Gil Cowley at Atelier 17: 1963-64
Born in Portland, Oregon, Gil Cowley (Gilbert Henry Cowley) studied at the Art Academy of Cincinnati (1959-1963), and then a further two years at the Cleveland Institute of Art (1964-1965). Between these two parts of his training, Cowley spent time in Paris working mostly at Atelier 17, thanks in part to the Wilder Traveling Award from his alma mater in Cincinnati. While there, from fall 1963 to spring 1964, Cowley soaked up both the technical and esthetic lessons provided by Stanley William Hayter and the many artists who frequented the studio assiduously. Both monochromatic and color compositions came out of Cowley’s hands at that time.
When Cowley arrived at Atelier 17, Bill Hayter continued to teach at the print shop regularly, he would designate younger “masters”, who would de facto run Atelier 17’s daily operations. This is how Gil experienced the shop when he got there: “Bill taught the newbies the color technique as well as burnishing and other techniques. He had a set sample test you had to master. I still have one he signed for me. I do not remember his wife Helen Philips coming into the workshop. It was his place. Krishna Reddy was the Master but he was rarely there. I believe Eugenio Tellez was then the default master. Bill came often, usually once or twice a week, and often in random visits. The atelier was always busy and ran pretty much as a coop. Everyone pitched in for supplies as needed: acid, varnish etc. Oddly we did not use rubber gloves in the acid baths as all US schools did. We just rinsed after we used them.”
The abstract landscape we present, titled Parc de Monsouris, renders what looks like the bright sunshine juxtaposed with a shaded area in one of Paris' numerous parks. This one is at the southern edge of the city. Cowley used the technique made famous by Atelier 17 and Hayter, in which all colors were printed in a single pass through the press. Artists used various viscosities of ink to separate one hue from the other.