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The Beginnings of the Print Club of Rochester

By Lu Harper, Art Librarian and Webmaster

In honor of the exhibition in the Lockhart Gallery at MAG, Great Impressions: The Print Club of Rochester Turns 80, a little history from the Gallery’s Archives.

On December 3, 1930, a meeting was held at the Memorial Art Gallery. The Gallery’s Bulletin documented the meeting: “A group of four consisting of LeRoy E. Snyder, Dr. Ewald Eiserhardt, Norman Kent and Walter H. Cassebeer recently formed itself into a committee for the organizing of a print club, and issued invitations for a meeting which was held in the Library of the Memorial Art Gallery on Wednesday evening, December third. A small, enthusiastic group attended this initial gathering, which was welcomed by Miss Gertrude Herdle who extended the hospitality of the Gallery to the new club.” [Shown above a woodcut drawn by Walter H. Cassebeer and cut by Norman Kent, which formed the cover of the invitation to the meeting at which the Print Club of Rochester was organized.]

The December 3rd meeting coincided with a change in the committee structure of the Gallery’s Board of Managers. Prior to the organization of the Print Club, the acquisition of fine art prints for the Gallery’s collection was the responsibility of the Library and Print Committee of the Board, chaired by Walter Cassebeer. The Minutes of the June 3, 1930 meeting notes that “Mr. Cassebeer presented a report which was the result of an analysis of the accomplishments of the Library and Print Committee since his appointment as its chairman in 1924, a statement of its proper objectives, and a recommendation of a proposed reorganization of the duties and purchasing policy of the Committee, and the use of the Library.” The committee approved sending the proposal to the full Board of Managers.

On June 26th, the Board’s minutes note that “The Board expressed its approval of the recommendations made by the Library and Print Committee that the Art Library be regarded as a reference library…and that the Committee be divided into two Committees, viz., a Library Committee to administer the use and consultation of books; second, a Print Committee to accumulate a collection of prints.” Pending the necessary revision of the by-laws to make this change, the Board directed the Library and Print Committee to “appoint a special committee to assume temporarily the administration of the Gallery’s collection of prints.”

At the Board of Managers October 14, 1930 meeting, the Report of the Library and Print Committee outlined the work of the proposed new committee: it would “take charge of proper housing, display and purchase of prints, together with encouraging the formation of a Print Club, among members of the Gallery and others, a need of which is strongly felt among a group interested in collecting and producing prints.” Rush Rhees, anticipating the approval of the by-laws at the January 15, 1931 meeting, appointed members to the new Print Committee, which was to be chaired by Mr. Snyder, with Mr. Cassebeer and as Dr. Eiserhardt additional committee members.

In the early years of the Print Club, exhibitions and meetings were held monthly at the Gallery. Many of the event and meeting announcements included prints on the front cover. These announcements are in the collection of the Gallery’s archives, and are online at the Finger Lakes and Genesee Heritage website.

Print designed by John Menihan for the 150th Anniversary of Lithography exhibitionPrint Club meetings often included demonstrations of printmaking techniques by contemporary artists. Important exhibitions sponsored by the Print Club at the Gallery included the 150th Anniversary Exhibition of Lithography, Prints of five centuries, exhibitions by J.J. Lankes and Rockwell Kent, Works by the Artist Color Proof Association and many others. These exhibitions brought many fine prints into the hands of local collectors, and enriched the Gallery’s collections through purchase and gift. [Print designed by John Menihan for the 150th Anniversary of Lithography exhibition shown above.]

Congratulations to the Print Club on their 80th anniversary!

–Lu Harper, Librarian

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