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The Journal Gazette

  • This color linocut by Harry Engel is part of “The Ideal Sketching Ground: Prints by the Artists of Brown County,” which opens Saturday at Fort Wayne Museum of Art.

  • “Silas” is among pieces in “Dox Thrash: The Hopeful Gaze.”

  • "Baptism" is among pieces in "Dox Thrash: The Hopeful Gaze."

  • This aquatint print by L.O. Griffith is part of "The Ideal Sketching Ground: Prints by the Artists of Brown County," which opens Saturday at Fort Wayne Museum of Art.

Friday, April 19, 2019 1:00 am

Art museum features Brown County, Dox Thrash in print exhibitions

If you go

What: “The Ideal Sketching Ground: Prints by the Artists of Brown County” opens Saturday and “Dox Thrash: The Hopeful Gaze” opens April 27; both run through Aug. 4

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: Fort Wayne Museum of Art, 311 E. Main St.

Admission: $8 adults, $6 students and ages 65 and older, $20 families, free to all from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays. Reduced admission of $3 with EBT card and valid photo identification.

More information: 422-6467 or

Fort Wayne Museum of Art is opening two exhibitions this month exploring printmaking in the early 20th century.

First is “The Ideal Sketching Ground: Prints by the Artists of Brown County,” which opens Saturday.

In the early 1900s, the unspoiled beauty of Brown County drew artists from all around after the small town of Nashville, Indiana, was connected to the Illinois Central Railroad. Nashville, east of Bloomington, became the center of an artist colony.

“At that time period, you have a lot of people ... that are kind of pining for this nostalgic time that was a little bit less industrialized, more rural,” says Sachi Yanari-Rizzo, the museum's curator of prints and drawings. Even in Europe, artists were leaving cities and heading out into nature to paint.

When artists would come to Brown County from places like Chicago and Indianapolis, they would get off the train and set off on foot or by carriage. They were surrounded by rolling hills, rustic cabins and townspeople that could be a different type of model than they would find back in the city.

Chicago/Wisconsin painter Adolph Shulz described the area as “the ideal sketching ground.”

Though many of the artists that came to Brown County were painters, they also worked in prints, which is what this show highlights.

Yanari-Rizzo says many previous exhibitions about paintings from Brown County have been done, and there have been some smaller shows about individual artists' prints. But this is the first print show on this scale, she says.

It has more than 100 works including woodcuts, etchings, aquatints and monotypes by artists such as Charles Dahlgreen, Homer Davisson and Will Vawter.

The exhibition includes a lecture May 31 with art historian Martin Krause and a curator's tour June 6 by Yanari-Rizzo, museum president and CEO Charles Shepard and local collector Doug Runyan.

A second print exhibition, “Dox Thrash: The Hopeful Gaze,” opens Aug. 27.

Thrash, a black artist born in Georgia in 1893, came north in 1910 to the Chicago area where he studied art. He later moved to Philadelphia and was part of the 1930s Federal Art Project, a program sponsored by the Works Progress Administration under President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.

“It's mainly Dox Thrash that's associated with the invention of carborundum mezzotint, but it was at the FAP workshop in Philadelphia that they developed this process,” Yanari-Rizzo says.

In the printmaking technique, the surface of a plate is covered with carborundum, an abrasive material that would create texture on the plate to hold ink. Thrash would burnish areas of the abraded plate to create an image. The smoother an area was made, the less ink it would hold. That created lighter areas in the finished print, which resembles a work done in charcoal.

Thrash's work showed stories of black life, which was an uncommon subject matter in his time.

“He's important for the technical pioneering plus the imagery as well,” Yanari-Rizzo says.

There about 50 pieces from the 1930s to 1950s in the Thrash exhibit, which includes works done in a number of techniques including drawings and print. Yanari-Rizzo and Shepard will lead a curator's tour Aug. 1.

Both exhibitions run through Aug. 4.

– Corey McMaken, The Journal Gazette