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Frankenthaler’s first woodcut collaboration with Tyler Graphics was Essence mulberry, produced in 1977. The print was inspired by two events. The first was an exhibition of 15th-century woodcuts that Frankenthaler had seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the second was a mulberry tree growing outside the Tyler Graphics studio. Frankenthaler commented upon the vibrant colour of the berries and Tyler squashed some of the berries into juice. Dipping a paintbrush into the juice, Frankenthaler proceeded to paint onto a piece of Japanese calligraphic paper. The resulting mulberry colour against the delicate paper was the starting point for the development of Essence mulberry.
Frankenthaler has remarked that ‘The paper itself was so beautiful – a Japanese, long, scroll-like paper. We were about to chop the bottom off but the colour of the paper and the blankness … I thought how wonderful, let’s leave that. It is part of the message’.
Frankenthaler experimented with numerous combinations of woodgrain, inks and paper in a total of sixty-five proofs before finally deciding to print an eight-colour woodcut from four woodblocks.
Essence mulberry is regarded as a defining moment in Frankenthaler’s print career, the first of Frankenthaler’s works to use the traditionally graphic medium of woodcut to produce an image of abstract beauty.
Narrated photohistory slideshow
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