Elizabeth Colborne (1885 – 1948)
When we were in Seattle in June 2011, a good friend of mine suggested I see an exhibition at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, which is about 90 miles north of Seattle. The exhibition was a once-in-a-lifetime event because it held the largest collection of the works of woodblock printer Elizabeth Colborne.
The journey was worth it. The exhibition showed just how eclectic her work was: the children’s book illustrations were exquisite, as were the black-and-white crayon drawings but it was the wonderfully vibrant woodblock prints that captured me. Click here to see some examples.
David F. Martin was the guest curator who recognized the significance of Colborne’s work and wrote the catalogue for the exhibition Evergreen Muse: The Art of Elizabeth Colborne. The book is a wonderful presentation of Colborne’s works as well as an insight into her personality thanks to the inclusion of entries taken from her journal.
‘Elizabeth Aline Colburne (1885-1948) was one of the most accomplished artists ever active in Washington State. An integral part of the regional Arts and Crafts Movement, she is known today for her extraordinary color woodcuts produced during the 1920s and 1930s.
These prints depict the Pacific Northwest landscape in a technique that was highly influenced by Japanese ukiyo-e prints. Colborne elected to design, carve, and print her own editions, using brilliant colors and innovative, multiple overlay techniques. Evergreen Muse is the first in-depth study of her art and presents all the known color woodcuts that she created.
In addition to color woodcuts, Colborne made drawings in graphite and colored pencil, as well as small, intimate and highly detailed gouache paintings. Born in South Dakota, the artist divided her time between Bellingham, Washington, and New York, where she studied with Rockwell Kent, Robert Henri, and Allen Lewis and became a leading children’s book illustrator’ (Source: Amazon.com).
The Whatcom Museum and David F. Martin were extremely helpful in allowing me to use some of Colborne’s prints in the music video. Selecting which ones from the book was a difficult decision because there were so many beautiful examples of her work. However, my favourite is Lumber Mills on Bellingham Bay, mainly because the exhibition showed at least four woodblock prints of how Colborne worked with colour to change the mood of the scene.
‘Elizabeth Colborne quietly produced the strongest body of work in the colour woodcut medium of any regional artist of her generation. Her lack of pretense and disdain for self-promotion kept her work mostly unknown to the general public. However, with the timeless quality of the subject matter she so deeply loved, along with her sophisticated and technical mastery and skill, assure her an important place in the art history of the Pacific Northwest’. David F. Martin
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