About "Giddap"

Giddap

Image (.jpg file) of the linocut print Giddap cut by Hale Woodruff circa 1935, printed by Robert Blackburn in 1996 (image courtesy of Artnet)

Overview:

This exhibit, curated by Paul Blom, focuses on a linocut printing titled Giddap. The linocut block was created by artist Hale Aspacio Woodruff in Atlanta, Georgia circa 1935, and the print of this block was printed in 1996 by Robert Hamilton Blackburn in New York. The print features the image of a black man in a wooded area, standing on the back of a cart with a noose around his neck, about to be hanged, while a white crowd gathers around the man, watching and screaming at him. It is clearly a depiction of a lynching rather than a judicial execution.

Giddap’s depiction of a lynching is filled with a sense of quiet dignity amidst violent chaos. It also disturbingly depicts the precise moment of a lynching, filling the piece with anxious anticipation while simultaneously suggesting a Christian redemption for the victim.

The linocut is one of eight linocut prints typically grouped together as Woodruff’s “Atlanta Portfolio” and reveals influences of Cubism, German Expressionism, and Social Realism. Woodruff is best known for his murals and other paintings rather than for his prints, but this portfolio is his best known collection of prints, depicting the joys and pains of daily African-American life in the American South during the 1930s.

For a more thorough analysis of the context for and contents of Giddap, as well as a brief discussion of people’s responses to the piece, explore the rest of this exhibit, where you can view the image closely, engage with its content, and learn more about its production and composition.

Physical Description:

Timothy Riggs, former curator at the Ackland Art Museum, describes the content of Giddap succinctly: “A lynching. A black man stands with a rope around his neck, in a cart hitched to a mule; a crowd of white men and women around the cart” (1).

The image itself is 12 inches tall by 8 15/16 inches wide (30.5 centimeters tall by 22.7 centimeters wide). The sheet on which the image appears is 19 11/16 inches tall by 14 15/16 inches wide (50 centimeters tall by 38 centimeters wide). The original linoleum block used to create the print is 12 1/16 inches tall by 9 3/16 inches wide (30.6 centimeters tall by 23.3 centimeters wide) (Riggs 1).

According to the Proposed Acquisition Justification Form, which is part of the curatorial files for this piece housed in the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “The print is one of eight linocuts by Woodruff, presented in a portfolio box with the title Hale Woodruff but without title page or information about the publication” (Riggs 2). This series of eight linocuts is often referred to as “The Atlanta Portfolio”; all of the linocuts in this series were produced by Woodruff during his time in Atlanta from 1931 to 1946 (Heydt 48-51). (For more information on "The Atlanta Portfolio," see Martin Groff's exhibit on another Woodruff linocut, which is also part of the portfolio, By Parties Unknown.)

Relief cuts involve using the surface of a block made from wood or linoleum to create an image by using a cutting tool to remove portions of the surface. Once the adjusted surface—or matrix—is complete, ink is applied to the surface of the block, which is then pressed onto a sheet of paper. Portions of the block not removed will take ink and thus will leave behind ink on the paper, while the portions of the block’s surface that have been removed will not take ink and so will leave white space or lines, thus creating an image (Tate).

A linocut is a relief cut that uses linoleum for the material of the block. Linoleum was first invented in the nineteenth century as a flooring material but became a popular printmaking material in the twentieth century: “The lino block consists of a thin layer of linoleum (a canvas backing coated with a preparation of solidified linseed oil) usually mounted on wood. The soft linoleum can be cut away more easily than a wood-block and in any direction (as it has no grain) to produce a raised surface that can be inked and printed. Its slightly textured surface accepts ink evenly" (Tate). Although not as durable as wood, linoleum blocks can still be used to produce hundreds, possibly even thousands, of prints before degrading beyond use (Tate; Warner).

This particular linocut print is “a deluxe edition on china paper (chine appliqué)” and has been periodically on display at the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Riggs 2). A chine appliqué, also known as chine collé, is a printin which the image is impressed onto a thin sheet of China (or other similar) paper which is backed by a stronger, thicker sheet. China paper takes an intaglio impression more easily than regular paper, so chine appliqué prints generally show a richer impression than standard prints" (Philadelphia, “Dictionary”).

