YANKEE PRINTMAKER IN VIRGINIA
a documentary by Eduardo MONTES-BRADLEY
written in collaboration with Jeffrey PLANK
with the testimonies of Welford D. TAYLOR
Nancy WEEKLY and Parker AGELASTO
produced by Soledad LIENDO
30 minutes | HD | © 2019 by Heritage Film Project. All Rights Reservedm
The documentary examines the life and works of Julius John Lankes and his multiple connections and relationships with other artists and intellectuals in the period between the two major wars of the 20th century. Robert Frost, Charles Burchfield, Sherwood Anderson, and Rockwell Kent are some of the names to which writer-director Montes-Bradley resorts in order to contextualize what he likes to define as the rise & fall of J.J.Lankes. The Buffalo native was part of the woodcutting and printmaking revival movement in New England by the time he settles in the “provincial south of confederate veterans and Jim Craw”. The film also explores Lanke’s work in the relative context of similar movements in other parts of the world, and in response to the political struggles of American intellectualism.
JULIUS JOHN LANKES (1884-1960), was a self-trained artist whose preferred medium—the woodcut, the oldest of the graphic arts—enabled him to forge an artistic identity uniquely suited to his artistic subjects, typically hard-working rural men and women and their well-used homes and barns. His early collaboration with Robert Frost gave Lankes the opportunity to experiment with visual analogs to the deceptively simple voices of rural speakers. Following a study trip to Germany in 1925, Lankes moved to Tidewater Virginia, where he spent the next seven years, arguably the most productive of his entire career. With his Virginia woodcuts—of Williamsburg before its restoration, of Sherwood Anderson’s Marion community, and his Virginia Woodcuts (1930) portfolio—Lankes achieves a distinctive style in which apparent visual simplicity communicates volumes about the enduring capacity of rural men and women, white and black, to resist the dehumanizing impacts of industrialization and racial segregation. In these woodcuts, Lankes distills the quiet beauty and the paradoxical strength and vulnerability of simple virtues.
by Welford Dunaway Taylor
What does it take for a complete novice to approach an unfamiliar artistic subject, read around the edges of it, slowly get drawn into its interior and then become immersed—to the point that the former naïf is no longer a novice but an initiate, capable of reporting his subject to the world? If the novice is Eduardo Montes-Bradley, and the artistic subject is the work and life of the artist J. J. Lankes (1884-1960), then the process required subject than two years. But the product of this effort is a film that bids fair to present the full, prolific substance of Lankes' œuvre to the current generation
of art fanciers.
The film is rich in its selection of graphic images, and its story line carries the viewer through the major courses of Lankes’ career, from his beginnings as a draughtsman, through his apprentice years of art study in his native Buffalo and his transformative experiences as a scholarship student at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It also explores Lankes’ artistic and personal connections to contemporary authors such as Robert Frost and Sherwood Anderson.
The figure that emerges is that of a masterful artist who elevated a demanding graphic genre, the woodcut, to unprecedented artistic heights and who engaged with his times on major issues such as social justice, war, and the importance of the individual crafts in an industrial age.