A couple of weeks ago, I picked up an old, musty book on printmaking entitled “The Bite of the Print,” by Frank and Dorothy Getlein. I have a weakness for old books on printmaking, regardless of their individual merit (although, if nothing else, I usually find out about a couple of new artists that I need to research more fully), and will buy nearly anything on the subject that I come across.
This particular book was published in 1963, and it’s particular point of view is to take a look at satire and irony in the history of printmaking. It goes all the way back to Durer, and through Kathe Kollwitz, and hits all the major players along the way (like Hogarth, Daumier, Rembrandt, and more). And, of course, the highlight of any of these books is the “new artists” section, which is populated by people like Lasansky and Emil Nolde, who were somewhat contemporary at the point of publication.
But the real reason to check out this book is that the writing is insightful and lively, with personal looks at the artists covered (I have a book about William Hogarth, one of my favorite artists, and the single chapter here does more to humanize him than the entire other book about him). The best comparison that I can give is that, while I generally don’t like reading history books, I find Sarah Vowell’s books fascinating, partially because she’s an excellent writer with command of the material, but also because she’s able to make history into stories about real people, which is far more relateable than a litany of titles, dates, and places.
If you’ve got a similar weakness for printmaking books, this one’s super-cheap at Amazon, and I found it an unexpectedly worthwhile read.