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The Woodstock Lithographs of Clarence W. Bolton: From the Great Depression to the Early 1950s

Updated: Aug 7

By Bruce Weber


Over the course of a career in Woodstock spanning nearly five decades, Clarence W. Bolton produced a remarkable body of work. Bolton was active as an easel and sign painter, draftsman, textile and graphic designer, and maker of woodcuts, linoleum-cuts, and occasional watercolors, but is best remembered today for the lithographs of the Catskill landscape that he executed from the late 1930s through the early 1950s.


Bolton’s lithographs, and the lead up to them from the early 1930s, is the subject of this excerpt drawn from my essay Home Values: The Woodstock Landscapes & Townscapes of Clarence W. Bolton, published as a booklet by the Historical Society of Woodstock on the occasion of the exhibition “Bolt” - The Art and Times of Clarence W. Bolton, curated by Deborah Heffner, with my occasional assistance.

The exhibition is on view at the Historical Society of Woodstock from July 2 to August 28, 2022, with a reception on Saturday, July 2nd, from 3-5 p.m. A full copy of the essay is available for purchase for $10 at the Historical Society shop, or by going to publications on the website of the Historical Society of Woodstock and ordering.


I WILL BE GIVING

GALLERY TALKS

AT THE BOLTON EXH.

ON SATURDAY JULY 9TH

& AUGUST 13TH AT 3 P.M.

Mary Hunt (1891-1979

Clarence Bolton at His

Lithography Press,

By Novembr 1941

Gelatin silver print

Historical Society of Woodstock


Clarence W. Bolton discussed the debilitating economic effects of the Great Depression in an article titled “Depression,” published in the December 1930/January 1931 issue of his illustrated magazine The Clatter.(1) Bolton’s awareness of local conditions and areas in need of help may have led to his being appointed for an unknown period in October 1935 to the position of Welfare Officer of the Town of Woodstock. At this time the town was responsible for aiding indigent people by dispersing funds to individuals and families.(2) George A. Neher, serving as Justice for the Town of Woodstock, made the motion that Bolton be appointed to the position to succeed Roy Harder.(3)

Clarence W. Bolton (1893-1962)

Landscape, c. 1935

State University of New York

at Geneseo

Clarence W. Bolton (1893-1962)

Kingston Flying Service, c. 1936

Historical Society of

Woodstock Archives


In January 1935, Bolton joined the relief rolls as a member of the Ulster County Federal Art Project, a local branch of the Public Works of Art Project.(4) The PWAP offered weekly stipends in exchange for paintings, sculptures and other works of art, which selected some facet of the American scene as their subject, and were allocated to public buildings. Landscape is part of the New Deal collection at the State University of New York at Geneseo. The snow scene features a tilted winter view facing uphill along the crooked line of a split-rail fence in the direction of a pair of dormant trees and farm buildings. Another Federal Art Project painting by Bolton is known today through a photograph in the collection of the Historical Society of Woodstock - a more direct and factual view of the Kingston Flying Service, a popular local airport with a 2250-foot runway on an 87-acre tract of land.

Unknown Photographer

Charles Rosen and Clarence W. Bolton

Working on Beacon Post Office Mural, 1937

Gelatin silver print

Historical Society of Woodstock

Photograph of Beacon Post Office with Partial View of Mural

by Charles Rosen with Assistance

of Clarence W. Bolton, 1937


Bolton temporary ended his involvement with the Federal Art Project on March 9, 1936 in order to become the assistant to Charles Rosen on a United States Treasury Department mural project for the Beacon, New York post office.(5) The mural consists of eight panels covering a surface of 1200 square feet depicting the landscape from New York City to the town of Catskill. In assembling his mural Rosen relied on research files he found at the Howland Library in Beacon, and sketches he made at various spots. Initially, Rosen and Bolton used the gallery of the Woodstock Artists Association for their headquarters. In the course of April 1937, they moved to Rosen’s studio in his home off Rock City Road.(6) They were visited there by Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Secretary of the United States Treasury, and Eleanor Roosevelt. The mural project was one of 15 public artworks the Treasury Relief Art Program sponsored in the late 1930s in post offices around New York State. The post office is an interesting place to pay a visit.

