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Detail from Diary and Shells; etching by Jörg Schmeisser, 1978, on loan from a private collection

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Jörg Schmeisser: Prints and Passages

Charles Marvin Fairchild Memorial Gallery
August 31, 2015
December 6, 2015

This exhibition is devoted to the graphic art of the German-born Australian printmaker Jörg Schmeisser (1942-2012), whose work is represented by some twenty prints in Lauinger Library’s fine print collection. Jörg Schmeisser: Prints and Passages includes some of Schmeisser’s most significant earlier prints and an array of his best works from 1998-2012, including substantial loans from local private collections.

Jörg Schmeisser studied with the noted German printmaker Paul Wunderlich at the Hamburg Fine Art Academy in the mid-1960s. Over the following decades Schmeisser traveled widely through Europe, Asia, the Middle East, America and Antarctica. In 1978 he moved to Australia to become the Head of the Printmaking Workshop of the Australian National University, Canberra School of Art, where he was considered to be one of Australia’s most important and influential printmakers.

Schmeisser’s early etchings demonstrate his fascination with cities in Europe and Asia that he visited during his extensive travels. His large scale etchings often contain diaries of his thoughts and travels during the period of a print’s gestation. The diary print is one of Schmeisser’s most important innovations and is a significant element in some of his best works. The combination of text and image is reminiscent of the illustrated notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. In the work of both artists, the handwritten text serves as a visual foil for the drawings.

Schmeisser was a master of the etching medium and also a talented teacher. For the portfolio Lord Howe Island (west wall floor), he wrote detailed instructions on how to create nine different variations on the intaglio medium. In a series of ten Venice Lionheads (of which four are displayed on the east wall), Schmeisser experimented with a variety of subtle color modifications to create different effects, where various details are emphasized depending on the application of color in each impression.

An exhibition of Schmeisser’s prints was featured in the Fairchild Gallery’s inaugural year in 1997. It is most fitting to pay tribute to the late artist in this inaugural year of our new gallery in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections. We are fortunate to have guest curator Eric Denker reprising his role from 1997 with this exhibition in recognition of Schmeisser’s extraordinary achievements in the art of intaglio printmaking.

The Diary Prints

Diary and Shells

1978
Etching on paper
9/80
49 x 61.3 cm
On loan from a private collection

New York

1981
Etching on paper
Artist's proof
105.3 x 77.8 cm
On loan from a private collection

Diary and Hamburg

1983
Etching with aquatint on paper
74/80
# 1997.21.3

Diary and 100 Buds

1984
Etching on paper
56/80
On loan from a private collection

Diary and Jimmy's Islet

1988
Etching on paper
Artist's proof
49.2 x 61.2 cm
On loan from a private collection

Jimmies Island is a nature preserve located off the shore of New South Wales opposite the seaside community of Rosedale. The islet rises 100 feet and has a length of 500 yards. The view of the island is from the long-time summer home of the artist and his wife Keiko Amenomori-Schmeisser.

Diary and Port Campbell Coast

1988
Etching on paper
Proof
47 x 61.2 cm
On loan from a private collection

Port Campbell is a town on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria, Australia, along the southern coast of the island continent. Just off shore are the Twelve Apostles, dramatic limestone outcroppings. In the nineteenth-century many sailing ships carrying emigrants ran aground off this treacherous coast at the end of the long, arduous voyage from Britain. Schmeisser’s text and ethereal ship imagery belie the beauty of the represented Apostles.

The Year Away (Japan and Europe)

1991
Etching on paper
15/80
94 x 122.9 cm
On loan from a private collection

Diary and Gingko Leaf

1997
Etching on paper
Artist's proof
47.4 x 59.5 cm
On loan from a private collection

Diary and Icebergs

1998
Etching on paper
10/80
49.4 x 61.2 cm
On loan from a private collection

The Natural World

Lord Howe Island: For Example (portfolio)

1984
Mixed media on paper
Artist's proof III/X
25.5 x 25.7 cm
# 1997.21.4

This portfolio contains examples of nine intaglio print techniques depicting natural wonders found on Lord Howe Island, a volcanic island in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand.

