Updated: May 15
On October 11, 2019, the Burchfield Penney Art Center presented the world premiere of J. J. Lankes: Yankee Printmaker in Virginia, a documentary film by Eduardo Montes-Bradley about the life and works of the woodcut master printmaker, Julius John Lankes (1884-1960), who was born in Buffalo, New York. J. J. Lankes lived in Gardenville, New York, befriended Charles E. Burchfield, and made wood engravings with him. The film explores the arc of Lankes’ life between World Wars I and II as he became a social advocate for down-trodden farmers and workers, illustrator for authors such as Robert Frost and Sherwood Anderson, and documentarian himself capturing the vestiges of rural life in a nation undergoing vast changes during the emerging industrial age.
The Burchfield Penney Art Center owns literally hundreds of Lankes’ prints, as well as small paintings, archival materials, and the wood blocks from his collaboration with Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967) on creation of thirteen wood engravings depicting small town American life and Biblical subjects from 1923 to 1926. Therefore, this documentary about a Western New York artist who became a national authority on woodcuts—including authoring a book on the subject—adds to our knowledge and understanding of an individual who bucked the system and stayed committed to his vision of a lifestyle that was disappearing in the twentieth century.
Lankes premiere at Burchfield Penney Art Center, SUNY
The 30-minute film is based on research by Lankes’ biographer, Welford Dunaway Taylor; written in collaboration with Jeffrey Plank, and produced by Soledad Liendo for Heritage Film Project. Dr. Taylor, professor emeritus of English Literature at the University of Richmond, was interviewed at his home where he shows examples from his formidable collection of Lankes’ prints, as well as material relating to Robert Frost, Sherwood Anderson, and Rockwell Kent. Also interviewed were Burchfield Scholar Nancy Weekly from the Burchfield Penney Art Center in Buffalo, New York and Parker C. Agelasto in Richmond, Virginia who wrote a book about Lankes’ miniature prints. Ms. Weekly has written about the Burchfield/Lankes prints for the museum’s collection catalogue, and in 2011 she curated the exhibition The Fateful Trip: Burchfield, Lankes & Schwanekamp about the trio’s week-long road trip to Robert Frost’s farm in Vermont in 1924, with stops at the artists’ colony in Woodstock, New York, where they met the painter George Bellows and master printmaker Bolton Brown.
Eduardo Montes-Bradley (b. 1960)
Independent filmmaker Eduardo Montes-Bradley, who was born in Córdoba, Argentina, is an award-winning documentarian, author, producer, and director of films about social conflicts and important world figures fighting for social justice. Among the considerable achievements of his life’s work, he has created documentaries about Latin American authors Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar and American poet Rita Dove. In 2008, he co-founded Heritage Film Project, which has published “biographical studies” of Holocaust survivors, American civil rights activist Julian Bond, Cuban artist Humberto Calzada, and many other subjects. His films have been aired on American and European Public Television and presented at prestigious film festivals.