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These understudied women artists, whose prints traversed the globe evangelizing for unfettered modernist expression and American democracy, were at the vanguard of feminist activity within the art world that exploded two decades later.
Following the travels of six artists—Minna Citron (1896–1991), Worden Day (1912–1986), Sue Fuller (1914–2006), Jan Gelb (1906–1978), Alice Trumbull Mason, and Anne Ryan (1889–1954)—the discussion will center on several aspects of prints' circulation: peer-to-peer relationships, printmaking annuals, traveling exhibitions, museum collecting, and artists' groups that supported avant-garde printmaking. Viewshare map showing six locations of Alice Trumbull Mason's traveling etching show (1951-2).
The number in the location bubble represents the number of prints shown at each venue.
Second, women were highly motivated to develop a dynamic artistic network through their activities as printmakers.
Mason's experiences as a painter were not isolated; there was little market or critical support for women artists' paintings and sculptures.
Alice Trumbull Mason, Interference of Closed Forms (1945) Engraving and etching (soft ground) with gouging.
Image courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art Art © Estate of Alice Trumbull Mason/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
1947–48 mark watershed years, after which avant-garde printmakers found widespread acceptance for their graphic work in America and internationally.
The decision of Stanley William Hayter (1901–1988), Atelier 17's founder, to relocate the studio to New York City in 1940 from its first home in Paris certainly paved the way for modern printmaking's growth in America.
Under mounting pressure, some of these forums warmed to modern printmaking.
For example, the Society of American Etchers conceded in 1947 to open membership to artists of all aesthetic persuasions who practiced printmaking techniques besides etching.