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collections > permanent collection > prints > LEONARD baSKIN
Leonard Baskin
(American, 1922-2000)
Man of Peace, 1952
Woodcut, 83” x 40”
1986 Collectors Club Purchase (86.041)

Leonard Baskin helped to revitalize figurative art following the heyday of Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s.  In the humanist spirit of the Renaissance, Baskin’s art emphasizes the perennial strength and suffering of mankind.  Large and innovative woodcuts such as Man of Peace cemented Baskin’s reputation as a printmaker, and while the artist was also a gifted sculptor and draughtsman, it is his prints for which he is primarily remembered.  With its angular and expressionistic quality, Man of Peace hearkens back to medieval woodcuts, yet the imagery of barbed wire and scarred, half-clothed figure is evocative of twentieth-century atrocities.  Holding a dead bird, perhaps a dove of peace, the figure is hopeful, yet hopeless, reflecting Baskin’s central message of human striving against futility and despair.

Baskin studied art in New York City and at the Yale School of Fine Arts.  Starting out as a sculptor, he turned to printmaking after pursuing additional study in Paris and Florence during the early 1950s.  After his return, Baskin settled in Massachusetts, where he taught first in Worcester and then for many years at Smith College in Northampton.  He exhibited his work widely, and during the height of his career in the 1960s and 1970s, he received numerous awards and prizes.  Baskin’s work is today held in many public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.