WHAT: Draw to Live and Live to Draw:
Prints and Illustrations by Wanda Gag
WHERE: Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota Duluth
WHEN: November 11, 2008 - May 17, 2009
The daughter of Anton Gag, a Bohemian immigrant who settled in New Ulm, Minnesota, Wanda Hazel Gag (1893 - 1946) is recognized today as one of the most pioneering female illustrators and printmakers of the 1920's and 30's. The exhibition presents her
lithographs and book illustrations, as well as a selection of her drawings, letters and sketchbooks. The oldest of seven children, Wanda’s parents died early, leaving her as a young teenager to raise her siblings and finish her own education. She illustrated magazines to help support the family, and won scholarships to study in Minneapolis and later in New York.
Wanda Gag’s graphic art is distinguished by its use of dramatic shadows and highlights, as well as its sinuous, flowing shapes and lines. These features of her prints and drawings demonstrate her love for nature, and her desire to produce unity and rhythm out of “all the helpless fringes and frayed edges of our groping lives,” as she stated in 1921 in a letter to artist Adolf Dehn.
Many of Gag’s prints show the interiors of her grandmother’s and relatives homes and farms, and her own rural farmstead in New Jersey, which she called “All Creation.” The folktales told by her Czechoslovakian and Bohemian-immigrant relatives would later inspire many of the illustrated books Wanda Gag produced.
A successful show at the Weyhe Gallery in New York in 1926 and publication in 1928 of her well-known children's book Millions of Cats enabled her to give up work as a commercial artist and move to rural New Jersey, where she continued to produce drawings, lithographs, and children's books until her death in 1946.
Wanda Gag contributed illustrations to the socialist magazines The Liberator and New Masses. Ahead of her time in many ways, Gag was an early feminist, a member of a progressive group of Greenwich Village artists in the 1920s, and a proponent of sexual freedom who did not marry until later in her life. She preferred living in rural areas and wore clothing she often designed herself based on traditional German and Czech styles.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Tweed Museum of Art presents a lecture at 6pm on November 18th by Julie L'Enfant, author of The Gag Family: German-Bohemian Artists in America (Afton Historical Society Press, 2002). Associate Professor
of Art History at the College of Visual Arts, St. Paul, and recipient of Ph.D. degrees from Louisiana State University and the University of Minnesota, L'Enfant has written and lectured nationally about American art and artists.
The exhibition is developed with the cooperation of the Children's Literature Collection, University of Minnesota Twin Cities; Mr. Gary Harms, Wanda Gag's grand-nephew; and the Brown County Historical Society and Wanda Gag House in New Ulm,
This activity is made possible in part by a grant provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board, through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.