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 Doris Falkoff Seidler  (1912 - 1989)

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Lived/Active: New York / England      Known for: Painting, printmaking

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Following is the obituary of the artist, published online in The Guardian, U.K.

Doris Seidler, who has died aged 97, was a graphic artist of the old school: that is, she was a pupil of the painter and printmaker Stanley William Hayter in his fabled studio Atelier 17 – the New York chapter, not Paris.  One day, after some years, he casually remarked to Seidler, "I can't keep on taking your money," and invited her to use his studio as her own.  From Atelier 17, she launched an illustrious career.

Hayter, though English, had studied at the Académie Julian in Paris and stayed to open Atelier 17 in 1933; he then joined the wide evacuation of the avant-garde to New York in 1939.

Seidler, too, was English, born Doris Falkoff in London, where her father owned a leather goods shop in the West End. In her early 20s, she married a fur broker, Bernard Seidler. Together, in 1940, after the Dunkirk defeat, the Seidlers embarked for New York with their three-year-old son David, when Britain's situation was at its most perilous, especially for Jews.

They returned in 1945, arriving on VJ Day, and stayed through three years of austerity before Doris decided that New York was not too bad after all. During this English sojourn, she had her first solo exhibitions, in the art schools of Ipswich, Norwich and Great Yarmouth. In 1967 she showed at Editions, the gallery of the great printmakers Editions Alecto, and in 1991 at Pallant House, Chichester. Otherwise, all her shows were in the US or mainland Europe.

She was on her own a lot, especially after the war, when Bernard was usually absent for six months of the year making deals in the big fur markets of Leningrad (now once again St Petersburg) and Helsinki.  Doris had been an amateur artist before her marriage and, in her husband's absences, Hayter accepted her as a pupil in his wartime art classes, teaching the approach of Atelier 17, and then in the New York studio, which he had opened at the end of the war.  In pupillage to Hayter she learned not only the diverse techniques of gravure, but a philosophy centred on Hayter's overriding principle, "adequate motive", which means that superb skills are not enough.

Hayter himself had been introduced to surrealism in 1929 by André Masson and Yves Tanguy, and though automatism (a sort of inspired reverie of doodling) remained important to him, for Seidler the big thing was the matchless way surrealist space could be intimated in gravure, both by the furry line created by the burin – the engraving tool – throwing up a softly suggestive edge to the incision, and by the dark velvety depths created by aquatint, a method of stopping the eroding action of acid by spreading resin or sugar on areas of the etching plate.

The prints she first began to produce after Hayter's return to Paris in 1950 from her two studios, in NYC and near the family home at Great Neck, Long Island, looked like a modern take on Giambattista Piranesi's vertiginous views of Roman ruins. City III (1953) is a textured palimpsest of a city's physical reality overlapping its psychic life.  Blitzed Gothic (1957) was Seidler's response to the appearance of a war-damaged cathedral, Reims maybe, but a mesh of overlaid organic forms suggests a life above and beyond stone and glass.  Later, she began using colour, that is, colour laid in by a separate printing plate, not hand-painted, and combined with etching and sometimes aquatint. So Cathedral VI (1966) is the interior of a cathedral; in the centre is a window, but the whole interior, printed in vermilion, turquoise and yellow, shimmers like stained glass.

Even casual acquaintances adored Seidler for her vivacity and energy.  She was a tiny woman of not much more than 5feet, and as her hands and wrists became too weak to manipulate the etcher's burin, she increasingly took to making drawings and collages, serene abstracts which she produced until within six months of her death, some of which the British Museum has added to its collection of more than 40 of her works.  It is this depository of her work, together with others such as the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC and the US Library of Congress, which will maintain her reputation as a creative artist of a high order, because the lower cash value of the print medium condemns it to be a niche interest.

Late in life, Seidler decided it was time she had a vote in the affairs of the nation in which she had spent most of her life and all her career, and she became a naturalised US citizen. Her husband predeceased her, and she is survived by David, who produced a variant on the Seidler creative talent by becoming a writer for film and television: his screenplay for The King's Speech won a trophy in the 2010 British Independent Film Awards.

• Doris Seidler, graphic artist, born 26 November 1912; died 30 October 2010

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Doris Seidler, painter and printmaker, was born in London, England, 1912. She studied with Stanley William Hayter at Atelier 17 in New York. Ms. Seidler was a member of the Society of American Graphic Artists, the Society of Canadian Painter-Printmakers and the Print Club of Philadelphia.

Ms. Seidler exhibited in the Brooklyn Museum, the First Hawaiian National Print Exhibition, the Honolulu Academy of Arts; the Society of American Graphic Artists, the Kennedy Gallery, and many others. The Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institute, the Brooklyn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Seattle Museum of Art currently hold her work.

Articles including Ms. Seidler have been published in Artist Proof and Woodcuts of Fifteen American Cities from the Business Week Collection, illustrated, page 15.

Doris Seidler continued to work until her death on October 30, 2010.  Her later works were mostly collages, often incorporating pieces taken from early etchings and other prints.

Source: Annex Galleries

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