Tag Archives: Beth Van Hoesen

The new arrival lands on the doorstep

By Bob Hicks

Cover image, "Beth Van Hoesen: Catalogue Raisonne of Limited-Edition Prints, Books and Portfolios," Hudson Hills PressThe new baby arrived the other day, and it’s a whopper: 12.2 inches long, 10.3 inches across, almost 2 inches thick and 8.5 pounds. It came after a labor so long you don’t want to contemplate it, but when it finally arrived it came out handsome and beautifully illustrated.

Coffee tables across America have been put on alert: Brace yourselves. The new kid’s big.

Beth Van Hoesen: Catalogue Raisonné of Limited-Edition Prints, Books, and Portfolios has just been published by Hudson Hills Press, in association with the Oakland Museum of California, Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin, and the University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames.

Van Hoesen, who died late last year at age 84, was a longtime San Francisco artist who specialized in printmaking, taking as her subject the small things of life: animals, insects, flowers, babies, fruits and vegetables, dolls, portraits. She also drew and made prints of a lot of nudes — a portfolio of her male nudes was one of the first projects published by the Bay Area’s fabled Crown Press — and completed a little-known but highly intriguing series of portraits of people from the punk scene in San Francisco’s Castro District, near the old firehouse where Van Hoesen and her husband, the tapestry designer and watercolorist Mark Adams, lived and worked for close to 50 years. Physical veracity was extremely important to her, and in the best of her work that attention to truthfulness was much more than skin-deep.

I wrote what became the catalogue’s lead essay, Becoming Perfect, which is primarily about Van Hoesen’s drawings, both finished pieces and preparatory drawings for her hundreds of prints. In the end, her work is really about the magic of the line, and getting it right.

Continue reading The new arrival lands on the doorstep

The canvas goes blank: Farewell to Nathan Oliveira and Beth Van Hoesen

Nathan Oliveira, "Nineteen Twenty-Nine," oil on canvas, 1961. Smithsonian American Art Museum/Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., 1969.

By Bob Hicks

We’ve arrived at a time when many of the bright figures of 20th century art are slipping away into that final blankness that artists seem to anticipate better than the rest of us. Maybe it’s because artists begin each day with a blank canvas or paper and understand that the void is both an opportunity and an inevitability.

In the past week two fine West Coast artists, both based in San Francisco but well-known in Portland art circles, have died. Nathan Oliveira, who died last Saturday, was 81. Beth Van Hoesen, who died on Tuesday, was 84.

Beth Van Hoesen, "Boris," aquatint, etching, and dryprint, 1981.Both were figurative artists, although in very different ways and with very different outlooks and techniques. Oliveira, who is represented in Portland by Elizabeth Leach Gallery, was primarily a painter and sculptor (he also produced a lot of very good prints) and he was very much a modernist, an artist who explored the psychological dark corners. Van Hoesen was primarily a printmaker and an observer of the small wonders of life, a meticulous craftswoman and traditionalist whose skills and approach harked back to the likes of Durer. You can read Van Hoesen’s obituary here.

Continue reading The canvas goes blank: Farewell to Nathan Oliveira and Beth Van Hoesen

Art to enjoy with Chianti, whipped cream and watermelon

One of Art Scatter’s favorite virtual destinations, artdaily.org, is full of all sorts of fun stuff today. For instance, researchers have determined that Tut, the boy king of ancient Egypt, likely died of malaria when he was 19, way back around 1324 B.C. The scientists came to this conclusion after undertaking genetic and radiological testing on the lad’s remains, thus landing a blow to conspiracy theories suggesting murder most foul. (Is there any other kind?)

In other celebrity culture news, Art Daily fills us in on a couple of new visual art exhibitions from artists better known for baking other slices of the cultural pie.

Painting by actor Anthony Hopkins, on view in London and EdinburghThe superb actor Anthony Hopkins is showing a few of his paintings at London’s Gallery 27 through Saturday, then at The Dome in Edinburgh, March 2-6.

Herb Alpert, "BVlack Totems," 2005-09, courtesy Ace Gallery, Beverly HillsAnd trumpeter Herb Albert has a show through May 25 at the Ace Gallery in Beverly Hills of big bronze totems, all in black, and up to 18 feet tall. He’s been doing these for 20 years.
Wayne Thiebaud, "Watermelon Slices," 1961. Oil on canvas. Private collection. Copyright Wayne Thiebaud/License by VAGA, New York, N.Y.Maybe you link Alpert and art with that famous Whipped Cream album cover from 1965. Dessert is more commonly the subject of Wayne Thiebaud, the California artist, who has a new retrospective, Wayne Thiebaud: 70 Years of Painting, on view through July 4 at the San Jose Museum of Art. Best-known for his effervescent donuts and cakes and the like, he branches out to other edibles (and even non-edibles), too, such as this 1961 painting of watermelon slices.

Alpert’s big bronzes are inspired by the great totems of the Tlingit and other nations who live along the north Pacific coast ranging from present-day Washington state to Alaska.

Thiebaud’s retrospective caught my eye partly because of his connection to another California artist, Beth Van Hoesen, whose most complete collection of prints is in the Vivian and Gordon Gilkey Center for Graphic Arts at the Portland Art Museum. Thiebaud was one of a group of important California artists who for many years held weekly drawing sessions at the old San Francisco firehouse that was home and studio to Van Hoesen and her artist husband, Mark Adams. And I’ve lately been working on an essay about Van Hoesen’s art.

I have a small personal interest in Sir Anthony’ art, too. I remember interviewing him back in 1978 or ’79, on the release of his none too fascinating movie Magic, and he was at a low point personally: exhausted, doubting himself, wondering whether it wasn’t time to chuck it all in and try something else. Of course, it was a lull, and the best was yet to come, even if “the best” included, as Hannibal Lecter, playing a fellow who dined on Chianti and human flesh.

“When I paint,” he says of his artwork, “I just paint freely without anxiety regarding outside opinions as criticisms. I do it for sheer pleasure. It’s done wonders for my subconscious – I dream now in colors.”

Including, I imagine, a rich dark red. Cheers!


PICTURED, from top:

A landscape painting by actor Anthony Hopkins.

Herb Alpert, “Black Totems,” 2005-09. Courtesy Ace Gallery, Beverly Hills.

Wayne Thiebaud, “Watermelon Slices,” 1961. Oil on canvas. Private Collection. Copyright Wayne Thiebaud/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.