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Orchard Street
1947 Woodcut



From The Dauer Collection

Woodcut on Paper
29.5"x19.5" framed, 22"x13" unframed

Entitled Orchard Street, this 1947 woodcut on paper cityscape is signed and dated in the lower right by the artist Ruth Leaf. Excellent vintage condition. Framed in a restored vintage wood frame with a textured copper finish using 8-ply archival matting behind conservation clear glass.

About the Artist

Ruth Leaf (1923-2015) was born and raised in Brighton Beach, New York. At nineteen, she enrolled in classes at the Art Students League, a decision her parents—both immigrants from Russia—had mixed feelings about, given the profession’s economic challenges. At the League, she honed her practice in the graphic arts by studying with Harry Sternberg, for whom she served as a studio monitor. In the early 1940s Leaf married Hersch Lerner; Sternberg was unsupportive of Leaf’s decision to start a family (the couple had two daughters born in 1943 and 1947). Given Sternberg’s attitude, she decided to pursue further studies in printmaking elsewhere and became a member of Atelier 17 around 1945–46. She worked during the day while her mother watched her young daughter, later recalling that the studio was a bustling hub of activity and reporting that she learned a tremendous amount through both direct instruction from Hayter and collaboration with others. She showed with Atelier 17 twice at the Leicester Galleries (1947) and Laurel Gallery (1949) and exhibited in other national print competitions. During the 1950s her prints were expressionistic woodcuts that featured jazz musicians—she frequented the city’s jazz clubs—and the amusement parks and beaches of Coney Island, near where she had grown up. In the late 1960s she founded the Ruth Leaf Studio in Douglaston, Queens, which she operated until the 1990s. Classes were structured around three primary exercises: aquatint, soft ground etching, and color viscosity printing, which Hayter had been developing during Leaf’s time at Atelier 17 (in fact, Leaf’s students called their viscosity prints “Hayters”). Success in a student’s first plate was key to Leaf’s approach, and she made sure to instruct about even the smallest details, such as the necessity of removing grease from the plate surface before applying grounds, as reflected in her comprehensive 1976 printmaking manual. 68^ Leaf practiced printmaking well into her eighties, even after her relocation to Venice, California, and reserved several hours per day for studio time. Her prints from the 2000s were mostly abstract and vibrantly colored.

About the Collector

John A. Dauer (1933-2017) was a collector of many things, the vast majority of which convey stories of hard work, craftsmanship, industry, unsung histories, and associations with those he loved and respected. 

Born and raised on Staten Island, New York in 1933, John grew up among a close-knit family of entrepreneurial bakers, wood carvers, and leather merchants. He graduated in 1954 from Columbia College with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology.  He went on to work with his father John Sr., at the New York City-based John A. Dauer Leather Company.

During and after his undergraduate studies, John enrolled in painting, print making, and sculpture classes at Columbia, the New School for Social Research, and Greenwich House. Many of his teachers (including Margot Kempe and Peppino Mangravite) were recent European emigres and WPA artists, sympathetic to the themes of social realism and late modernism.

Although he made his living and supported his family as a leather salesman, John consistently maintained an interest in, and passion for, the creative work of artists and craft people throughout his life. The subjects and scale of his collecting varied over the years (from large 18th century cupboards to hand carved fishing lures), but let’s just say his houses and barns often resembled mini-Mercer Museums.

During his last 2 decades, John focused his collecting efforts on the work of print makers and painters who reminded him or were directly associated with those who influenced him during his New York youth. Images and the stories of sailors, stevedores, factory workers, craftsmen, pushcart vendors, musicians, stoop sitters, and artists abound.