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California Society of Printmakers Celebrates 100 Year of Printmaking: 1913-2013


Atop Nob Hill at the Mark Hopkins Institute of Art (long before it became the San Francisco Art Institute), four artists decided that Joseph Pennell was right: it was time to organize printmakers for the upcoming Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE). Those four founding artists were: Robert B. Harsh, Pedro J. Lemos, Gottardo Piazzoni, and Ralph Stackpole. Its first exhibition was held in April, 1913 on San Francisco’s Sutter Street, the same year that membership was extended to artists throughout the U.S.

From its inception, California Society of Etchers (CSE) exhibited all print media, including wood cuts, lithographs, serigraphs, and monoprints. Incorporated in 1914, its first Constitution was published in 1915 with 15 charter members, including John Winkler (Winks), Isabelle Percy, Worth Ryder, Armin Hansen, Louis Mullgardt, and Spencer Macky. 1915 is the same year that CSE organized the prints section of PPIE, which showed the largest collection of original art ever seen in the United States.

In the 1920s CSE had three times as many patron members as artist members, among them were Albert M. Bender, the Moore Achenbachs, the Milton Esbergs, the J.D. Zellerbachs, the Sigmund Sterns, Mrs. Walter A. Haas, and the Duncan McDuffies. Nicolas Dunphy, Executive Secretary of CSE from 1932 until 1955 began sending the Annual members’ exhibitions traveling, beginning three decades of world-wide traveling shows.
In 1955, two young printmakers, Will Peterson and Mel Strawn, recent graduates from California College of Arts, announced themselves as the Bay Printmakers Society (BPS). They sponsored six national print competitions: three at the Oakland Museum, two at the Achenbach Foundation at the Legion of Honor, and the last at the San Francisco Museum of Art. Charter members of BPS included Beth Van Hosen, John Ihle, and Nathan Oliveira.

In 1968 Elizabeth Ginno, secretary of CSE, approached Karl Kasten, president of Bay Printmakers, suggesting a merger. Remarkably, in one short meeting the merger was accomplished and the two organizations became one, California Society of Printmakers.

CSP continues its early tradition of staging an annual membership exhibition and a variety of other exhibition opportunities throughout the year for its members. In its 98 years, CSP has sponsored over 170 print exhibitions. Studio visits, exchange of technical information, panel discussions, a journal, The California Printmaker, and an annual meeting round out its yearly activities. Artist members are admitted several times per year via portfolio reviews, with an average of 250 artist members in the Society. Non-artist memberships are available at associate, patron, business, and institutional levels.

Current honorary members of CSP include Wayne Thiebaud, William T. Wiley, Enrique Chagoya, David Berona, Roy Ragle, Karl Kasten, Karin Breuer, Kathan Brown, Archana Horsting, and Juan Fuentes.

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