Lions, Billy Goats, Bears, and a Corgi or Two – A Visual Zoo Is Unleashed at the Williamson Gallery

Badgers, crocodiles, flamingos, sheep and a tortoise, too: The Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery has received a veritable zoo of animal images gleaned from the engaging work of the late artist, Beth Van Hoesen.  These delightful prints and watercolors came to Scripps College courtesy of the E. Mark Adams and Beth Van Hoesen Adams Trust. In total, the gallery received 42 pieces, some of which will be displayed in its upcoming exhibition devoted to images of animals in the Scripps collection. This exhibit will be open during the summer of 2012 by appointment only.

While highly respected within the national printmaking community, Van Hoesen concentrated not on large or dramatic themes, but rather on the modest beauty that captivated her. She focused on animals, vegetables, flowers, and people. Having spent most of her life near San Francisco, she is often associated with the mid-century Bay Area figurative movement, which broke away from Abstract Expressionism. Yet, Van Hoesen developed an individual style that was devoted to line and shape. Paying close attention to natural lines and open space, she united the concrete and the abstract to bring the creatures she portrayed to life.

Director Mary MacNaughton commented, “This generous gift of Beth Van Hoesen’s prints and watercolors of animals will be featured at the Williamson Gallery this summer in the exhibition, ‘Beasts Big and Small from the Scripps College Collection.’ The Van Hoesen animal prints will join ceramic horses and camels, painted dragons and peacocks, as well as photographed birds and dogs in this rich menagerie of images.”

Working mainly with intaglio printmaking, which involves etching, aquatint, drypoint, and engraving, Van Hoesen focused on communicating emotion through depictions of physicality. Van Hoesen accomplished this by meticulously, even scientifically, studying her subjects. Only after creating numerous sketches, would she produce the prints that captured her subject. This is especially true of her depictions of animals, each of which is infused with Van Hoesen’s interpretation of its distinct personality. These works invite an intimacy between the viewer and subject.

Image: Beth Van Hoesen, Walt Badger, Detail, Lithograph on Paper, 15 1/2 x 15 in., Gift of the E. Mark Adams and Beth Van Hoesen Adams Trust.