Robert Blackburn's "Blue Things" in the Figge Art Museum's “Robert Blackburn & Modern American Printmaking" -- through January 9.

Through Sunday, January 9

Figge Art Museum, 225 West Second Street, Davenport IA

The celebration of a key artist in the development of printmaking in the 20th century, as well as the artistic community that he created, Robert Blackburn & Modern American Printmaking will be on display at Davenport's Figge Art Museum through January 9, the exhibit a fascinating showcase of a talent who challenged the idea of lithography as a high-craft process.

Blackburn, who was born in 1920 and passed away in 2003, was an influential teacher and master printer who engaged with avant-garde ideas while promoting a new collaborative approach to the printmaking medium. The Figge's Robert Blackburn & Modern American Printmaking exhibition consequently features approximately 60 artworks, including lithographs, woodcuts, and watercolors, that trace Blackburn’s artistic evolution from figurative work to highly colored abstraction. These evocative and thoughtful creations will be on display alongside the art of his contemporaries, with works by Grace Hartigan, Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden, and other iconic artists with whom he collaborated included in the Davenport venue's fourth-floor gallery.

As stated at the Web site for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Blackburn “quietly but doggedly influenced the course of American art with his own graphic work. His legendary generosity and the effortless diversity of the workshop have been frequently acknowledged, as well as the impressive fact that he was the first master printer at Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE). There he produced the initial seventy-nine editions for artists including Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Larry Rivers. Blackburn’s own experimental color lithography before the 'print boom' of the early 1960s was crucial. After 20 years of single-minded commitment to lithography, his talents and predilections shaped the forms of printmaking adopted by these better-known artists.”

The Smithsonian site adds, “when his graphic oeuvre is assessed, we can see why he quickly developed a reputation for complex, multi-stone color lithographic experimentation and technical excellence. His key works shift between cubistic arrangements and color abstractions. In contrast to many African American artists of his generation, Blackburn chose to sidestep the weighty issues brought to the fore by figurative work. He placed his viewers before a window and plane simultaneously, at times conjuring three dimensions but always playfully insisting on the conventions of picturing, and always referring to the sheet, the stone, and the block.”

Robert Blackburn & Modern American Printmaking will be on display through January 9, with regular museum hours 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays (10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursdays) and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Museum admission is $4-10, and more information on the exhibition is available by calling (563)326-7804 and visiting

Support the River Cities' Reader

Get 12 Reader issues mailed monthly for $48/year.

Old School Subscription for Your Support

Get the printed Reader edition mailed to you (or anyone you want) first-class for 12 months for $48.
$24 goes to postage and handling, $24 goes to keeping the doors open!

Click this link to Old School Subscribe now.

Help Keep the Reader Alive and Free Since '93!


"We're the River Cities' Reader, and we've kept the Quad Cities' only independently owned newspaper alive and free since 1993.

So please help the Reader keep going with your one-time, monthly, or annual support. With your financial support the Reader can continue providing uncensored, non-scripted, and independent journalism alongside the Quad Cities' area's most comprehensive cultural coverage." - Todd McGreevy, Publisher