According to Riggs, the print at the Ackland was made from Woodruff’s original blocks in 1996 by Robert Hamilton Blackburn at his Printmaking Workshop in New York. The printing was sponsored by E. Thomas Williams, Thurlow Evans Tibbs, Jr. of the Evans-Tibbs Collection, and June Kelly of the June Kelly Gallery (2).

A December, 1996 article from The Amsterdam News discusses the donation of Woodruff’s original blocks to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York and also mentions Blackburn using the blocks to create several prints to be put on sale: “A deluxe edition of 75 portfolios, printed on Lana Royal Bright White with Thai Mulberry Chin-Colic paper, will be available for $5,000 and includes a handmade linen-bound, archival quality box” (Batiste 25). It seems, then, that the Ackland’s editions of Giddap and the rest of “The Atlanta Portfolio” came from this source.

Riggs describes the condition of the prints as “Good-Stable” (3) and as “excellent” (1). The Ackland’s Condition Report on the entire “Atlanta Portfolio,” of which Giddap is one of eight prints, describes the entire portfolio as “Overall good stable.” Referring to Giddap specifically, the report notes “inherent flaws/cracks in plate at all 4 corners minor brown soiling OR foxing along L [left] edge & verso [back or reverse side] of TL [top-left] corner. Inherent stray ink accretion on verso behind image” (Heggli-Swenson 1). Thurlow Evans Tibbs, Jr., a prominent collector and appraiser, inspected the blocks used in 1996 and the prints made from them. Two years earlier, he had appraised some of the first printings from these same blocks, dating to the 1930s. According to Tibbs, there was “very little difference” between the editions, further suggesting the excellent condition of the blocks and their prints (Batiste 25).

Regarding inscriptions on the piece, Riggs notes that the off-white paper bears a few watermarks: the letters “LANA,” followed by the symbol of a crown, followed by the letters “PUR FIL” (Riggs 1). These watermarks seem to represent the maker or type of paper on which the print was made, Lana Royal Bright White, with “PUR FIL” referencing the type of fiber within the paper itself.

Referring to the piece specifically, Riggs cites a monogram on the lower-left corner of the sheet bearing “DMN.” Additionally, the lower-right corner bears a blind stamp: “© Hale Woodruff.” Finally, the piece bears the marking of “H.C.” in the lower-right corner (Riggs 1), which stands for “hors commerce” proof, also known simply as an artist’s proof, a print that was not originally intended to be sold and was produced “outside the regular commercial run” (Philadelphia, “Glossary”), usually reserved for the artist’s personal use, often signed and marked with “H.C.”, “A.P.”, or “E.A.” According to the Philadelphia Print Shop, “Commercial publishers found that there was a financial advantage to offering so-called ‘proofs’ for sale and so developed other types of proofs to offer to collectors, generally at higher prices” (Philadelphia, “Dictionary”).

Accessibility:

Timothy Riggs’s Proposed Acquisition Justification Form for the Ackland Art Museum categorizes the content of the piece in the following manner: “Animal / Class/Caste / Conflict / Countryside / Crime / Crowd / Death / Ethnicity/Race / History / Politics / Propaganda / Punishment / The South” (3).

The specific piece is currently housed at the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Other versions or editions of this print are available at a wide variety of museums and other institutions, including:

Photo of Hale Woodruff

Photo of Hale Aspacio Woodruff working on his Talladega murals, courtesy of the Library of Congress

The Block – Hale Aspacio Woodruff:

Hale Aspacio Woodruff was born in Cairo, Illinois on August 26, 1900 and moved to Nashville, Tennessee with his mother as a child (Warner). According to David C. Driskell, “Times were hard, but he was determined to become an artist. At first, he wanted to become an illustrator, seeing how readily he could turn his art into a money-making venture” (17). After graduating high school in Nashville (Heydt 29), Woodruff began his formal art education in 1920 at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana, and during that time, he experienced his first public recognition for his work, having one of his paintings accepted into the annual Indiana artists’ exhibition in 1923 (Perry).

During his time at the Herron, Woodruff received traditional training, excelling especially in landscapes, but left after three years, frustrated with the conservative methods of the school (Heydt 30). Woodruff moved to Chicago and continued his art education at the Art Institute of Chicago before eventually returning to Indianapolis to pursue a painting career (Driskell 17-18; Perry) while also earning extra money as the membership secretary for the Indianapolis YMCA, a position that exposed him to the philosophies of various black political and cultural leaders who spoke at their events, including civil rights activist Walter White, painter William Edouard Scott, and educator Charles S. Johnson, who was the editor of the black activist journal Opportunity. Through this position, Woodruff first became aware of debates focusing on black artistic expression and began thinking about using artistic expression to confront current social issues (Heydt 30).

