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 Roselle Hellenberg Osk  (1884 - 1954)

About: Roselle Hellenberg Osk


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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: etcher, portrait, regional scene

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Virginia Osk Poli, South Setauket, New York, and daughter of the artist.

Roselle H Osk of Bayport, and New York City was born in New York City in 1884 and died there in 1954. Mrs. Osk was a graduate of Hunter College and a student at the Art Student's League from 1903-1906 and the National Academy (NYC) from 1912-1915. She began as a painter in 1920 and as an etcher in 1932. She is listed in "Who's Who in America" and "Who Was Who in America".

She is represented in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, "Hundred Selected Prints" 1937, 1938, 1941, and 1947; the Congressional Library, "Fine Prints of the Year, !938"; The New York Public Library; and the Smithsonian Institution, where she was given a one-man show. She is also in the permanent collection of the Corcoran Gallery ((Six O'Clock) and the National Gallery of Art (Sisters) both in Washington, DC.

Mrs. Osk was awarded prizes by the Philadelphia Print Club, 1938; The National Association of Women Artists, 1938, 1948; the Southern Printmakers, 1938; the Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC, 1945; the Laguna Beach Art Association, 1945. Her works are included in "America's Prize Prints of the 20th Century"; were in traveling American art shows all over the world; and most recently her etching, "Sisters" was reproduced in "Amerika", a LIFE type photo magazine produced by US information Agency for distribution throughout Russia.

She was a member of the Society of American Etchers; the National Association of Women Artists; the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts; Chicago Printmakers; Prairie Printmakers; and many other groups. She served on jury panels of numerous art shows, both in New York City and on Long Island, and she exhibited in many private art galleries, most continuously at the Milch Gallery, New York City.

Mrs. Osk did etchings of many local scenes on Long Island including the old oyster houses in West Sayerville, the Vanderbilt mansion in Oakdale, the Henry Perkins Hotel in Riverhead, Sagtikos Manor in Brightwaters, windmills in Blue Point, waterfront and creek scenes along the South Shore, the Harbor and main street of Port Jefferson, etc. Many are now of historic value, as they no longer exist as pictures. She was particularly interested in depicting African Americans, and many of her award winning entries were in that category. In any picture, she used for models only people who were really were what they appeared to be in the etching. She was commissioned to do many portraits, and is famous for her "Hands" series, of which "The Lumberman", "The baby", "Seamstress", and the "The Sailor" appear in this show.

Mrs, Osk did her etchings both in dry point and bitten, the two techniques of the etcher. In drypoint, the lines are etched into the plates with a diamond-point needle and mistakes can not be erased. In bitten, the plate is covered with a black masking wax, the design the cut or scratched through the wax, and the plate bathed with acid, which etches the cut parts of the plate.

Etching plates are now steel -faced so they do not deteriorate, and could theoretically be used endlessly; however most etchers artificially limit the number of prints produced from a plate to protect their value.

Mrs. Osk limited each series of her prints to 100, after which the plate was destroyed. "Imp" written after her name at the bottom of the print means she had printed it herself. Many etchers have the printing done entirely by commercial printers. Mrs. Osk had printing presses in both Bayport and Manhattan, and her children often used to help with the printing. Her children are George Osk, of East Northport; Richard Osk, a writer and senior editor of "Printer's Ink" of New York City; and Mrs. Kenneth (Virginia Osk) Poli, a former advertising copywriter, of Middle Country Road, Bayport, New York.

The printing of the etchings was quite and involved process. First the plate had to be heated to a certain temperature and inked all over. It was placed face up on the bed of the press and the paper ( a fine quality cream-colored Japanese paper) placed over it; blankets were placed on top of this to protect it from the rollers. Then this "sandwich" was rolled under and back through the rollers under heavy pressure. If the print was of good quality, it was numbered and signed and became part of the "series"; otherwise it was destroyed.

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