph taken at the first meeting of the group (whose day-jobs included commercial design, illustration, teaching, and court stenography) shows them proudly standing before the camera, announcing their artistic aspirations to the world.

Seward’s statement of the group's objective "to further the interest of both artists and laymen in printmaking and collecting,” is reflected by their dedication to making their art accessible; not only through membership, but also through the traveling exhibitions they organized each year, as well as their request that the artists members continue to offer their prints at the lowest possible price. When Sandzen halved the dues of the "Smoky Hill Art Club" to fifty cents during the depression he gave clear testimony to his egalitarian outlook. Likewise, the Prairie Print Makers never raised their dues in the thirty-five years of their activity.

The artistic stance of the Prairie Print Makers is substantially different from that of the more renowned regionalists: Thomas Hart Benton, John Stuart Curry, and Grant Wood. Of these three, only native Kansan Curry was eventually to join the group. Elizabeth Broun has noted that "the Kansas invented by Curry—along with the Missouri invented by Benton and the Iowa invented by Wood, contained the power of myth," but, as Broun adds, this was at the expense of a realistic vision of life in the mid-west.11 While the founding members of the Prairie Print Makers may have occasionally shared the regionalists' mood of nostalgia, there was nothing self-conscious or exploitative in the way their work dealt with their rural heritage. In fact, The Prairie Print Makers were never interested in promoting a specifically Midwestern artistic agenda. With their third annual gift print in 1934, the group presented a print inspired by a New England barn by East Coast based printmaker, Ernest Watson. By 1936, the first of many images of New Mexican adobe buildings appeared, and in 1940, the East Coast artist Stow Wengenroth produced the first of his two gift prints on New England themes. By 1943, the first of three gift prints of European and Asian subjects appeared.

It is too easy to conclude that the Prairie Printmakers simply testify to the pervasiveness of printmaking societies in mid-twentieth century America. Flourishing in the seemingly inhospitable climate of the depression era prairie, their roots point to an indigenous enthusiasm for the graphic arts, an enthusiasm fueled as much by the pleasure of making prints as by the pleasure of bringing them to the attention of a larger public. That the group boasted forty-seven Active Members and over 100 Associate Members just four years after its inauguration, is a testament to their exceptional yet simple origin as a distinct group of artist friends brought together by geographic affinities and their passion for printmaking.

                                              

The Prairie Print Makers - 1930 - 1965

   Charter Members               Artist Members                       Annual Gift PrintsCharter_Members.htmlArtists_Member_2_2.htmlhttp://casewardprintmaker.com/casewardprintmaker.com/Annual_Gift_Print.htmlshapeimage_4_link_0shapeimage_4_link_1shapeimage_4_link_2

the 10 Charter Members


Charles M. Capps

  1st President

Leo Courtney

  1st Vice President

C.A. Seward

  1st Secretary-Treasurer

Lloyd C. Foltz

Arthur W. Hall

Norma Bassett Hall

Clarence A. Hotvedt

Edmund Kopietz

Herschel Logan

Birger Sandzen



1st elected Artist Member

William Dickerson

this group grew to over 100 artists from throughout the United States and Canada.




1st elected Associate Member

Anna Scott Gray

(Her husband, Richard Gray, was a businessman, owner of the Lassen Hotel, in Wichita. Upon moving to Wichita in 1919, Anna Gray became a founding member of the Wichita Art Association)

this group grew to over 250 members


1st elected Honorary Member

Carl Smalley

(book dealer & McPherson, KS art gallery owner)

 
Information on Other Printmaking Societies


 

A small number of copies “The Prairie Print Makers” catalog, 1981 are still available to order contact

seward.prairieprintmaker@godaddy.com


 

Images on this page are (top to bottom, left to right): the Prairie Print Maker logo designed by founding member, Norma Bassett Hall, photograph from 1st formal meeting from the C.A. Seward papers, cover of the folder which accompanied the annual gift print and  the 1936, C.A. Seward gift print “Adobe Village - New Mexico,”  and (lower right) a promotional brochure describing The Prairie Print Makers.

Printmaking_Societies.html
Footnotes 
ppm_footnotes.html
 

Website on The Prairie Print Makers

The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas

http://www.spencerart.ku.edu/exhibitions/ppm/introduction.shtml


1936 Annual Gift Print with accompanying biographical folder