Music, Schanker


1940 - 1944


The controversy between the relative merits of abstraction and realism continued into the 1940’s.  Schanker participated in the 1940 American Abstract Artists National Exhibition. The first line of the catalog introduces their raison d'être as,

“Until comparatively recently it has not been easy to see abstract paintings in America; and to see abstract paintings by American artists was a practical impossibility for the general public.”

In March of 1940 Schanker participated in an exhibit titled, Ballet Décor at the Valentine Gallery on 57th Street, N.Y.  Approximately ten easel and mural artists including Schanker and Joseph Solman, were asked to create sets for various productions based upon their interests.  Schanker’s assignment was “Under the Big Top, Story of Lives and Loves in a Circus” 

With the country's entry into the war in 1941 the WPA was brought to a closeSchanker now 38 and beyond draft age put his skills to work as a shipfitter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. 

The February 1943 exhibition of his woodblocks and sculpture at the Puma Gallery on 57th Street demonstrated that he was able to continue his work..  Art News described his sculpture as “imaginative and ingenious, several having the appearance of small totem poles gone 57th Street.”  One newspaper review reports that Schanker’s works were in several collections including that of the financier, J.P. Morgan, the Brooklyn Museum of Art and Wesleyan College (Connecticut.)  In addition to describing the sculpture as ”vital and rich” The review states that “he was experimenting with color wood blocks….He is the only artist at the present time using as many as six and seven colors in his color wood prints .”

In April of 1943 Schanker was invited to participate in the 4th annual National Print show at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo New York.

During the month of October 1943 Edward Alden Jewell reported in the New York Times that a “richly rewarding one-man show of woodblock color prints by Louis Schanker opened …at the Brooklyn Museum.”  It included most of the print and lithographic works which Schanker had completed during the 1930’s.  The curator, Una Johnson and Schanker created a very complete, informative catalog “that presents the chronological development of Schanker’s graphic work to date,” which forms an excellent resource for documentation of his WPA era compositions.  Ms. Johnson says of Schanker, "many of the works began as oil paintings that are then translated into prints and in some cases, low relief sculpture." 

If one places one of Schanker’s prints, such as Men Running and a 1940 clipping from the New York Times sports section showing a Fordham University  “Football Game,” side by side one can see the truth of Ms. Johnson’s statement, “he aspires to impart to the observer a sense of participation and to interpret in abstract but highly personal terms the life about him.” 

At the same time it was announced in the papers that Schanker, “ was elected a member of the faculty of the New School of Social Research where he will teach wood block cutting and printing.”  This was the beginning of over 15 years at this well known institution in Manhattan.”

Schanker completed 1943  by participating in a December group show of Contemporary Prints at the Buchholtz Gallery in on 57th street.

A one man show of his prints in March of 1944 at the Willard Gallery on 57th St. prompted  Edward Alden Jewell to report that  Schanker has  “achieved very beautiful results in the woodcut medium.”  The Times article also reports that a portfolio containing five of Schanker’s color prints had just been printed by Wittenborn and Co. with an introduction by  Carl Zigrosser, Print Curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The catalog expands the list of collections containing Schanker’s works beyond those listed in in the Puma Gallery Catalog from the year before to include the addition of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The New York Public Library, Munson William Procter Institute of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Art institute of Chicago.

Schanker was represented in the May 1944 100 twentieth Century Prints from 10 countries at the Boston Institute of Modern Art.

In June of 1944 Schanker had a one man show of his prints at the Kleemann Gallery.    The review in the Herald Tribune talks of “his striking use of color as a definite feature of his particular variety of prints.” Emily Genauer writes in the New York World Telegram, ”Abstraction with Heart is the name of one of the prints on view and that’s what all of Schanker’s work might well be called.  It vibrates with life and movement.  It is developed in the subtlest, most delicate color harmonies. It is wonderfully inventive and provocative.”

Later in the month, Howard Devree wrote in the New York Times,

 “Louis Schanker has come steadily to the front as one of our outstanding makers of color prints. His current show at Henry Kleemann’s is an event in its field.  Working away from arbitrary abstraction, Schanker has developed a clear-cut individual style.  His best prints are sure, packed with suggestion, decorative in the best sense of the word, and the printing and technical execution seems to be just about flawless.  Color is rich and clear. Polo has something of the beauty of a Persian or Indian miniature and is full of life and movement.  Birds in Flight, Hockey Players, Skaters and several others are outstanding. It’s a handsome show.” 


1940 -1944 clippings