Earl Washington Woodcuts
Earl M. Washington:(Jr.?) Earl will surely go down in history as on of the greatest art forgers of modern times, the Emyr D' Hory of Detroit.Why such talent turned south is any ones guess. This story has just begun to unfold when Earls girlfriend of three months turned stooly in July 2004. We'll keep you updated. Who knows, it just might give these pieces more collectiblity than before. They are beautifly executed .At any rate the images speak for themselves. The Following was the Story that Earl came up with: The figure of Earl M. Washington provides one of the most fascinating stories in the annals of American graphic art. An African-American, Earl Washington began work at a printing shop in the American South at the age of thirteen. He was immediately intrigued by the engraving techniques he found there and five years later departed for New York City to further his training. New York in 1880 was not in the least a haven of social and racial equality and Washington was continually confronted with prejudice at the large, established printing shops. He managed, however, to find employment in a lowly printing establishment in the lower Eastside of Manhattan.
Earl Washington began his extensive collection of wood engraved blocks around the end of the nineteenth century, apparently quite by accident. “I was going to midtown (Manhattan) to see George, an old carving buddy who did cuts for the larger places. When I arrived at the shop I couldn’t believe my eyes. There were fire-fighters, police and mayhem surrounding the fire-ravaged printing shop. ... The next week I returned to that area to have some tools sharpened. George’s shop was all boarded up, and in a large pile of fire and water damaged rubbish I noticed these beautiful woodblocks. Some were large, most were small, some were signed, others burned, all were wet and dirty. “ (Extract from a Washington letter.) Washington gathered up what he could and continued collecting blocks throughout the first half of the twentieth century.
Washington’s first collected blocks were mainly one’s produced during the later nineteenth century. They clearly showed what wood engraving was primarily used for at that time; an efficient means of producing imagery in mass editions. As such many were advertisements or images created for large distribution, such as the engravings for periodicals like Harper’s and Scribner’s. By 1900, however, photomechanical methods of reproduction had all but replaced the wood engraving in this field. Yet, instead of causing the extinction of wood engraving, this event inspired artists to explore the creative possibilities of the medium. By the 1920’s, the art of wood engraving had become as vital as etching or any other form of creative graphic art. In his continuing occupation as a printer, Earl Washington was in a strong position to receive blocks from contemporary artists.
Sometime around 1930 Washington met and became close friends with one of America’s most influential African-American artists, Hale Woodruff (1900-1980). Woodruff created a number of fine linocuts and wood engravings during this period and sometimes gave the blocks to Washington. Washington must also have been on friendly terms with other New York artists and publishers: through them he probably acquired his astonishing variety of blocks. Earl Washington appears to have printed a handful of impressions for every block that entered his collection, usually on a beige or greenish toned wove paper. I have seen Washington impressions of Woodruff linocuts, a Lynd Ward wood engraving, a Leopold Mendez engraving, and wood engravings by European artists of the era such as France’s, Pierre-Eugene Vibert and Germany’s, Otto Schatz. Most of Washington’s impressions are superbly printed.
In the past confusion has often taken place when these scarce impressions surface on the market place. Most of the confusion stems from Washington’s inconsistent method