T.Y. has a lovely image in lithography of two young nymphs.
The dark-haired one is holding a large shell over the head of the blonde, who offers her mate a smaller shell.
On opposite sides of each woman’s shoulders, we see two beach scenes. One features a tank rolling towards a lake, with grave markers in the foreground. The soldiers grind toward another set of gravestones mid ground. This ghastly beach scene is contrasted with the shape of a dove dipping towards a beach with a skiff in the quiet waves on the opposite side of the image.
When I tell you the title is “Echoes,” you will see what the two beaches mean when you learn the date of the piece must be around 1949.
The Echoes the nymphs are hearing are of the peaceful past and the not-so-distant past sounds of bombs and mortars. Both are echoes in both shells. The theme of melancholy pervades.
This is a masterful work on hand-laid BFK Rives paper with full deckled margins, probably from an edition of 250, as was typical for this artist who pulled his lithos in small editions.
The artist is Emil Weddige (1907-2001), born to French/German and North American Indian (Wyandot) parents in Sandwich, Ontario, who studied art at Eastern Michigan University, The Art Students’ league in New York and at the University of Michigan, where he earned his master’s in design.
He continued at the University of Michigan for 38 years as a professor of printmaking. In 1949, he took a second studio on the Montparnasse in Paris. In 1949, the famed City of Lights had dimmed because of World War II, and he would have seen the poverty and destruction of Europe after the war.
The theme of destitution didn’t come easy for this artist who celebrated peaceful orderly Americana. But it works here as Weddige goes toward Chagall in his stylized figures and classical arrangements and symbolism.
This is hard to achieve in lithography because it is a linear process usually; The colors and hues each require a different ‘stone” that bear a different color. And to make it look “painterly,” the piece has to have those light gossamer lines that require an artist to know just when to pull the paper off the stone.
This is also large for a lithograph at 20 x 26-inch sheet size.
Weddige’s work represents a style in the mid-20th-century that was not modern, but refers to the classical, and because of this, it is not geometrical, although it is mid-century modern.
It just doesn’t fit with what we today think of as mid century modern, so the values for this artist are not strong.
I find his lithographs going for under $200, although that is a sin. In his day he had 100 one-man exhibitions in Japan, Europe and the U.S., and 25 major art awards. He published “Lithography,” a book on his technique in 1966 .
And Weddige was made professor emeritus in 1974 at the University of Michigan and earned a doctorate at Eastern Michigan University. So this was a respected artist in his day, and I find many of his images not selling at the major auction houses but at the minor ones who crank out works for under $500.
Collections of his papers are held at the Smithsonian Archive of American Art (donated by him in 1973), and at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, where the papers were donated in 2001 by his estate.
Weddige is also featured in collections of the MET, the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress, the National Gallery, the United Nations, the Chicago Art Institute, the Bibliotheque Nationale and Georgetown University. He authored a Sesquicentennial boxed portfolio book of images for the University of Michigan with a limited edition of 200, pulled in France with images of Michigan Union, North Campus, and graduation.
How many of those are still around? Many are in museum collections.
He had a light touch and a whimsical style that is not in favor today, falling more into the midcentury “waif” idealized innocent style.
But he was a master of lithography; I myself LIKE the style, which is NOT geometric, and somewhat classical; and if you do, too, this is an artist to collect.
The art market also is snobbish about career teachers of art who sell in the marketplace, for some reason, and sometimes teachers’ works are not as highly valued as the studio artist.
I hate to tell you, T.Y., that the market value is only $200. But it will rise.
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart’s “Ask the Gold Digger” column appears Mondays in the News-Press Life section.
Written after her father’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Dr. Stewart’s book “My Darlin’ Quarantine: Intimate Connections Created in Chaos” is a humorous collection of five “what-if” short stories that end in personal triumphs over present-day constrictions. It’s available at Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara.