White on Black: The Modernist Prints of Paul Landacre

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Beach Campers, n.d. Wood Engraving 6 X 9 In. © Courtesy of Debby and Bill Richards, from the collection of her father, Delmer Daves
White on Black: The Modernist Prints of Paul Landacre

490 East Union Street
Pasadena, CA 91101
October 28th, 2012 - February 24th, 2013

Wed-Sun 12–5; 3rd Thursdays: 5–8
wood engravings, prints


While most artists who created black and white art used black lines on a white background, Landacre became renowned for doing the opposite: his wood engravings are white lines on a black background. In essence, he thought backwards, reversing the drawing process when making the initial designs and again while engraving the wood blocks.

Landacre approached the printing process with meticulous care: he carefully selected the wood, sanded and polished it and then skillfully engraved it. Using the finest ink and paper available, he hand inked the blocks and then printed each image one at a time on a cast iron hand press manufactured in the 1800’s. This expert craftsmanship and Landacre’s intuitive grasp of how to use light and dark, made it possible for him to create the detailed and highly sensitive line work which gave his prints a wide variation of tonal values, ranging from pure white to extremely deep black.

Landacre became recognized as one the most important printmakers of the 20th Century, emerging as one of the leaders in an American revival of fine art wood engraving. After the 1930s, he devoted less time to his own practice, choosing to focus his energies on making prints for books and on teaching at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles where he worked until he passed away in 1963.


The exhibition features close to twenty-five prints and is curated by Gordon McClelland, an art historian and seminal figure in advancing the field of research in California Style watercolors.