Grant Arnold at Press, c. 1930s

Courtesy of Tyler Art Gallery,

State University of New York

College at Oswego


Bolton’s interest in lithography emerged in 1938 while he was again engaged by the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA/FAP). Lithography dominated his attention through 1952.(7) He executed approximately 45 works in the medium. Following the completion in 1939 of his work with Grant Arnold he printed lithographs on his own large press. In the early 1950s he sold the press to the Woodstock Artists Association.(8). In the 1930s, lithography dominated print making activity in town. The medium provided an opportunity for artists to market their work at exhibitions across the United States at an affordable price.


Bolton exhibited his lithographs locally and throughout the country, where they were generally priced at $10. Prints were shown across the United States at the National Academy of Design, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Print Club of Philadelphia, the Denver Art Museum, the American Society of Etchers, the Laguna Beach Art Association, the Buffalo Print Club, the Wichita Art Association, the Chicago Art Institute, the San Francisco Art Museum, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, the Library of Congress, and the Carnegie Institute, among other places. Prints won prizes at the Southern Print Makers Society in Atlanta, Georgia (1938), the Oklahoma Art League in Oklahoma City (1939), and the New Haven Paint and Clay Club (1942).

Reeves Brace (1898-1932)

Mearn’s View, c. 1930-1932

Lithograph on paper

Historical Society of Woodstock

Printed by Grant Arnold (1904-1989)

Ross Braught (1898-1983)

Kingston, Ten Miles, 1931

Lithograph on paper

Printed by Grant Arnold (1904-1989)


Enthusiasm for lithography was spurred in Woodstock by Grant Arnold. In 1930, the artist Arnold Blanch arranged for him to be employed in the summer as the printer for the Woodstock Art Association (in 1933 it became the Woodstock Artists Association) in order “to see whether this important phase of creative reproduction could not be made a fundamental part of the colony’s activities.”(9)) The following year the project received the backing of Hervey White and Carl Eric Lindin. Arnold used White and Lindin’s old Maverick press. Blanch and Konrad Cramer provided technical aid, and Arnold’s wife Jenny served as the printer’s devil, assisting him in printing and grinding stones. In December 1932, the Kingston Daily Freeman noted the success of the endeavor, and explained that Arnold had been busy printing for Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Rosella Hartman, Neil Ives, Reeves Brace, Arnold and Lucille Blanch, Eugenie Gershoy, Harry Gottlieb, Arnold Wiltz, and others.(10)

John Carroll (1892-1959)

Fortified City, 1930

Lithograph on paper

Printed by Grant Arnold (1904-1989)


From 1933 to 1934, Arnold worked as a lithographic printer in Woodstock under the auspices of the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), and following the end of this program served as the printer from 1935 to 1939 for the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA/FAP).(11) Arnold generally printed editions of 25 lithographs for each of the artists for whom he made prints. Artists usually picked up a stone from Arnold, undertook the drawing, and then brought the stone back to him to print. Arnold recalled the process of working with Woodstock artist John Carroll, noting that he “got a little stone out, and showed him how the crayons could be used and how tusche could be used and the various effects that he could get by scraping. [Carroll] selected a large stone to take home . . . and he bought a stock of crayons and some lithographic ink.”(12)

Clarence W. Bolton (1893-1962)

Solitude, January 1938

Lithograph on paper

Historical Society of Woodstock

Printed by Grant Arnold (1904-1989)


Clarence Bolton (1893-1962)

Tranquility, (Catskill Farm), 1939

Lithograph on ivory paper

The Newark Museum of Art

Printed by Grant Arnold (1904-1989)


Bolton and Arnold started working together in January of 1938. Over the next two years they collaborated on 15 lithographs, the largest body of work Arnold printed for any single artist in the colony, surpassing the 7 lithographs he printed for Kuniyoshi, the 12 for John McClellan, and the 13 for Elizabeth Bush Woiceske. Bolton’s prints include Arnold’s dry stamp at lower right of the image area. The prints by Bolton distributed by the Works Progress Administration include the stamp of the Federal Art Project of New York State on the verso. Arnold donated his personal copy of the group of 15 prints to the State University of New York College at Oswego. A set of 8 of the lithographs is in the collection of the Newark Museum of Art, a gift in 1945 to the institution by the Fine Arts Program, Public Building Service, U.S. General Services Administration.(13)

Clarence W. Bolton (1893-1962)

Still Waters, c. 1939

Lithograph on ivory paper

Historical Society of Woodstock

Printed by Grant Arnold (1904-198

Clarence W. Bolton (1893-1962)

In the Woods, c. 1939

Lithograph on paper

Historical Society of Woodstock

Printed by Grant Arnold (1904-1989)


Arnold briefly discussed the work he printed for Bolton in an interview of 1978. He stated that all 15 of the prints by Bolton that he donated to the college were done by him for the WPA Project in Woodstock, and were printed either at the Woodstock Artists Association or in his own studio.(14) He related that “most of [the prints produced by artists in Woodstock] were made in the winter, and if they were not done during the winter, then I would print them down at the art gallery shop. . . . many [of the works by the artists in Woodstock] were winter scenes because the configuration of the hills and the farms and the trees and the streams and the fences all were very good compositional material for winter scenes. We used to say up in Woodstock, in the mountains, that we had two seasons of the year, July, August and winter!”(15)

Clarence W. Bolton (1893-1962)

Winter’s Mantle, 1943

Lithograph on paper

Historical Society of Woodstock

Clarence Bolton (1893-1962)

Sap Gatherer, 1939

Lithograph on ivory paper

The Newark Museum of Art

Printed by Grant Arnold (1904-1989)

Clarence W. Bolton (1893-1962)

Politics, c. 1939

Lithograph on paper

Historical Society of Woodstock

Printed by Grant Arnold (1904-1989)

Clarence W. Bolton (1883-1962)

Morning Worship, c. 1946

Lithograph on paper

Historical Society of Woodstock


Bolton’s lithographs chronicle an idyllic ramble through the rural landscape of Woodstock, primarily when the area is covered by a fresh and glistening snowfall. The artist also created lithographs of familiar scenes and places around town at various times of the year, including people doing chores and activities common to country life. In Sap Gatherers, a man in a snow-covered landscape pours tree sap from his collecting basket into a large pail. In Politics, a group of townsfolk and a mischievous dog converge in front of the two large fluted columns of the town post office on Tinker Street, where people commonly gathered in the morning to talk or gossip and wait for the mail. Morning Worship pictures parishioners walking up to the door of the Dutch Reformed Church in the center of town, across the street from the post office.

Clarence Bolton (1883-1962)

Butternut Trees, 1938

Lithograph on paper

Ihistorical Society of Woodstock

Printed by Grant Arnold (1904-1989)


Bolton’s lithographs are distinguished by their elegant design, emphasis on the geometry of overlapping mounds, hills or mountains, bold silhouette of bare trees against landscape or sky, and sense of wonder before the unfolding spectacle of nature. A pair or more of symmetrically placed trees frequently frame a farmhouse, church, barn or frozen pond. The writer Kathy Zimmerer remarked that Boltons lithographs often evoke a “feeling of pastoral timelessness.”(16) The artist mostly used lithographic crayons on the stones, and occasionally scraped for highlights. He adopted a soft granular approach to picturing the Woodstock landscape, rendered a broad range of tones, from a pencil like gray to the deepest, richest blacks, and created textures soft as velvet. He probably composed his drawings in the studio, using preliminary sketches that he may have started outdoors.

Clarence W. Bolton (1883-1962)

Untitled, c. 1950s

Lithographic stone with drawing

Historical Society of Woodstock


Clarence Bolton (1883-1962)

Drifted Snow, c. 1947

Lithograph on paper

Collection of

Charles and Helene Howland


A lithographic stone by Bolton is in the collection of the Historical Society of Woodstock. The artist primarily drew with a litho crayon that he enhanced with a thin brush using liquid tusche. Most of the tusche lines are black; preliminary crayon lines slightly stick out beyond them. The roll-up ink on the surface of the stone indicates that the stone was utilized for printing. At the opening on July 2, 2022 of the Clarence Bolton exhibition at the Historical Society of Woodstock, I met a collector who owns the only known impression of this starkly stunning winter scene by this Woodstock master of American lithography.(17) The print (now reversed, as is expected) is titled Drifted Snow, and was created about 1947, apparently in an edition of twelve. It was shown at several venues, including the American Artists Group in New York City.


