I wrote the following for The Comox Valley Printmaker's Association for their Facebook page in a fit of enthusiasm when I was a member. Two people 'liked' it. I knew of this couple of artists and also of the Sampson-Mathews screen printing project (another post coming) that had straddled, I believe, WW2 and had been one of Canada's biggest art projects, but I didn't realize that the Markgrafs had continued the print mandate of Sampson-Mathews. I first became aware of the Markgrafs as printmakers in their own right in the late 70's, as makers of small evocative, reasonably priced, cheaply framed and very popular landscape screenprints of the west coast.
I discovered Peter and Traudle Markgraf around the time I left for art college and my family moved West; their own landscape silkscreens were to found in many galleries and I probably also saw them in magazines. A married couple, they studied art in Germany and arrived in Canada in the late 50's. Superb silkscreen artists, within a few years they essentially took over from where the Sampson/Mathews company left off, reproducing through silkscreen classics of Canadian painting for the National Gallery and a printing company. At the time of writing (the Facebook item) the print company Artistia, out of Montreal still dealt in these 'early' screen prints which could be purchased for 3-400 bucks. In the posted images below, is the silkscreen reproduction of Varley's 'Vera', which apparently required over 80 colour passes with the squeegee to achieve it's effect. It was probably sold through the National Gallery as were the Sampson-Mathews prints. Looking at their work of this period, even reduced to a jpg on a screen, I can't help but admire the skill and technique required to work in the various styles of the various artists whose work they reproduced. In that same era a significant interest in silkscreen seems to have developed as a result of the popularity of post-modern, graphic, and often optical art; in the US this seems to have been spearheaded by the likes of Roy Algren, and in US online galleries you can find Markgraf prints along with this artist and others. If you like blends you will love this stuff. I visited The Art Gallery Of Northumberland about 12 years ago and caught a superb exhibition of 'Markgraf prints'...during the 60's and early 70's it would appear the Markgrafs were involved with the production of of a folio of prints under the moniker 'Toronto 20' which included some of the big names in the Toronto area at the time; Harold Town and Joyce Weiland, Jack Bush, Robert Markle..., and Traudle's own work was included in this folio under her own name. Browsing online it appears the Markgraf's also produced silkscreen prints for the celebrated Anishinaabe painter Norval Morrisseau. The Markgrafs were obviously in great demand for their print skills.
Sometime in the late '70's print 'work' for the Markgraf's evaporated due to the typical fickleness associated with the visual arts. They found themselves underemployed and so packed up and headed out on the road travelling west and finally settling on the Sunshine Coast where where they developed their final print line, consisting of their own creations, which utilized their facility with blends to create ethereal aerial perspective in prints of Canadian and particularly West Coast landscapes. This is the era I first encountered their work; up and down the island to this day you can pick up Markgraf prints of this vintage for a few tens of dollars in 'empty the attic' auctions (see last 2 prints). They are often in their original ubiquitous 70's and 80's silver steel frames and potentially light damaged from years of enjoyment. After about 10 years on the coast Traudle apparently developed health issues related to printmaking and they packed it in and headed back to the Montreal area to retire. One final note; I have a hunch the Markgraf's started printing for BC artists Toni Onley and Stewart Marshal (the kayaking artist whose documentary surfaces over and over on the Knowledge Network, or used to). Or at least the Markgraf's set them up; there seems a distinct similarity in the use of blends, translucent ink and and high key grayed down colour arrangements. I think Marshal's prints of the coast are stunning; better than his watercolours.
Below are some Markgraf prints showing the extraordinary versatility of their art and methods. Someone, somewhere, some time needs to make a serious effort to researching and documenting the contribution this emigre couple made to Canadian visual art.
Above, the Markgraph's silkscreen impression of Varley's 'Vera'
Below, some impressions made of well known Canadian artists of the time and probably produced for sale at The National Gallery of Canada.
Below, Traudle Markgraf's contribution to a folio of screen prints by the Toronto 20.
Below, some of the Toronto 20's very 'Op' printmaking.
Finally, below, one of the Markgraf's own trademark landscape prints that were highly successful in the late 70's and early 80's. Google searches of the Markgafs will yield results for many more of this series of landscapes being sold at auction.