ITHACA, N.Y. -- The work in wood of Elfriede Abbe, illustrator, printer and sculptor, is being celebrated in an exhibition at Cornell University's Carl A. Kroch Library through March 27. The exhibition encompasses Abbe's private press books, wood block prints and wood sculpture from 1950 to 1994. A reception for the artist will be held Thursday, Feb. 15, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Carl A. Kroch Library. Abbe, who earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1940 from Cornell, was employed by the university as an illustrator from 1942 until her retirement in 1974. Since then, she has worked exclusively in her Vermont studio, printing her own private press books and sculpting.
The exhibition, curated by Ruth Copans, a humanities and special collections librarian at Skidmore College, and Donna Hassler, a doctoral candidate in art history from the City University of New York, is drawn from the Cornell University Library's extensive Abbe archival and book holdings, the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art and the artist's own collection. Included are a variety of works of art in different media, ranging from her early woodcut illustrations to her wood sculptures of animals and figures. The exhibition highlights the breadth of skill in the artist's work, demonstrating her versatility in typesetting, printing, illustrating and binding her own private press publications. Among the graphic works included in the exhibition are Aesop's Fables (1950), Garden Spice and Wild Pot-Herbs (1955), The Georgics of Virgil (1966) and Viollet-le-Duc's The City of Carcassone (1988). Sculptures range from The Bagpiper (1964) to Ram (1994).
Nationally recognized for her wood sculpture, as well as her woodcuts, Abbe has won numerous awards, including: a Tiffany Fellowship (1948) and a Roy Arthur Hunt Foundation Grant (1961); gold medals from The Pen and Brush (1964) and The National Arts Club (1970); and the National Sculpture Society's Barrett-Colea Prize (1984) and the Catherine Lorillard Wolfe Club Award (1993).
Examples of her graphics and sculpture can be found in collections in this country and abroad, from Washington, D.C., (National Gallery of Art) to WolfenbŸttel, Germany, (Herzog August Bibliothek). Locally, her work can be found in the Unitarian Church, the Tompkins County Public Library and Cornells Albert R. Mann Library.