Title Page

1984
Soft-ground etching on paper
Artist's proof III/X
24.3 x 24.5 cm
# 1997.21.4.1

Technical Notes

1984
Soft-ground etching on paper
Artist's proof III/X
24.4 x 48.6 cm
# 1997.21.4.2

Contents Page

1984
Soft-ground etching on paper
Artist's proof III/X
24.4 x 24.4 cm
# 1997.21.4.3

No. 1: Engraving

1984
Engraving on paper
Artist's proof III/X
11.2 x 5.5 cm
# 1997.21.4.4

No. 2: Drypoint

1984
Drypoint on paper
Artist's proof III/X
23 x 11.7 cm
# 1997.21.4.5

No. 3: Mezzotint

1984
Mezzotint on paper
Artist's proof III/X
17.8 x 18.1 cm
# 1997.21.4.6

No. 4: Line Etching

1984
Etching on paper
Artist's proof III/X
13.2 x 14.5 cm
# 1997.21.4.7

No. 5: Relief Etching

1984
Etching on paper
Artist's proof III/X
11 x 11 cm
# 1997.21.4.8

No. 6: Aquatint

1984
Aquatint on paper
Artist's proof III/X
17.9 x 10.8 cm
# 1997.21.4.9

No. 7: Soft-Ground Etching

1984
Soft-ground etching on paper
Artist's proof III/X
5.5 x 5.5 cm
# 1997.21.4.10

No. 8: Photo-Etching

1984
Photogravure on paper
Artist's proof III/X
10.2 x 10 cm
# 1997.21.4.11

No. 9: Color Aquatint

1984
Aquatint on paper
Artist's proof III/X
11.2 x 8.3 cm
# 1997.21.4.12

No. 9a: Three Color Plates for Color Aquatint

1984
Aquatint on paper
Artist's proof III/X
11.2 x 24.0 cm
# 1997.21.4.13

Banksia and Gingkoleaf

1994
Etching on paper
Artist's proof
12.7 x 15.7 cm
On loan from a private collection

Starfish

1994
Etching with aquatint on paper
7/160
11.7 x 11.8 cm
Gift of Eric Denker in Memory of Joseph A. Haller, S.J.
# 1997.12.3

Four Shells

1995
Etching on paper
49/60
13.3 x 13.3 cm
Gift of Eric Denker in Memory of Joseph A. Haller, S.J.
# 1997.12.2

Berg II

2003
Soft-ground etching with aquatint on paper
4/60
20.7 x 24.8 cm
Gift of Jean Esswein
# 2015.1.4

Untitled [Ice Floes]

2003
Aquatint on paper
33/100
25 x 9.4 cm
Gift of Eric Denker in Memory of Joseph A. Haller, S.J.
# 2010.11.1

Blue Mud Bay Mangrove Leaves and Notes

2009
Etching on paper
26/80
51.2 x 61.2 cm
On loan from a private collection

Asian Odyssey

Moon and Rain

1974
Etching on paper
25/30
22.6 x 24.8 cm
On loan from a private collection

Horyuji, Nara

1979
Etching on paper
Artist’s proof
45 x 60.6 cm
On loan from a private collection

Horyuji is a temple complex in the Nara prefecture of Japan, not far from Kyoto. The temple complex contains some of the oldest wooden structures in the world, dating back more than 1,300 years.

Ladakh: Land of the Passes

Jaroslav Poncar, Jörg Schmeisser, et al.
Köln: Wienand Verlag, 1986
30.8 x 38.1 cm
# 1998.6.1

A mountainous region extending from the Himalayas and in Northern India, Ladakh is home to Tiksey, the 15th century Buddhist monastery shown below.  

Phuktal

1985
Etching on paper
8/200
13 x 15.8 cm
Gift of the artist
# 1998.6.2

The Phuktal gompa is a Buddhist monastery located in the remote Lungnak Valley of Zanskar, in the autonomous Himalayan region of Ladakh in Northern India.

Tiksey

1985
Etching on paper
Artist’s proof XIII/XXX
25.5 x 29.4 cm
On loan from Jack Barrett and Lauren Saunders

In 1984 Schmeisser and the photographer Jaroslav Poncar visited Ladakh in Northern India in preparation for a large scale book project. (See Ladakh:Land of the Passes.) Tiksey is a gompa, a monastery associated with Tibetan Buddhism.

