Janet Doub Erickson

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Janet Doub Erickson (born Janet Ann Doub) is an American graphic artist and writer who popularized linoleum-block and woodblock printing in the post-World War II period, both through her art and through her writings. She was born to a pioneering Western Maryland farming family (the Doub (family)) in Hagerstown, Maryland in 1924.

Antecedence, youth, and education[edit]

Janet Ann Doub spent her early years in Boonsboro, Maryland, on farmland her father’s ancestors had settled in the eighteenth century and subsequently farmed continuously. She moved to New England in the nineteen thirties to be closer to her mother’s family, who were descended from New England's earliest pioneers. One direct ancestor, the aristocratic John Sherburne of Portsmouth, New Hampshire[1] numbered among New Hampshire's first English settlers, arriving there in 1632, a little more than a decade after the Mayflower landed on Cape Cod. Sherburne and his descendants settled New England and beyond as the frontier moved west. Mid-Atlantic, her father's Maryland forebears were the pioneering German Palatine Doub (family), active in Western Maryland before and after American independence from England. These pietist Doubs were early and active members of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. This conservative Trinitarian church claims to be the first Christian denomination founded in America[2] and from its early days took a strong stand against slavery.

Leaving Maryland in the late twenties, Doub spent the rest of her childhood in Winchester, Massachusetts, before moving south to begin college in Fredericksburg, Virginia. The experience was unfortunate. After dropping out of the University of Mary Washington, Erickson returned north to attend the Massachusetts College of Art, graduating in the nineteen forties, and founded with partner Paul Coombs “Blockhouse of Boston” soon thereafter, achieving commercial success with innovative approaches to block-printing. After marrying author Evarts Erickson in the 1950s, and adopting the name Janet Doub Erickson, she drove from New England to Mexico and lived for several years on a fellowship from The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation.[3] In Guadalajara and then Oaxaca she studied Mexican printmaking techniques and had several children, subsequently returning to a professorship in the United States.[4]

Artistic career[edit]

Lares & Penates, Boston, 1950 (linocut), by Janet Doub Erickson

Profiled and photographed by Gjon Mili in the now defunct newsweekly Life in 1951,[5] she was nicknamed “Jumping Janet” for her practice of jumping on her linoleum and wood blocks to make the ink stick deeper into the textiles she was printing. She was also the subject of profiles in the art magazines Craft Horizons[6] and American Artist[7], and won a first prize in textile design from the American Craftsmen's Council in 1954. In 1961, summarizing her textile-printing and design practices and popularizing them in the face of burgeoning public interest and a crafts revival, Erickson wrote Blockprinting on Textiles[8] (which went into two editions and a number of printings). A 1966 book she co-wrote with Adelaide Sproul, Printmaking Without A Press[9] popularized both traditional and her own more innovative linoleum (linocut) and wood-cut printing techniques at a time when block printing was on the verge of extinction in the United States. Fortuitously timed with a renaissance in interest in traditional crafts during the sixties, the book further spurred interest in Janet Doub Erickson's art, which at times was abstract and Modernist in style, but more often representational and often focused on the architectonic aspects of landscape. A deep interest in New England and its history pervades much of her work throughout her life.

Louisburg Square, Boston, 1954 (linocut), by Janet Doub Erickson

Despite creative forays into different styles, her painted work has been at times more traditional and occasionally rather whimsical in its outlook and execution. This contrasts rather dramatically with her textile design and execution, which is often considerably more innovative and Modernist. Her print "Lares & Penates", illustrating this article, was celebrated in American Artist for its bold blending of approaches.

She signs some of her work "JD Erickson".

During a long residence abroad, first in the village of Postira on the Croatian island of Brač, then in Venice, Italy and finally in Saudi Arabia, she focused primarily on landscape and genre painting, returning to the United States in the late nineteen-eighties. During this period, she furthered her lifelong interest in weaving and textiles, and wrote occasionally on these subjects.

In 1989 she published her early line drawings in the retrospective book Drawings of Old Boston Houses.[10]—a quintessentially architectonic work focused on her youth in New England. Her prints, drawings, and paintings have been purchased for the permanent collections of the Wadsworth Atheneum, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Saudi Arabian Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu. (She lived in the Middle East for a number of years and painted there.) She is also represented in private collections throughout the United States, Europe, and elsewhere.

Personal life[edit]

In the nineteen sixties she moved to California, where she lived for more than a decade prior to moving to Croatia (then-Yugoslavia), then Venice, Italy, and finally to the Middle East, before returning to California. In 2001 she moved to her long-time summer residence on Cape Cod, where she currently resides. In Wellfleet she has done historical research on New England vernacular housing.

Retired as a printmaker for several decades, in recent years she has written for a variety of textile and architectural magazines, and retired as well from her position on the Wellfleet, Massachusetts, Historical Commission.[11] She occasionally paints and shows and is active in community life in Wellfleet, a place she loved since her first visit there in the nineteen fifties and where she now lives on the edge of a salt marsh in the heart of the village.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Some Descendants of Henry and John Sherburne of Portsmouth, N.H. (Boston, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1904)
  2. ^ Church of the United Brethren in Christ
  3. ^ http://www.louiscomforttiffanyfoundation.org; "Tiffany scholarships in painting were awarded to..in graphic arts..to Janet Doub..." (http://www.archive.org/stream/newinternational008502mbp/newinternational008502mbp_djvu.txt).
  4. ^ From 1955-1959 at SUNY Buffalo New York
  5. ^ Life Magazine, July 9th, 1951, Gjon Mili
  6. ^ Craft Horizons, Feature Article, 1957
  7. ^ American Artist, April 1957
  8. ^ Watson-Guptill, 1961
  9. ^ Van Norstrand Reinhold, Boston, 1966
  10. ^ Abt Books, Boston, 1989
  11. ^ Current members of Wellfleet Historical Commission: http://www.wellfleetma.org/Public_Documents/WellfleetMA_BComm/historical