The Boston Printmakers was founded by a small group of senior students and faculty at the Boston Museum School and the Massachusetts College of Art. They held their first meeting at the Wiggin Gallery at the Boston Public Library in the autumn of 1947. Their host at this first meeting was the late Arthur Heintzelman, a distinguished etcher and the Library’s Keeper of Prints. Also at attendance were Ture Bengtz, head of the Museum School’s graphic arts department and Otis Philbrick, head of the Massachusetts College of Art’s painting and graphics department. Both of these men continued to guide The Boston Printmakers until their deaths in 1973.
By the following spring the group mounted its first show, held of the fourth floor of the Paine’s Furniture Store. Visitors had to field an obstacle course of beds, sofas, bureaus, and other household furnishings. The full gamut of contemporary printmaking was represented – etchings and drypoints, lino cuts, engravings, lithographs, woodcuts, wood-engravings, and even the newly popular serigraph.
The debut was a stunning success, so much so that by the following year the Printmakers represented not only local artists but exhibitors from other parts of the United States as well as England and Canada. Works by conservative craftsmen such as Samuel Chamberlain and John Taylor Arms, found themselves in the company of the current avant-garde, leading one critic to remark, “The Boston Printmakers have shown a true democracy in their latitude and what appears to be freedom from preference of favoritism for either extreme or practice.”
This tradition persists. The Biennial national exhibition is open to all. The media range from the traditional to digital images, monotypes, and experimental mixed media prints. The many stimulating changes in printmaking over the past fifty years are amply represented.
The North American Print Biennial is one of the most prestigious events in printmaking. From 1954 to 1969 the exhibition was held at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Other hosts have included the Hayden Gallery at MIT, the Rose Art Museum, the Duxbury Art Complex Museum, the Fitchburg Art Museum, the Danforth Museum, Boston University, the Art Institute of Boston, and the DeCordova Museum.
The Boston Printmakers draws its membership from all parts of the United States and Canada. Membership is by jury, please see membership.