__________________________________________________________________________


For their help in researching the life and career of Clarence W. Bolton I would like to thank the following individuals: Kim Apolant, Librarian, Woodstock Public Library; Lewis Arlt; Jenna Effenberger, Public Services Staff, Manuscripts and Archives, Yale University Library; Jonathan Elwyn; Michael Flannagan, Director, Tyler Gallery, State University of New York at Oswego; Marjie Formisano, Sam Freed, Deborah Heppner; Richard Heppner, Woodstock Town Historian; Mikhail Horowitz; Jason and Karen King; Susan Kirshenbaum; JoAnn Margolis; Andrea Ko, Associate Registrar, The Newark Museum of Art; Peter McGivney, Reference Librarian, Howland Public Library; Richard Pantell; William Rhoads; Violet Snow; Charles Howland; and the late Jean White.


1-Clarence W. Bolton, “Depression,” The Clatter (December 1930/January 1931:. 13.

2-I would like to thank Richard Heppner, Woodstock Town Historian, for providing information regarding the disposal of funds to needy Woodstockers at this time.

3- “Town Board Approves Suggested Projects for Woodstock Village,” Kingston Daily Freeman, June 8, 1935, p. 6.

4--Karal Ann Marling, “Federal Patronage and the Woodstock Art Colony,” Ph.D. dissertation, Bryn Mawr College. 1971. p. 241, ff. 59.

5-Bolton closed the print shop that he ran in Woodstock beginning in about 1930 during the course of the early 1930s.

6- “Woodstock,” Kingston Daily Freeman, April 28, 1937, p. 2.

7-The number of lithographs and the span of Bolton’s interest in lithography is surmised by a study of the Clarence W. Bolton Record Book in the collection of the Historical Society of Woodstock. The book is a major source of information regarding the titles, dates of execution and exhibition history of the artist’s work in lithography. It is among the valuable material on Bolton that the longtime board member and supporter of the Historical Society of Woodstock, Jean White bequeathed to the organization, which includes a large and important collection of paintings, prints and drawings by the artist, as well as miscellaneous photographs, clippings, and copies of his magazine The Clatter.

8-Ruff, p. 3.

9-“Lithographers Busy,” Kingston Daily Freeman, December 12, 1932, p. 2. Bolton was aware of Arnold’s involvement at the Woodstock Artists Association, and noted in the June 1930 issue of The Clatter that there was “a lithography school” located there. Noosie Ferret [Clarence W. Bolton], “Heard on the P. O. Rail” The Clatter (June 1930) p. 12.

10-“Lithographers Busy,”., p. 2.

11- Patricia Phagaan, Made in Woodstock: Printmaking from 1903 to 1945 (Poughkeepsie, New York: The Francis Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, 2002), p. 47.

12-Grant Arnold, “Interviews with Grant Arnold,” University of New York College at Oswego, 1978, p. 79.

13-I would like to thank Andrea Ko, Associate Registrar, The Newark Museum of Art for providing information and images of the prints by Bolton in the museum’s collection.

14-Arnold, pp. 74-75. I would like to thank Michael Flanagan, Director, Tyler Art Gallery, State University of New York at Oswego, for his help in securing relevant pages from the Arnold interviews. Bolton’s work with Arnold ended in 1939. The following year the printer moved to Washington, D.C. to work for the Coast and Geodesic Survey.

15-Ibid., pp. 75, 78-79.

16-Kathy Zimmerer, “The Woodstock Landscape: A Continuing Tradition,” otherwise unidentified newspaper article, Woodstock Artists Association Archives.

17-I would like to thank the painter and printmaker Richard Pantell for sharing his thoughts on Bolton’s approach to drawing on the stone in the collection of the Historical Society of Woodstock in an email of January 19, 2022. in a telephone conversation,


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