C.A. Seward

1884 - 1939

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Today anyone with computer skills, a camera, and access to a scanner can create images of their choosing on their home computer and then broadcast them throughout the world. It is thus perhaps difficult to appreciate the skills required of commercial illustrators and designers in the early years of the 20th Century. Success for a commercial illustrator required a chameleon-like ability. One client's needs might require a humorous cartoon-like character; another, a glorious depiction of an unfurling American flag; and another, a truer-than-life cowboy riding off into a sunset. In those early years, all these special needs could only be met by a highly skilled artist alone at his drafting board with the pencils, pens, and paints of his trade.

C.A. Seward was such an artist. Possessed from his earliest days with a discerning eye and a keen urge to make a drawing of anything he saw, he steadily applied his above average skill as a draftsman and painter to any commercial project set before him. And, when it came time for his own fine art images, he used these considerable skills to create a very personal body of work. He combined his expertise in the printmaking medium with careful and thoughtful viewing of the subjects closest to his heart - the Kansas prairies and flint hills, and the deserts and small pueblo villages he saw when he traveled to Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, - to produce consistently fine images that art institutions, collectors, and historians have celebrated and awarded from the very beginning. There is a distinct pleasure for any art lover in experiencing the wisdom of C.A. Seward's eye.

In his brief fifty-four years, Seward saw the birth of the automobile, the airplane, and the tragedy of the First World War. He camped out at Indian reservations, drove a 1920s Dodge touring car 2,000 miles through the American West,  bird watched in Kansas salt marshes, and had his work exhibited in major museums throughout the country. He and his wife raised a family of four, and he continually met with success as an artist, even during the Great Depression. He organized groups of artists and art exhibitions, helped found an art museum, and assisted in the development of many organizations. Seward taught art, assisted artists, promoted art and collecting, and won the respect and love of his colleagues. And during his short life, he created over 150 fine prints and over 20 paintings. By 1920, he had chosen printmaking and particularly lithography as his preference for artistic expression. Seward's works illustrate perfectly what he often stated to others: "the lithograph is the medium for the man who wants to draw." And draw he did, in countless sketchbooks, capturing the subtle nuances, the necessary particulars, and the essential elements of what he saw, which he later transferred to metal plate, and finally with ink onto paper, a reflection of his keen eye and love for subject. Today, some 70 years after they were produced, Seward's images resonate with iconic timelessness.

This chronology is an apt introduction to Seward and his work.  Placing him in the context of the events of his life and the historical context of his times reveals that C.A. Seward is indeed the fine artist and innovative printmaker that his friends and fellow artists always knew him to be.