Wanda Gag (Biographical details)

Wanda Gag (printmaker; painter/draughtsman; Hungarian; American (USA); Female; 1893 - 1946)

Also known as

Gag, Wanda; Humphreys, Earle Marshall

Biography

Wanda Gág was born in New Ulm, Minnesota, the daughter of the painter Anton Gág, an émigré from Austro-Hungarian Bohemia. She studied at the Minneapolis School of Art from 1914 to 1917, where she met Adolf Dehn (cat. 59) and together they moved to New York in 1917 on an Art Students League scholarship. Her teachers included Frank Vincent DuMond, Kenneth Hayes Miller and Robert Henri, who gave her composition classes. She was taught etching by Mahonri Young and attended lectures by John Sloan. Her first prints were drypoints and date from 1918.

Gág first took up lithography with Dehn in 1920, when George Miller pulled her first print; he remained her lithographic printer for the rest of her career. Although she also made linocuts, wood-engravings and drypoints, lithography became her principal medium, and some sixty-five of her 122 prints are lithographs. Between 1923 and 1926 she experimented with a technique she had discovered of using sandpaper as a matrix, which gave her lithographs a soft and grainy tone. Her work was sold through the Weyhe Gallery, New York, where its director, Carl Zigrosser, became a close friend. Throughout the 1930s her prints were well received, and a number of her lithographs, including Grandma's Kitchen, 1931 (Winnan 82), were selected among the Fifty Prints of the Year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

Drawn to nature and to country life, Gág rented a rickety old house in Glen Gardner, New Jersey, which she named 'Tumble Timbers'. Here she spent her most productive period during the summers and autumns from 1925 to 1930. In 1928 Gág's children's book, Millions of Cats, which she had written and illustrated, was published. Its huge success brought her financial security for the first time, and royalties from this and her other children's books saw her through the Depression. Gág was a consummate draughtsman, and her deft line was readily translated into her prints. Her last lithographs date from 1944; her health failing, she was diagnosed with lung cancer, and died in 1945.

The British Museum owns twelve prints and a drawing by Gág, presented by Carl Zigrosser in 1967. A comprehensive collection of her prints, together with many of her zinc plates, is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her letters and dairies are held by the Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvannia, Philadelphia.

Bibliography

Audur H. Winnan, 'Wanda Gág: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Prints', Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1993