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Palmer Museum announces intriguing exhibition on American lithography

Penn State News:
Screenshot_2019-12-11 Palmer Museum announces intriguing exhibition on American lithography Penn State University
Louis Lozowick, "Steel Valley," 1936, lithograph, 9 3/8 x 13 3/8 inches. Gift of Steven and Stephanie Wasser, 2017.74. Printed by George C. Miller, published by Associated American Artists. Image: Louis Lozowick

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Palmer Museum of Art at Penn State has announced a third special exhibition for the summer, "George Miller and American Lithography," which opens June 18. The exhibition is selected entirely from the museum’s expansive permanent collection and features 38 prints by an impressive roster of artists who worked with master printer George Miller (1894-1965) to create some of their most memorable and recognizable works.

Screenshot_2019-12-11 Palmer Museum announces intriguing exhibition on American lithography Penn State University
Ellison Hoover, "George C. Miller, Lithographer," 1949, lithograph, 11 1/8 x 8 3/4 inches. Palmer Museum of Art, 2018.11.
IMAGE: Ellison Hoover

“We are dedicated to bringing our audiences exhibitions that unearth new research, and this is the first in-depth study of George Miller and his decades-long collaboration with American artists in nearly half a century,” said Erin M. Coe, director of the Palmer Museum of Art.

Organized and curated by Charles V. Hallman Senior Curator Patrick McGrady, "George Miller and American Lithography" examines the critical role Miller played in the development of lithography as a practical medium for American artists in the early years of the 20th century. The process, in which an image is first drawn with a greasy crayon on a finely grained surface of limestone and then chemically prepared for printing, is quite complex, and for most artists of the period, necessitated the aid of a skilled printer like Miller.

“In the years following World War I, lithography very quickly became a major means of expression for hundreds of artists in this country,” said McGrady. “The finest way to tell this story is to focus on the one person who was responsible for the success of so many artists who took an interest in exploring the medium, and that is George Miller.”

At the turn of the century, quality lithographic printing was accomplished only by commercial firms for whom small editions were not economically viable. American artists either traveled to Europe to have their work professionally printed, or struggled with their own presses to master the complicated process. After privately helping George Bellows and others to realize their lithographs, Miller, then head of the proofing department at the American Lithographic Company, quit his position in 1917 to set up his own workshop in New York City dedicated to fine art lithography.

Over the next 40 years, many of the country’s leading American Scene artists — who depicted scenes of typical American life and landscapes in a natural, descriptive style — turned to Miller to assist them in exploring lithography’s expressive possibilities. The list of artists attracted to his workshops reads as a veritable who’s-who of printmakers for whom lithography became an important means of expression, including Thomas Hart Benton, Howard Cook, John Steuart Curry, Stuart Davis, Mabel Dwight, Don Freeman, Wanda Gág, Doris Lee, and Louis Lozowick, to name just a few.

"George Miller and American Lithography" will be on view at the Palmer through Sept. 15.