In 1924, Woodruff submitted a work to the first Amy Spingarn Contest in Literature and Art, sponsored by The Crisis magazine, earning third place and ten dollars in prize money. Two years later, he entered a painting in the William E. Harmon Foundation first Exhibition of the Work of Negro Artists, winning second place and a cash prize of one hundred dollars (Driskell 18; Perry).

Winning this contest changed Woodruff’s life, introducing him to Mary Beattie Brady, director of the Harmon Foundation who “had easy access to a number of prominent figures active in the New Negro movement, including Alain L. Locke, the highly respected spokesperson for Negro art” (Driskell 18-19). Woodruff and Locke would become friends, a friendship that eventually led to the creation of the linocut print Giddap (Heydt 48).

Additionally, the prize money allowed Woodruff to purchase a one-way ticket Paris, France to continue his artistic education. Woodruff had read in 1924 and 1926 issues of Opportunity discussions of the influence of African art on such artists as Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and Paul Cézanne, and the prize money allowed him to follow his passion of studying in Paris (Heydt 30). From 1927 to 1931, Woodruff studied in Paris at the Académie Moderne and Académie Scandinave (Perry).

According to Susan Mayer Heydt, “Life abroad afforded black artists an experience relatively untaxed by the degradations of racism” (30). During his time in France, Woodruff met one of his artistic idols, Henry Ossawa Tanner, the first African-American artist to earn international acclaim. Tanner is generally considered a realist painter who focused on both religious themes and everyday life of African Americans, and his influence on Woodruff is unmistakable. During this time, Woodruff met and worked with a variety of influential artists and intellectuals, including Alaine Locke, Countee Cullen, Palmer Hayden, and Augusta Savage while also studying the works of the “Old Masters” and the European modernists (Heydt 30). During his time in France, Woodruff continued to focus his work mostly on landscapes, “though he abandoned the traditional Impressionist style for a more concrete approach,” adopting elements of Post-Impressionism and Cubism, especially the work of Paul Cézanne (Heydt 31).

In 1931, Woodruff returned to the United States and was hired to head the art department at Atlanta University, becoming the first highly trained African American to teach art in a southern black university. During his time there, “he helped erode the color bar at the High Museum of Art by gaining the permission of the director to bring his classes to the museum” (Apel 104-105). In 1931, Woodruff married Theresa Ada Baker; they would eventually have one son, Roy (Heydt 32). During the 1930s, Woodruff became known as a painter and artist who confronted social issues faced by the African-American community (Heydt 40). During his time in Atlanta, from 1931 to 1946, he composed the eight linocut prints commonly grouped together in “The Atlanta Portfolio” (Heydt 48-51). (For more information on "The Atlanta Portfolio," see Martin Groff's exhibit on another Woodruff linocut, which is also part of the portfolio, By Parties Unknown.)

In 1935, civil rights activist and NAACP Director Walter White organized an art exhibit to be held in New York and solicited works that “focus[ed] directly on the horror and pathos of lynching so that viewers would be persuaded to support the Costigan-Wagner Bill” (Langa 154), an anti-lynching bill drafted by Robert F. Wagner and Edward Costigan that was never signed. Debates on the bill, however, at least increased attention to and awareness of the persistent problem of lynching (NAACP). According to Helen Langa, the exhibit, An Art Commentary on Lynching, was “grounded in the hope that art could implement social change by moving viewers from empathy to activism” (152-53).

Woodruff composed two linocut prints for the exhibition, Giddap and By Parties Unknown, either in 1934 or early 1935. These two prints are the only prints in “The Atlanta Portfolio” that explicitly confront the issue of lynching. According to Susan Mayer Heydt, Woodruff’s friend, the noted artist Alaine Locke, whom Woodruff first met while working for the Indianapolis YMCA, had repeatedly urged Woodruff to create “accessible and relevant art” (48). For this reason, “Woodruff had turned to printmaking for renderings of life in the South because the inexpensive medium allowed for the production of affordable multiples…. For Woodruff, a black artist living in the Deep South, the disturbing themes of these stark compositions could never have been far from his mind” (Heydt 48, 52). Reginia A. Perry confirms that the prevalence of lynchings “stirred his conscience deeply” and led him to confront this issue in at least a few of his works.

