Charles Quest, 'Two Women', 1947, chiaroscuro woodcut, edition 25. Signed, dated, and numbered 11/25' in pencil. Annotated 'color woodcut “Two Women” in pencil in the lower left margin. A superb, richly-inked impression, on cream, wove paper, with full margins (7/8 to 3 1/8 inches), in excellent condition. Scarce. Image size 12 1/16 x 9 inches; sheet size 17 3/4 x 11 1/4 inches. Scarce. Matted to museum standards, unframed.
Included in Quest's solo exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, 1951.
Exhibited: Georgetown University Library, 'Charles Quest: Visions in Copper and Wood', May 15 - October 18, 2002.
Collections: Davis Museum (Wellesley College), Georgetown University Library.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Charles Quest (1904-1993), painter, printmaker, and fine art instructor worked in various mediums, including mosaic, stained glass, mural painting, and sculpture. Quest grew up in St. Louis, his talent evident as a teenager when he began copying the works of masters such as Michelangelo on his bedroom walls. He studied at the Washington University School of Fine Arts, where he later taught from 1944 to 1971. He traveled to Europe after his graduation in 1929 and studied at La Grande Chaumière and Academie Colarossi, Paris, continuing to draw inspiration from the works of the Old Masters.
After returning to St. Louis, Quest received several commissions to paint murals in public buildings, schools, and churches, including one from Joseph Cardinal Ritter, to paint a replica of Velasquez's Crucifixion over the main altar of the Old Cathedral in St. Louis. Quest soon became interested in the woodcut medium, which he learned through his study of J. J. Lankes' A Woodcut Manual (1932) and Paul Landacre's articles in American Artist magazine ‘since no artists in St. Louis were working in wood’ at that time. Quest also revealed that for him, woodcutting and engraving were ‘more enjoyable than any other means of expression.’
In the late 1940s, his graphic works began attracting critical attention—several of his woodcuts won prizes and were acquired by major American and European museums. His wood engraving entitled ‘Lovers’ was included in the American Federation of Art's traveling print exhibition in 1947. Two years later, Quest's two prize-winning prints, ‘Still Life with Grindstone’ and ‘Break Forth into Singing’, were exhibited in major American museums in a traveling show organized by the Philadelphia Print Club. His work was included in the Chicago Art Institute's exhibition, ‘Woodcut Through Six Centuries’, and the print ‘Still Life with Vise’ was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
In 1951 he was invited by artist-Curator Jacob Kainen to exhibit thirty wood engravings and color woodcuts in a one-person show at the Smithsonian's National Museum (now known as the American History Museum). Kainen's press release praised the ‘technical refinement’ of Quest's work: ‘He obtains a great variety of textural effects through the use of the graver, and these dense or transparent grays are set off against whites or blacks to achieve sparkling results. His work has the handsome qualities characteristic of the craftsman and designer.’
At the time of the Smithsonian exhibition, Quest's work was represented by three New York galleries in addition to one in his hometown. He had won 38 prizes, and his prints were in the collections of the Library of Congress, the Chicago Art Institute, the Metropolitan Museum, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In cooperation with the Art in Embassies program, his color woodcuts were displayed at the American Embassy in Paris in 1951.
Recognition at home came in 1955 with his first solo exhibition in St. Louis. The show's press coverage heralded the growth of graphic arts as a major independent medium comparable to painting and sculpture.
An exhibition of his prints at the Bethesda Art Gallery in 1983 attracted Curator Emeritus Joseph A. Haller, S.J., who began purchasing his work for Georgetown University's collection. In 1990 Georgetown University Library's Special Collections Division was the recipient of a large body of Quest's work, including prints, drawings, paintings, sculpture, stained glass, and his archive of correspondence and professional memorabilia. These extensive holdings, including some 260 of his fine prints, provide a rich opportunity for further study and appreciation of this versatile and not-to-be-forgotten mid-Western American artist of the twentieth century.
—edited from the introduction by LuLen Walker, Art Collection Curator, to the exhibition ‘Charles Quest: Visions in copper and Wood’, Georgetown University Library, 2002