Artist: Donald Saff
Title: Leopard or Cheetah, big cats in interior
Medium: Etching with Aquatint, Hand signed and numbered in pencil
30 in. x 22.5 in. (76.2 cm x 55.88 cm)
Donald Jay Saff (born 12 December 1937) is an artist, art historian, educator, and lecturer, specializing in the fields of contemporary art in addition to American and English horology. Saff was born in Brooklyn, New York.
Donald Saff began his undergraduate degree at Queens College, City University of New York, in 1955, initially envisioning a career as an electrical engineer. However, the following year Saff changed his major to art and learned printmaking, to graduate with a B.A. in 1959 and a M.A. in art history from Columbia University in 1960. In the years following, Saff was awarded a M.F.A. from Pratt Institute in 1962 and an Ed.D. in studio art and art history from Columbia University in 1964. In his early career, Saff studied with Robert Goldwater, Robert Branner, Louis Hechenbleikner, and Meyer Schapiro.
Saff is primarily known for his work and collaboration with the leading artists of the late-twentieth century, including Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Nancy Graves, Philip Pearlstein, and James Turrell. Saff's prolific career is the subject of Marilyn S. Kushner's book, Donald Saff: Art in Collaboration (2010). Saff began his teaching career at Queens College as a lecturer in Art History, Design, and Drawing, from 1961 to 1964. In 1965, Saff was appointed as an associate professor in the visual arts department of the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida, and became professor and chairman of the visual arts department two years later. In 1971, Saff became the founding dean of the College of Fine Arts at U.S.F., and was awarded the rank of distinguished professor at the university in 1982. Saff was later named dean emeritus by USF in 1989, and distinguished professor emeritus in 1996. In 1999, Saff was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts at U.S.F. He was appointed the Director of Capital Projects of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, in 2001, followed by the appointment of Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings in 2002.
In 1968, Saff founded Graphicstudio at U.S.F. through funding by a seed grant from the Florida Arts Council and community supporters; the following year, Philip Pearlstein was the first artist invited to Graphicstudio to collaborate with Saff and his team. Saff became Founding Dean of the College of Fine Arts at U.S.F. in 1971. Under Saff's directorship, Graphicstudio collaborated with artists such as James Rosenquist, Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Anuszkiewicz, Shusaku Arakawa, Jim Dine, Lee Friedlander, Nancy Graves, Ed Ruscha, and Roy Lichtenstein. The collection of Graphicstudio is archived in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Graphicstudio was founded by Dr. Donald Saff as part of the renaissance in American printmaking in the 1960s, in the company of studios such as ULAE, Tamarind, and Gemini GEL. This renaissance brought artists involved in the Pop art movement, such as Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, and Jim Dine, together with a growing number of trained printmakers from around the world. After Saff retired from U.S.F., he continued to collaborate with these artists, as well as James Turrell, at Saff Tech Arts in Oxford, Maryland, which was established in 1991.
While Saff and Rauschenberg were traveling in China, Rauschenberg conceived of the Rauschenberg Overseas Culture Interchange (ROCI) in 1982, which began in 1984 with Saff as the artistic director. Saff travelled to over twenty countries and met with poets and writers in order to decide which were the most appropriate venues for the show and prepare for Rauschenberg's visit and exhibition.
In recent years, Saff has continued to lecture and write on art and the history and mechanics of nineteenth-century clocks; in particular, the work of Charles Fasoldt, in addition to the development of time distribution from the Harvard College Observatory, and the horological innovations of Richard F. Bond. He has lectured on Fasoldt for the Antiquarian Horological Association in Cincinnati, OH (2001), the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors in Pittsburgh, PA, and Anheim, CA (2003), and at the 26th Annual Ward Francillon Time Symposium in Houston, TX (2004), among other venues. Saff continues to work with the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, collaborating with Jonathan Betts and Rory McEvoy, on the trials of Burgess Clock B. (See "Honors.")
Saff's individual work spans across his career of collaborative art. As early as 1965, Saff produced Duino Elegies, a print suite that was published and exhibited by Martin Gordon Gallery in New York and at the Galleria Academia in Rome; it was acquired by the Library of Congress, the Brooklyn Museum, and Lessing Rosenwald. Saff also collaborated with printers Galli and Arduini in Urbino to create print suites Breezes (1969), exhibited and published by the Martin Gordon Gallery. Additionally, Saff collaborated with Galli on print suites Paradise Lost (1970) and Numbers (1972), the former printed in Tampa, FL, and exhibited at the Martin Gordon Gallery, the University of South Florida Gallery, the Toronto Art Gallery, and the Loch Haven Art Center, FL. Numbers was exhibited at Multiples Gallery, New York. In 1979, Saff produced print suite Fables that was published and exhibited by the Getler/Pall Gallery in New York, followed by the print suite Constellations (1980), which was also exhibited at the Tom Lutrell Gallery in San Francisco. In 1981, Saff had solo exhibitions of his artwork in the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Udine, Italy, Youngstown State University, OH, the Leo Castelli Gallery, NY, and in "Recent Acquisitions" at The Museum of Modern Art, NY. Additionally, Saff had solo exhibitions at Dyansen Gallery, NY (1982), at I. Feldman Gallery, Sarasota (1983), and at Edison Community College, FL (1988). In 1989, the retrospective Donald Saff: Mixed Metaphors, 1956–1989 was held at the Tampa Museum of Art and traveled to the Virginia Beach Center for the Arts, followed by his solo exhibition Winged Metaphors: Sculpture and Prints by Donald Saff at the Barbara Gillman Gallery in Miami later that year. In 1997, Brenau University Galleries exhibits Poetics: The Work of Donald Saff in Gainesville, GA. The same year, the Tampa Museum of Art exhibited Donald Saff/Robert Rauschenberg: In Collaboration. Finally, the Academy Art Museum in Easton, MD, exhibited Donald Saff: Gravity and Constellations; Selected Works in 2006.
Saff was awarded a Teaching Fellowship at Queens College (1960), a Yaddo Fellowship, Saratoga Springs, NY (1963), and Fulbright Fellowship (1964) to Italy where he studied at Istituto Statale di Belle Arti. While in Urbino, Saff met lifelong friend and colleague Deli Sacilotto, with whom he would co-author Printmaking: History and Process (1978) and Screenprinting: History and Process (1979). He received the Governor's Award for the Arts from the State of Florida in 1973, and was awarded the Florida Endowment for the Arts Individual Artist Grant in 1980. In 1997, Saff was awarded the title "Printmaker Emeritus" by the 25th Southern Graphics Council Conference in Tampa, F.L. In 2002, he was appointed as Visiting Distinguished Professor of Rhode Island School of Design.
In April 2015, Saff was awarded a certificate from the Guinness World Records for his work on completing the world's most accurate pendulum clock, "Clock B", which was started by Martin Burgess in 1975. The official title awarded by Guinness World Records, as "the most accurate mechanical clock with a pendulum swinging in free air is 'Clock B,' owned by Donald Saff (U.S.A.)" was presented on April 16, 2015, following the clock's 100-day trial at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich