Stanley Boxer is best known for his paintings, large scale abstractions with a rich sculptural quality produced by thick, impasto brushwork. Born in New York, where he studied at the Art Students League, Boxer was championed for such work by American modernist critic Clement Greenberg (1906-1994), famous for his insistence that painters should eliminate subject matter in their work, aiming instead for the purity of abstraction. When considered in relation to his paintings, the prints Boxer produced at Tyler Graphics between 1975 and 1979 seem somewhat of an anomaly. Over this period, he created several series of intricately rendered figurative works, illustrating whimsical scenes featuring animals, plants and nubile winged figures. Boxer had, however, been making drawings of this nature throughout his career, and he insisted they were closely connected to his abstracts, made with similar gestures and motivation.
Tate received twenty-five of Stanley Boxer’s prints as part of the Tyler gift, comprising a complete portfolio of Ring of Dust in Bloom, 1976, an incomplete portfolio of Carnival of Animals, 1979, and two individual prints. This work is from Carnival of Animals, a portfolio of fourteen intaglio prints on handmade paper. Tate holds eleven of the prints from this portfolio (Elephants, Swan and Fossils are not in Tate’s collection). Each work in the portfolio is produced in an edition of twenty with nine artist’s proofs.
Boxer worked with staff at Tyler Graphics between November 1977 and September 1979 to complete this series. The prints were inspired by the musical score Carnival of Animals written in 1886 by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921). Eleven individual animals from the score are illustrated in Boxer’s suite, which also features representations of the pianist and of a grand finale.
These works were printed on newly made, coloured paper while the paper was still wet. The paper was coloured with pulps and dyes, resulting in the unique colouration of each work. In addition, the inking process, completed by Boxer from a palette of fifteen colours, resulted in differences between each impression of the plates.
Boxer drew his images on copper plates using a variety of techniques, including etching, aquatint, engraving, drypoint and soft ground. He also engraved images on Plexiglas plates to print along the borders of the prints. The copper and Plexiglas plates were clamped together to be printed simultaneously by a technician.
Sean Rainbird (ed.), Print Matters: The Kenneth E. Tyler Gift, exhibition catalogue, Tate, 2004.
Tyler Graphics Catalogue Raisonné, 1974-1985, Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis, USA, 1987, pp.66-77, reproduced p.87 in colour.
Stanley Boxer: Carnival of Animals, Tyler Graphics, New York, 1979, reproduced in colour, unpaginated.