Richard V. Correll (1904-1990)
Artist Richard V. Correll was described as "one of the leading masters of printmaking in the West", was best known for his powerful black and white woodblock and linoleum prints, etchings and lithographs.
Mr. Correll was born in 1904. While growing up he absorbed an intellectual thirst and political consciousness from his father and the love of music and art from his mother. He was largely self taught and his most formal training wan in evening classes at he University of Southern California in the 1920's. He worked as an architectural draftsman, a calligrapher, a sign painter, a graphic artist, and an illustrator for nearly 60 years in Seattle, New York and San Francisco.
Correll's first published works were his biting and witty woodblock print political cartoons published in the New Masses in the mid 1930's. In 1937, while in Seattle, WA he chose to participate in the Federal Art Project of the WPA. During this time he was in daily contact with professional artists such as Morris Graves, Mark Tobey and Fay Chong. He produced a suite of prints depicting the legendary American folk hero, Paul Bunyan and an outstanding mural of the same subject that remains in a high school in Arlington, WA.
During the Seattle years he had several one-man shows and exhibited in National juried group shows sponsored by the Print Club of Philadelphia, the California Etcher's society and the Print Annual at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 1939 his work was exhibited at the New York World's Fair.
In 1941 Correll and his wife moved to New York City where he remained for 11 years working in the commercial art field. New York's commercial and fine art scenes, however, were not without their difficulties. While commercial work paid decently, Correll always thought it a "sorry thing" to use one's artistic abilities to sell products. His values were completely opposed to those of Madison Avenue, and this contradiction plagued him throughout his commercial career.
As America entered World War II, Correll, at 36, was too old for the draft. He joined the Civilian Defense Crops as an Air Raid Warden. He also produced artwork for Civil Defense producing dozens of pro bono flyers, banners, signs, and posters for various causes.
After joining the Artists League of America (ALA), an organization of progressive artists and sculptors "devoted to social, cultural, and economic interest of artists", Correll served as Publication Chair of the ALA News from 1943 on, and by 1946 was Editor. Membership in those years included Rockwell Kent, Lynd Ward, Jacob Lawrence and Moses Soyer. He exhibited regularly with ALA, and his linocut, "Air Raid Wardens" was included in the "Artists for Victory" traveling exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and 26 other venues in the USA and Canada.
In 1952, Correll along with his wife and daughter moved to San Francisco where he promptly joined the newly formed Graphic Arts Workshop and Printmaker's Gallery of San Francisco. This was a dynamic group of artist-activists who shared studio and exhibition space as well as the desire to serve the ideals of peace and social justice through their artwork. Among his fellow artists were Emmy Lou Packard, Anton Refrigier, and Victor Arnautoff. In 1954 he realized a lifelong dream of visiting Mexico and the treat of works by Rivera, Siqueiros and Orozco that had influenced him and his generation.
Correll's themes reflected his social conscience and he was attracted by heroic acts committed by everyday people in the struggle to achieve dignity, freedom, and human rights. This is exemplified in his dramatic design "Vineyard March" where he marched with Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers on their historic journey from Delano to Sacramento. Correll contributed and mounted the inaugural exhibition for the S.F. Afro-American Historical and Cultural Society. His heroic "Chains" depicts a black figure breaking the chains of slavery and degradation is a testament to his continuing effort to support human dignity. "Fire Hose/Fight Back" pays homage to the civil rights marchers of the South; white jets of water shoot in toward four young black people exploding as it hi strikes on and boring into the torso of another.
Correll's most dramatic and powerful designs depict man at work and at war. "Cotton Picker" represents these themes where Correll gives us faceless figures, inseparable from the colossal bags they drag, bent double, through the fields. It is the backbreaking, dehumanizing labor that is shown with poetic rather than photographic truth. "Cargo Handling in the 1950's", "Quarry Workers" and "Spring Plowing" presents a more neutral view of work, more in the tradition of the celebrations of the common man in WPA murals. Here the longshoremen are anonymous, and generalized, but the array of winches, cargo nets and pallets with which they are visually integrated testifies to the dignity of everyday work done competently and efficiently. The farmer is also anonymous but the same dignity is given to his work and the design takes you into his everyday hard work. The quarry worker is depicted in the heroic figurative tradition as he works resolute with the numbing and pounding of the jackhammer.
Correll's has many sides to his work. He can use gentle, lulling rhythms in his lyrical prints depicting animals and nature to his powerful antiwar designs as in "Live and Let Live" and "Pacification" as well as others of the period. These images of the Vietnamese standing helpless in what had been beautiful county side now stand behind barbed wire and under a defoliated landscape.
Richard Correll has left a lasting legacy of beautiful prints that are just now being recognized and given their true status that will stand among the fine prints of the 20th century. His prints are in the collections of the Achenbach Foundation, S.F. CA, The Art Institute of Chicago, the Baltimore Museum of Art, Library of Congress, Newark Museum of Art, Oakland Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and numerous other museums and private collections across the country.
Correll's prints were produced in small numbers. Although he intended some editions of 100 he rarely pulled more than 15 or 20 impression.
Much of the above text has been adapted from essays by Leslie Correll and DeWitt Cheng in Richard V. Correll Prints and Drawings, 2005.
M. Lee Stone Fine Prints, Inc. is proud to represent Richard V. Correll's prints. To see the full range of Correll's prints visit our ON-LINE EXHIBITION site at "www.mleestonefineprints.com" and click on exhibition. There is a profusely illustrated book, Richard V. Correll Prints and Drawings, that is available for $30 including postage.
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