CHESTER – A luminous field of dandelions drawn in pale silvery gray graphite, rendered with breathtaking precision and delicacy, hangs above the fireplace in the front room of the Chester Gallery.
“I can work on a drawing for a long time. I’m now working on a drawing – it’s on my dining table – which I started probably six months ago, ”said artist Richard Ziemann, who exhibits around 70 of his drawings, etchings and prints at the gallery from October 1 to November 20, with works by his sons, Eric, Jeremy and Kurt Ziemann.
Ziemann, who has lived in Chester for 54 years, is known for his highly detailed black and white landscapes, but this exhibition will include some of his previously unseen color paintings.
“I’ve always done both, but I just didn’t show the paintings,” he told CT Examiner. “I’m not a great marketer. I still have a lot of them in my studio in boxes and just started taking them out. I have shown my prints all over the world, but never had time to show the paintings.
He says he has worked outdoors for years, making sketches and preliminary drawings which he brings to his studio.
“When it comes to etchings and engravings, I usually take the metal plate right on the outside and draw directly on the metal. It’s actually zinc and I coat it with this acid-resistant substance and scratch the image on this floor. Everywhere I scratch, the acid will eventually etch those areas into the plate when I bring it back to the studio, ”he said.
Ziemann said that engraving involves cutting directly into the metal plate with a tool called a chisel.
“You can cut very deep or very lightly, but you can also make a few changes if you want with what’s called a scraper, where I just remove the line and because of the pressure on the press, I will pull and will pick up on those lines anyway if this plate is a bit indented. I’ve seen Piranesi’s or Rembrandt’s plates, and they’re all kinds of different surfaces because [they] scratched a lot and changed zones so it’s quite flexible, ”he said.
Ziemann obtained a BFA and an MFA at Yale where he studied with Josef Albers. He then traveled to Holland on a Fulbright scholarship for a year. In 1963, he was invited to participate in an exchange exhibition in Russia where he met Norman Rockwell, who painted Ziemann’s portrait there.
He said he was able to purchase his engraving press after completing an order for the Pan Am building, designed by Walter Gropius. He and his family – and the etching press – moved from New York to Chester in 1967.
These days, Ziemann, 87, said he mainly turned to drawing because it is physically less demanding than printmaking.
He said he did a lot of drawings in his house, just looking out the windows.
“Right now, I know there’s a drawing I’d like to do from my living room window, so it’s sort of in the future. But it usually takes about two, three months to do a lot of the drawing, ”he said.
Sosse Baker, who opened the gallery in 1982 with her husband, Jack Baker, said Ziemann was one of the gallery’s first artists, along with Sol LeWitt. Baker is no longer the owner of the gallery. Nancy Pinney has been director of the gallery since 2019.
Baker said she was amazed when she saw the drawing “Dandelions”, which Ziemann produced in 1982.
“It’s not an engraving. It’s a pencil drawing. I have never seen it and have been here for 40 years. There is work here that I have never seen and we have treated Richard from day one at the gallery, ”said Baker.
The opening of “Richard Ziemann Drawings, Etching and Engravings” takes place on Friday October 1st from 5 pm to 8 pm. The show is open from October 1 to November 20. For more information, click here.
This story has been updated to correct the title of Richard Ziemann’s play, “Fallen Tree”, not “Woods in Green” as previously stated.