Antonio Frasconi, Argentine (1919 - )


Antonio Frasconi, born to Italian parents on April 28, 1919 in Buenos Aires, Argentina and raised in Montevideo, Uruguay, is one of the best known Latin American printmakers in both the Americas, Europe and Asia, where his work enriches principal collections, including the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C.

He studied painting and printmaking at the Círculo Artístico de Montevideo but soon abandoned painting for the print, gravitating toward the woodcut and the lithograph as his primary media. He moved to the United States with a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation in 1945 to study at the Art Students' League and, later, at the New School for Social Research.

By the early 1950s he was already recognized as one of America's foremost woodcut artists and since then has had an influential and revitalizing effect on the art of woodblock printing. By 1968 has was invited to represent Uruguay at the 34th Venice Biennial with a retrospective of his work.

He has supported mass-produced graphic art as a means to expose more people to artwork. His own work has been commissioned for advertising, magazine illustrations, record covers, Christmas cards, and a U.S. postage stamp.

His main focus has been on book illustration into which, like his contemporaries Ben Shahn and Lorenzo Homar, he integrates calligraphic text as part of the design of the print. His beautiful books, many of them for children, have helped introduce North America to the poetry of Lorca, Gabriela Mistral and Neruda and foment interest in the works of Whitman, Thoreau, Dylan Thomas and Poe.

In 1982 Frasconi was the Distinguished Teaching Professor of Visual Arts at the State University of New York at Purchase. His artistry was recognised by an award from the Guggenheim Foundation., 1953.
In 1959, Frasconi was unsuccessful when shortlisted for the Caldecott Medal for his book The House that Jack Built. However in 1971, when the Association for Library Service to Children of the American Library Association devised the idea of a Caldecott Honor, they retrospectively awarded the new secondary prize to a number of books including Frasconi's book.

In 1962, Frasconi won a Horn Book Fanfare award for The Snow and the Sun - La Nieve y el Sol a book he had created in two languages. He has frequently produced multilingual books.

Frasconi's students have included Adrian Lee Kellard and Ron Rocco.
His major work took ten years to complete and is a series of woodcuts that illustrate "The Disappeared". The work illustrates real people who were tortured and killed in his home country of Uruguay. Frasconi was four years into this work when democracy was restored following the dictatorship of Juan María Bordaberry through to General Álvarez. Bordaberry, who came to power in 1973, was jailed for crimes against humanity. The dictatorships, which ended with the military rule by Álvarez, ended in 1985. The regimes resulted in the deaths of political prisoners and in 2009 those involved in the murders are still being arrested.

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