top of page

J.J.LANKES

YANKEE PRINTMAKER IN VIRGINIA

jjlankesbymontesbradley

The documentary examines the life and works of Julius John Lankes and his multiple connections and relationships with other artists and intellectuals in the period between the two major wars of the 20th century. Robert Frost, Charles Burchfield, Sherwood Anderson, and Rockwell Kent are some of the names to which writer-director Montes-Bradley resorts to contextualize what he likes to define as the rise & fall of J.J.Lankes. The Buffalo native was part of New England's woodcutting and printmaking revival movement when he settled in the “provincial south of confederate veterans and Jim Craw”. The film also explores Lanke's work in the relative context of similar movements in other parts of the world and in response to the political struggles of American intellectualism. HD| 30 minutes. English. Available from Kanopy Streaming and Alexander Street Press.

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES

Julius John Lankes (1884-1960) was a self-trained artist whose preferred medium—the woodcut, the oldest graphic arts—enabled him to forge an artistic identity uniquely suited to his artistic subjects, typically hard-working rural men and women and their well-used homes and barns. His early collaboration with Robert Frost allowed Lankes to experiment with visual analogs to the deceptively simple voices of rural speakers. Following a study trip to Germany in 1925, Lankes moved to Tidewater, Virginia, where he spent the next seven years, arguably the most productive of his career. With his Virginia woodcuts—of Williamsburg before its restoration, of Sherwood Anderson’s Marion community, and his Virginia Woodcuts (1930) portfolio—Lankes achieves a distinctive style in which apparent visual simplicity communicates volumes about the enduring capacity of rural men and women, white and black, to resist the dehumanizing impacts of industrialization and racial segregation. Lankes distills the quiet beauty and the paradoxical strength and vulnerability of simple virtues in these woodcuts.

COMMENTARY

by Welford Dunaway Taylor

What does it take for a complete novice to approach an unfamiliar artistic subject, read around the edges of it, slowly get drawn into its interior, and then become immersed—to the point that the former naïf is no longer a novice but an initiate, capable of reporting his subject to the world? If the novice is Eduardo Montes-Bradley, and the artistic subject is the work and life of the artist J. J. Lankes (1884-1960), then the process requires subject than two years. But the product of this effort is a film that bids fair to present the full, prolific substance of Lankes' œuvre to the current generation

of art fanciers.

The film is rich in its selection of graphic images, and its storyline carries the viewer through the major courses of Lankes’ career, from his beginnings as a draughtsman through his apprentice years of art study in his native Buffalo and his transformative experiences as a scholarship student at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It also explores Lankes’ artistic and personal connections to contemporary authors such as Robert Frost and Sherwood Anderson.

 

The figure that emerges is that of a masterful artist who elevated a demanding graphic genre, the woodcut, to unprecedented artistic heights and engaged with his times on significant issues such as social justice, war, and the importance of individual crafts in an industrial age. 

bottom of page