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100 years of wood and copper print making displayed in library

Created over the span of 100 years, prints made out of copper and wood are now displayed in the Bender room located in the F.W. Olin Library. (Grace Forrest)
Created over the span of 100 years, prints made out of copper and wood are now displayed in the Bender room located in the F.W. Olin Library. (Grace Forrest)

Despite working nearly a century apart and in slightly different print media, master printers Roi Partridge and Richard Wagener are connected through their intricate and vivid portrayals of western landscapes. Displayed in the Heller Rare Book Room are a combination of Wagener and Partridge’s work — from mountains and trees to several rare cityscapes.

The prints span the 100 years between Partridge’s early 20th century copper etching of Mt. Rainier and an early 21st century suite of wood engravings by Wagener of trees on Donner Peak.

Both Partridge and Wagener create images using only lines but on two different mediums — Partridge with copper, and Wagener with wood. Darker colors are created by what is not etched, and the white lines create all the shades of gray and white.

“What I like about this exhibition is the counterpoint of the two printmakers, Wagener and Partridge. It is intriguing to see the two styles side by side,” Kathleen Walkup, director of the Mills College book art program, said in an email.

Janice Braun, associate library director and Special Collections curator, and Wagener designed the exhibit so that the connection between the work, the subject, and the artists is clearly made. The similarity between these men is evident, from Partridge and Wagener’s small metal chisels and other various tools sitting side by side, photos of both of them and their work interspersed together throughout the exhibit.

“[It’s] kind of exciting to highlight a printmaker and art department faculty that not many people know about,” Braun said.

In constant awe of nature, both Partridge and Wagener gravitated toward the majestic in the world —large outcroppings of rock, wind-blown trees and stark landscapes.

Mills faculty member of the art department from 1920-1954, Partridge served as department head and was the first director of the Mills Art Gallery.

“Partridge was an important and influential person at Mills, one of the Mills pantheon of artists and musicians whose legacy remains strong,” Walkup said. “I really appreciate our library focusing on two-dimensional works here; it demonstrates the diversity of library interests and collections.”

Partridge grew up in the state of Washington, but traveled to Europe in 1910 where he learned to etch in Munich. After the First World War, Partridge returned to Washington and began traveling the North West, exploring and re-creating the world through etching.

Roughly half a century younger, contemporary artist Wagener grew up in Southern California and spent much time exploring the Sierra Nevada and deserts with his grandfather. Originally trained as a painter, Wagener has been engraving for over thirty years.

The exhibit can be seen in the Heller Rare Book Room located in the F.W. Olin Library until March 13.


Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m.–noon

Monday 1:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Tuesday-Friday 1:00 p.m.- 5:00 p.m.