WILLARD CLARK: PRINTER & PRINTMAKER, by David Farmer, Museum of New Mexico Press, 96 pages, 119 black-and-white and color illustrations, $34.95
This expanded trade edition of "Willard Clark: Printer & Printmaker" was originally released in a hand-bound, limited edition publication.
This new edition includes numerous black-and-white and color illustrations of Clark's fetching woodblock prints.
Farmer relates the story chronologically, fleshing it out with minutia about printing presses, printmaking, store ownership and business collaborations. We get a perfect sense of what commercial art and printing was like in Santa Fe during the 1930s and '40s and beyond.
The book is an encyclopedic gem for any familiar with small printing presses, typography, paper, ink, etc., and Farmer delivers description after description of the printing process with accuracy and insight.
However, it is the printmaking aficionados that will most admire this publication: Farmer's inclusion of myriad woodblock prints created by Clark throughout his entire career is a visual feast.
Clark trained at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City and then studied with Charles W. Hawthorne, founder of the Cape Cod School of Art. After moving to Indianapolis, he studied commercial art.
This commercial training served him well; while on his way to California, he stopped off in Santa Fe for a visit and decided to stay, opening a printing shop to earn a living.
As Clark became more proficient at printing and carving woodblock prints, his collaborations with other influential printers and artists expanded. And while Farmer's name dropping would only have significance for printing historians, it is impressive to hear how close he worked with the important printing companies and folk artisans of the day.
"The late 1930s were an increasingly busy time for Willard Clark," writes Farmer. According to the author, Clark was preparing illustrations for publications in other parts of the country, serving his extensive northern New Mexico client base and attracting even more work through his project collaborations.
But by the early '40s changes were occurring in Clark's small community of printers. Even as a gifted woodblock artist, the modernization of printing techniques artists could now simply transfer a drawing to a zinc plate for printing purposes made continued financial success difficult.
"Perhaps these changes contributed to Willard Clark's decision to close his business in 1942 and go to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory," Farmer writes. Eventually, Clark moved his family to Los Alamos until the end of World War II, severing business ties with Santa Fe.
After the war, Clark moved his family back to the home they built in Santa Fe. By necessity, he continued to work for Los Alamos, but "during his 30 years as a tool and die specialist, he never lost his interest in art," writes Farmer.
He worked himself back into the artisan community of Santa Fe, and many individuals, because of his legendary status, began asking him to illustrate their advertisements and magazine articles.
Sometime in the early 1980s Clark purchased a 1910 proof press and began printing new woodblock prints once again.
The demand for his work continued to grow, and he was busy up to the day he passed away in 1982.
Farmer ends his account by saying Clark was "an artist whose scenes of Santa Fe captured a time and place that he made his own."
It's fitting that "Willard Clark: Printer & Printmaker" be printed on such exceptional paper stock; the ink employed in the printing is also of the highest caliber.The Museum of New Mexico Press should be congratulated for this publication. As always, they have delivered a work of art about an artist who gave us great works of art.