The exhibit was originally planned to be held at the Jacques Seligmann Galleries in New York, but protests at that venue led them to cancel. Instead, the exhibition was held at the Arthur U. Newton Galleries in New York on 57th Street (Heydt 94; Langa 152). The exhibition ran from February 15 to March 2, comprising the works of thirty-nine artists, seven of whom were African American (Langa 152).

In 1936, Woodruff journey to Mexico and worked with muralist Diego Rivera, who greatly influenced his style and exposed him to techniques for telling a story through his images (Heydt 52). Returning to Atlanta, “he excelled as chairman of the art department at Atlanta University, [and] his reputation also grew as one of the most talented African-American artists of the Depression era” (Perry).

Despite his impressive block prints, Woodruff is best known for his paintings and murals, especially his Amistad Murals painted between 1939 and 1940 in the Savery Library at Talladega College in Alabama. These murals were “commissioned in celebration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the mutiny by African slaves aboard the slave ship Amistad in 1849, their subsequent trial in New Haven, Connecticut, and return to West Africa following acquittal” (Perry).

Landscape (Mississippi, Soil Erosion)

Landscape (Mississippi, Soil Erosion), oil on canvas by Hale Woodruff, circa 1944

Woodruff completed a series of landscapes in the 1940s, including Landscape (Mississippi, Soil Erosion) (Perry), an oil on canvas painting from circa 1944 and also housed at the Ackland Art Museum (Riggs 3). During this time, he also composed several watercolors and block prints specifically focusing on issues facing the black community in Georgia. The September 21, 1942 issue of Time quotes Woodruff: “We are interested in expressing the South as a field, as a territory, its peculiar run-down landscape, its social and economic problems—the Negro people” (Perry).

Woodruff’s Atlanta Period ended in 1946 when he moved to New York to teach in the art department at New York University from 1947 until retiring in 1968. Woodruff died on September 6, 1980 (Perry).

Photo of Robert Blackburn

Photo of Robert Blackburn at his Printmaking Workshop, New York

The Print – Robert Hamilton Blackburn:

Robert Hamilton Blackburn was born in Summit, New Jersey on December 12, 1920. Growing up in Harlem, Blackburn was influenced by the Harlem Renaissance, Social Realism, European abstraction, and Mexican modernism. When he was thirteen, he enrolled in Harlem Arts Workshop classes presented by Charles Alston where he met artist Ronald Joseph. In 1934 and 1935, Blackburn attended art classes at the Harlem YMCA and met artists Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight in 1936. Blackburn joined Joseph to attend Augusta Savage’s Uptown Art Laboratory and published his own artwork in Magpie at DeWitt-Clinton High School from 1936 to 1940. Blackburn then attended the Harlem Community Art Center, learning lithography with Riva Helfond before working from 1940 to 1943 at the Art Student’s League with Will Barnet. In 1948, he opened his Printmaking Workshop in Chelsea in New York City (Cullen).

Originally consisting of a single lithography press, the workshop pioneered new techniques with such artists as Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and Will Barnett through the 1950s. Around 1971, the workshop became incorporated as a not-for-profit Printmaking Workshop (PMW) and was slowly expanded, providing training and funding for young artists and printers and serving as the model for community-based cooperative printshops in the United States and around the world. The PMW closed in 2001, but Blackburn reached out the to Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts (EFA), challenging them to “create a program to serve the needs of the printmaking community in New York City much like his Printmaking Workshop had done.” Blackburn died on April 21, 2003, but his vision lived on. In 2005, the EFA established the Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop with a mission to emulate Blackburn’s vision and to support artists of all backgrounds, encouraging innovation and risk-taking and serving more than 8,000 people per year from the United States and abroad (Elizabeth Foundation).

Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop was still functioning, however, in 1980, when Hale Woodruff passed away. Upon Woodruff’s passing, Woodruff’s widow, Theresa Ada Baker, sold the original blocks that had been used to create the prints comprising “The Atlanta Portfolio.” She sold them to one of Woodruff’s friends, an art collector named E. Thomas Williams, who then gave the blocks to a family company, Elnora, Inc. According to an article from The Amsterdam News, Williams collaborated with Thurlow Evans Tibbs, Jr. of the Evans-Tibbs Collection and June Kelly of the June Kelly Gallery to sponsor Robert Hamilton Blackburn’s use of the blocks to create several prints in 1996. After these prints were made, Williams donated the blocks themselves to the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture that same year. The article quotes Williams, who explains his motivations:

I knew Hale Woodruff…we were in a club together. He had hopes’ [sic] of one day of all his things getting a fairly wide distribution and not just getting into private hands. When he died, his widow made a decision to sell it to the person that wanted to give a lot of it away. So, she sold it to me…. If you're interested in African-American art, the Schomburg is the place to come, and this is one of the reasons I decided along with my two sisters that we really should give them to the Schomburg Library. (Batiste 25)

The article also notes that after presenting the blocks to the Schomburg, Blackburn ceremoniously used a tool to etch a mark along the underside of the blocks: “What I'm doing is ceremonial in a sense and somewhat like a wake. We're destroying Hale’s block. But, we’re doing it because the block is finished - canceled. It’s called canceling the block. It means that no more prints can be printed from this in any form whatsoever” (Batiste 25).

Provenance:

According to Timothy Riggs, the print at the Ackland was made from Woodruff’s original blocks in 1996 during that final printing of Woodruff’s original blocks, sponsored by Williams, Tibbs, and Kelly (2). The Proposed Acquisition Justification Form for the Ackland’s edition of Giddap states that “the print is one of eight linocuts by Woodruff, presented in a portfolio box with the title Hale Woodruff but without title page or information about the publication” (Riggs 2), a description that matches the description given in the Amsterdam News article discussing the final deluxe editions of Woodruff’s “Atlanta Portfolio”: “A deluxe edition of 75 portfolios, printed on Lana Royal Bright White with Thai Mulberry Chin-Colic paper, will be available for $5,000 and includes a handmade linen-bound, archival quality box” (Batiste 25).

Williams must have purchased or obtained several copies of these specific editions, the last editions ever made from these blocks. The editions of Giddap at the Harvard Art Museums, the Met, and the Museum of Modern Art are all listed as being donations from him. In addition to those donations, he also donated an edition of “The Atlanta Portfolio” to the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

According to the Ackland’s curatorial files on this piece, Giddap was part a larger donation, an entire series of Woodruff’s “Atlanta Portfolio,” donated to the Ackland by Audlyn Higgins Williams and E. T. Williams, Jr. of Sag Harbor, New York, dated October 22, 2013. Specifically, the donors signed the “Deed of Gift” on October 12, 2013, and Emily Kass, Director of the Ackland from 2006 to 2014, signed the deed and officially accepted the donation on October 22.

The accession number for the piece, 23.1, indicates that Giddap is the first in this particular acquired collection—it being the first of the eight linocuts in the “Atlanta Portfolio”—and that this was the Ackland’s twenty-third acquired collection in that year.

The complete portfolio includes eight linocuts: (1) Giddap, (2), By Parties Unknown, (3) Old Church, (4) Coming Home, (5) Relics, (6) Trusty on a Mule, (7) Sunday Promenade, and (8) African Headdress. Giddap, By Parties Unknown, Coming Home, and Sunday Promenade were all donated “in memory of Vivian Giles Chambers and Julius Le Vonne Chambers.” Old Mule, Relics, Trusty on a Mule, and African Headdress were all donated “in memory of the Honorable Hannah Diggs Atkin, Winston Salem, NC and Oklahoma City, OK, and in honor of the Honorable Annie B. Kennedy, former member of the Board of Regents, University of North Carolina.”

Although Williams probably purchased this collection for $5,000 in 1996 (Batiste 25), the July 26, 2013 “Receipt for Incoming Works of Art” in the Ackland’s curatorial files values each linocut at $1,000, a value provided by Williams according to the Proposed Acquisition Justification Form: “Insurance Value: $1000 [donor provided value of $8000 for eight prints]” (Riggs 3).

Continue exploring this exhibit by visiting the next page, "'Giddap': An Analysis," for a thorough analysis of the art work, a brief discussion of people's responses to the work, a list of the works cited in this exhibit, and a complete gallery of all of the exhibit items.

About "Giddap"