Atelier 17 in America: 1940–1955


Atelier 17 in America: 1940–1955


October 26, 2010–February 20, 2011


Between 1927 and 1939, British-born Stanley William Hayter ran a printmaking studio in Paris, eventually named Atelier 17 after the street number of its final location on the rue Campagne-Première, which became known throughout Europe as a place where artists could investigate the full potential of engraving and other intaglio processes. With the advent of World War II, Hayter closed the studio and moved to New York City. There, in the fall of 1940, he reopened Atelier 17 initially under the auspices of the New School for Social Research and then as an independent workshop in Greenwich Village. Artists from all over the country were drawn to the studio, where, for nearly fifteen years, until its closure in 1955, they produced some of the most visually compelling images of the twentieth century.

By the time he settled in the United States, Hayter had been exploring certain aspects of Surrealism in his own work for several years, in particular the employ of automatism, or automatic drawing, in an effort to reveal the primal sources of myth. A number of artists who attended the New York space developed similar propensities, and the resulting imagery, often violent and psychologically penetrating abstractions, provided one of the signature expressions for the atelier. Rather than proselytizing for any single approach, though, Hayter was more interested in promoting an atmosphere of experimentation and collaboration. The prints thus produced by the workshop, despite the often disparate stylistic preferences of their authors, almost uniformly evidenced the graphic innovations—imprinted textures, heavily embossed lines (gauffrage), and multicolor plates—that likewise came to characterize the Atelier 17 aesthetic.

Selected entirely from the Palmer Museum’s permanent collection, the prints in this exhibition demonstrate the range of imagery issued by members of Atelier 17 during its American years. The works on view include two engravings executed by Hayter during his tenure in the United States; intaglios by Mauricio Lasansky, Gabor Peterdi, André Racz, each inspired in part by Picasso’s Guernica; several virtuosic sheets by Letterio Calapai and Minna Citron, both of whom owe their forays into abstraction to their experiences with Atelier 17; and important graphic experiments by sculptor Louise Nevelson and abstract expressionist Theodore Brenson.


Palmer Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University


These images are posted publicly for non-profit educational uses, excluding printed publication. Other uses are not permitted.

Items in the Atelier 17 in America: 1940–1955 Collection

Anatomy of Magic
Born in Grodno, Russia, Philip Kaplan moved to the United States with his parents and siblings in 1911. The family settled in Cleveland, where eventually Kaplan, largely self-taught as an artist, flourished as a commercial painter. His introduction…

Perseus Beheading Medusa IV
André Racz was born in Cluj, Romania. He studied art at the University of Bucharest before coming to the United States in 1938, initially as a member of the Romanian avant-garde to work on the Romanian Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. He…

Hunter Hunted
Hungarian-born Gabor Peterdi began his career as an artist at the age of fifteen, when he travelled to Italy on a Prix de Rome scholarship for painting. After a year of study, he settled in Paris, where he associated with a number of artists active…

Men Seldom Make Passes
Minna Citron was born in 1896 in Newark, New Jersey, and received her formal training in painting in New York City, at the School of Applied Design for Women and then at the Art Students League. In the 1930s, she became widely known and respected for…

Squid under Pier
Two years after completing Men Seldom Make Passes, Citron more fully realized the potential for abstract expression in Squid under Pier. Influenced by Hayter’s predilection for Surrealist automatism, as well as his interest in water and its…

Flight to Tomorrow
Although several extant examples of Flight to Tomorrow, including the Palmer Museum copy on view here, have been dated 1948 by Citron, the print is given to 1949 in the catalogue for the artist’s exhibition of graphic work at the New School, held…

La Valse
Letterio Calapai was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Although his family was not wealthy in the usual sense, it was, as the artist would later recount, “rich in the pleasures of music, poetry, and art.” His father loved poetry and his…

It is finished<br /><br />
No. 6 from The Seven Last Words of Christ
Like many of Calapai’s intaglios from the 1950s, the imagery in It Is Finished, masked in part by the use of an additional color stencil, does not immediately reveal itself. Only when the series to which it belongs is known can the viewer somewhat…

One of the last prints produced by Hayter during his New York tenure, Octopod displays, in addition to the artist’s typically virtuosic engraving, two of Atelier 17’s most widely recognized trademarks. Virtually all of the tonal areas were…

Jeux d’eau
Perhaps the most significant contribution made by Hayter and his colleagues at Atelier 17 is the development of a method for printing a multi-colored intaglio plate in one operation. Hayter’s earliest color engravings, produced just after he…