Sam Glankoff and Print-Painting

New York artist, Sam Glankoff (1894-1982), developed an innovative transfer painting technique in the last decades of his life using principles of woodcut, printing and painting to make unique large multi-paneled works on Japanese paper. "Print-Painting," was the term advanced by Elke Solomon, former curator at The Whitney Museum of American Art, in 1974 when Glankoff described his technique as that of "using a printing method to make a painting."

In the cover story for Print Review 20: Sam Glankoff and Print-Painting, Jeffrey Wechsler, Assistant Director of the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, and Marilyn Kushner, now Curator of Prints at the New York Historical Society, previously Print Curator at the Brooklyn Museum, state that “ Glankoff’s greatest contribution to contemporary art is that of creating and perfecting an art-making procedure that, while based on printmaking, can fairly safely be considered a new technique.

Because of the nature of Glankoff’s method, it is difficult to place his late art within traditional categories of painting or printmaking. It is not difficult however, to contend that it is neither painting nor printing in the purest sense. Once Glankoff ceased to incise into the wood panels in the early 1970s his art no longer met the basic criteria of a woodcut. Because each piece is unique, it is tempting to classify his works as monotypes, yet there are several reasons why they cannot be so categorized. Once a monotype is printed, most of the initial design on the inked surface is obliterated. Usually only one impression (at most two or three) can be printed from a monotype surface. With Glankoff’s method, many impressions of the composition could be made without sacrificing the original design, because it is was permanently affixed to the boards. Although each panel was approached as an original and the board was always re-inked, the essential fact is that the original image was never lost. Finally Glankoff’s method is not painting. He did paint on to masonite boards and the texture of the brushstrokes was transferred to the paper, but Glankoff’s method remained an indirect process…By reason of the artist’s development of a complex methodology to produce specific visual effects otherwise unattainable, the process, now called “print-painting,” permits extremely rich color and, owing to the integration of (water soluble) pigment with (glycerine and casein), interesting textural qualities…This tremendous color saturation is achieved by multiple inkings and translucent overlays.”

"Like monotypes, they are unique transfer prints but, as in painting, there is an excessive importance associated with the application of the pigment," states David Kiehl, former Assistant Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York now Print Curator at The Whitney Museum of American Art. “Since the original image was never lost, Glankoff’s art transcends monotypes but remains nevertheless a printing process because the works were made using a transfer technique. They are printed paintings using the monotype method.”

"'Print-Painting' is really an invention of Glankoff's," writes Jeffrey Wechsler, curator of Sam Glankoff's museum retrospective exhibition held in 1984. "It's rather remarkable that in the late 20th century an artist could really come up with an entirely new technique. Certainly it was based on other techniques. But it had specific qualities and characteristics which Glankoff, through his great experience with the medium, realized had to come together in an entirely new form."

Quotes are from "Sam Glankoff and Print Painting", by Jeffrey Wechsler and Marilyn Kushner, Print Review 20, Published by Pratt Graphics Center, Pratt Institute, August 1985 and "Sam Glankoff (1894-1982) A Retrospective Exhibition", Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University, 1984. With contributions from Edward Madrid Gomez,art historian, critic and author.

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