Leonard Baskin
American, 1922–2000




Although perhaps best known for his sculpture, Leonard Baskin was also widely appreciated for his woodcuts, lithographs, and etchings. No matter the medium, though, throughout his career he remained steadfastly attached to figurative art, a courageous road to follow particularly at the start—in the early 1950s—when the pull of abstraction was difficult to resist for most American artists. “Our human frame,” he once explained in an oft-quoted statement from 1960, “our gutted mansion, out enveloping sack of beef and ash is yet a glory. Glorious in defining our universal sodality and glorious in defining our utter weakness. The human figure is the image of all men and of one man. It contains all and can express all.”

Baskin’s attitude toward humankind was not gracious. With echoes of the wars and other instances of oppression and injustice that marked much of the twentieth century resonating just beyond our view, his efforts seem to regularly reflect upon the darker aspects of the human condition. He could be most acerbic when, as with the etching of the ill-fated Icarus on view here, he merged the human figure with his predilection for ornithology to create an especially imperious image:

"Inevitably I couple man and bird, pairing their monstrousness, a device of deadliness, a mutuality of terror. The predacious in man and bird melded to typify man’s uglier nature, to join man to the intentless beast, to render acutely perceptible man’s stupefying, intentful capacity for horror."


Palmer Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University




This image is posted publicly for non-profit educational uses, excluding printed publication. Other uses are not permitted.


Etching; 5-7/8 x 4 in. (14.9 x 10.2 cm)