Friday, 2 November 2012

Bror Julius Olssen Nordfeldt: continued

Some thoughts about Whiteline printmaking 
Today as promised in my before posting here are examples of Nordtfeldts’ Whiteline method printmaking. That is: the few I could find. If these prove to be all his output they are outnumbered 3:1 by his traditional Japanese style prints. 10 years after his initial printmaking he seems to have shifted his attention to  summer residence Provincetown. The local people and village views, with the emphasis on dresses and patterns, probably influenced by the ideas and trials of his female printmaking friends. To wich extend the temporarliy returned from France couple Ethel Mars and Maud Squire were influenced by possibly the earliest of creative printmaking endeavours by Wasili Kandinsky (1866-1944), who Mars called  the "grand-father of the group of Provincetown printmakers, Nordfeldt no doubt being the father and Blanche Lazell the daugter), and Edvard Munch (1863-1944) who experimented with partial and jig-saw printmaking as early as  in the late 1890's is beyond my capabillities of judgement.   
Upper: Wasili Kandinsky 1903, Lower Edvard Munch 1899 

I dare not jump to any conclusions but maybe Nordfeldt wasn’t so convinced by the results after all. His style changed dramatically and he is very far from the original and pioneering Fletcher and Dow adept and artist he was in and around 1906 (when Mars and Squire were still in Paris). His printmaking activities seem to have stopped after 1916 altogether. 
The new possibilities using the Whiteline method (more, and more easy coloring) smothered the artistic creativity required by the difficulties and limitations in traditional Japanese printmaking. The effect, I think, often reduced to “painting by numbers”. Moreover the general use of separating colors makes it very difficult if impossible to make distinctions between the works of different artists other then their compositional originality and choice of location and subject.

The unanimous choice of using the same harmonic Japanese color combinations isn’t a big help in distinguishing them either. Besides a pivotal figure in the invention and early development, Nordfeldt seems to have been the only male printmaker that has ever given it a try before WW2. The method and its popularity in America never crossed any ocean either to the East or  to the West.

There are exceptions of course. Edna Boies Hopkins (1872-1937) and Ethel Mars (1876-1956) succeeded best by exploring and combining the best of two worlds of printmaking avoiding with success the before mentioned effect. But only because they were among the most accomplished traditional printmaking artists of their time years before. 
Left: Ethel Mars and Maud Squire by Edna Hopkins. Right: Woman with sunflowers by Ethel Mars.

Tea: Ethel Mars and Maud Squire by Maud Squire

With Nordfeldt these two ladies were the real creative geniuses (geniae?) of that perticular group of early printmakers that tried combining the Japanese traditional with Old-world pioneers and new-World ideas.

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use.


  1. These last two blogs have been fascinating. Japanese colors with their names, Provincetown art colony - also considered a hotbed of political radicalism in the teens and twenties. See, for example, the movie Reds with Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton. Thanks, Gerrie.


    1. Glad you've enjoyed, I will ask around for a copy of the movie, thanks for the hint.