Zanskar and Ladakh Sketches

1985
Etching on paper
Hors de commerce
39.6 x 49.6 cm
On loan from a private collection

Zanskar is a valley in the Ladakh region of Northern India. Although not titled as a diary print, this stark image of the snow covered passes and peaks of Zanskar is the one print in the Ladakh series containing text.

Temple in a Pinegrove

1991
Etching on paper
11.8 x 24 cm
On loan from a private collection

Old Door and Wall

1993
Etching on paper
44/100
20.7 x 24.4 cm
Gift of Jean Esswein
# 2015.1.3

Distant Kiyomizu

1994
Etching on paper
44/50
45.2 x 60.6 cm
On loan from a private collection

The Kiyomizu Buddhist Temple in Kyoto is one of the most celebrated shrines in Japan, founded in 780 on the site of a sacred waterfall. Schmeisser studied in Kyoto in the late 1960s, returning to teach at the Kyoto City University of the Arts from 2002 – 2008. A series of his remarkable prints represented Kiyomizu during each of the four seasons.

Shed Near Yangzhou

1994
Etching on paper
31/100
20.6 x 24.5 cm
Gift of Jean Esswein
# 2015.1.2

Angkor Thom

1999
Etching on paper
7/200
31.4 x 39.3 cm
On loan from a private collection

Angkor in Cambodia flourished from the 9th to the 15th centuries as the cultural, commercial, and administrative center of the Khmer Empire. Schmeisser first visited the ancient ruins briefly during the war torn years of the late 1960s. A second visit in 1999 inspired the artist to create some of his most haunting images. Many of the plates were drawn on copper on site, then further developed and printed in the studio in Canberra.

Friends

1999
Etching on paper
15/80
31.2 x 37.3 cm
On loan from a private collection

Jörg Schmeisser: Bilder der Reise

Merryn Gates, editor
Lyneham: Services for Art, 2013
25.2 x 25 cm
# 2012.11.1

A Small Horse From China

2012
Etching on paper
67/100
10.6 x 10.2 cm
# 2012.11.2

This etching was included in the special edition of the book Jörg Schmeisser: Bilder der Reise: a Man, Who Likes to Draw, published shortly after the artist’s death in 2012.

Venice and Europe

Venice I

1976
Etching on paper
Artist’s proof
29.7 x 39.3 cm
On loan from a private collection

Il Campo, Siena

1983
Etching on paper
Alternate colors test
32.8 x 40.5 cm
On loan from a private collection

Venice Lionhead A

1994
Etching on paper
Color proof
24.6 x 20.5 cm
On loan from a private collection

Venice Lionhead B

1994
Etching on paper
17/30
24.6 x 20.5 cm
On loan from a private collection

Venice Lionhead C

1994
Etching on paper
State I
24.6 x 20.5 cm
On loan from a private collection

Venice Lionhead D

1994
Etching on paper
Artist's proof
24.6 x 20.5 cm
On loan from a private collection

Palazzo Dario

2006
Etching on paper
27/60
14.8 x 19.6 cm
On loan from a private collection

Venice Canal Proof 1

2006
Etching on paper
14.7 x 20.8 cm
On loan from a private collection

Venice Windows

2007
Etching on paper
14/80
11.8 x 17.5 cm
Gift of Eric Denker in Memory of Joseph A. Haller, S.J.
# 2015.2.1

Acknowledgments: 


About the guest curator:
Eric Denker first met Mr. Schmeisser in March, 1981 when the latter was visiting at the National Gallery of Art. That fortuitous meeting began a close friendship of more than thirty years. Denker and Schmeisser saw each other regularly, meeting in the artist’s home in Canberra, Australia, as well as in Washington, Philadelphia, Venice, Kyoto, and Melbourne. Denker has curated numerous exhibitions of the artist’s prints, including shows at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Australian Embassy in Washington, and the 1997 retrospective exhibition at Georgetown University. The current exhibition is in memory of a great friend and remarkable artist, Jörg Schmeisser.

To the lenders to the exhibition the Art Collection extends a special expression of gratitude.

All images are © the estate of the artist.