"I cannot say exactly when my career as a bookwright and wood engraver began. I had my first lessons in book binding in grade three and "printed" my first book on the family typewriter, adding hand-drawn illustrations. On the very afternoon that I made my first wood engraving in a studio class at University I felt the desire to make this medium my own, supported by an awareness of the traditional connection between wood engraving and the book. Although I have always been more comfortable with tradition than innovation, I do not consider myself to be a mere copy of a nineteenth-century artist.
I did not set out originally to be a "Jack-of-all-trades". I dreamed of founding a community of like-minded souls all involved in the book arts, from writers to bookbinders. I believed that the first printing press I bought would, with its metallic presence, act as a magnet for those who loved both language and craftsmanship. If I failed, however, to draw together those kindred spirits, I have succeeded in achieving the enviable position of being able to conceive a project, give the vision a material form, and market the result all by myself, unlike many authors who must persuade agents, publishers, printers, distributors and retailers in order to reach their audience.
I aim to integrate my work with my life in general as completely as possible, both spatially and temporally, with each enriching the other. My work-room becomes my dining-room when I entertain my friends, and the fruit and vegetables I serve will likely have served as subjects for a sketch before they are served as a meal. Stirring a soup may well provide an interlude between engraving a block and printing it. This weaving together of the strands of my life leaves each vulnerable to disturbance from another, but I would have it no other way. The location of my studio/home on a main street in Stratford allows the interested public to penetrate into my workplace, creating the possiblility of building mutual esteem between the producer of art and its consumer. I believe that I am achieving a relationship that was normal in medieval times but rare in the intervening centuries of specialization and compartmentalization."
- G. Brender à
In a world where form and content are so often at odds, the still, reflective, unhurried wood engravings of Gerard Brender à Brandis deliver a powerful synthesis of the two. Carving fine white light into the black "canvas" of a wood block is, in itself, a meditative process, and one which lends itself to Brender à Brandis' timeless subjects. He restores, with exacting detail, the small, forgotten wonderments of the world around us: an abandoned barn; an empty room glimpsed through a doorway; a solitary beetle; a single flower. The stark contrast of black and white throws every subject into vivid relief, bringing out the intense and immediate power of simple structures, their pure, unenhanced lines.
Gerard Brender à Brandis was born in Holland, and came to Canada with his family when he was five. After living in British Columbia and Nova Scotia he eventually settled in Stratford, Ontario, where he lives and maintains an open studio. Although he graduated with a Fine Arts Degree from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, he studied wood engraving and the art of making books on his own. A celebrated printmaker and illustrator, Brender à Brandis is also an accomplished bookwright. Combining the arts of paper-making, wood engraving, typesetting, printing, bookbinding, and spinning, dyeing and weaving flax into linen book covers, he produces his own limited-edition, hand-made books. He is currently working on a book project of all the flowers mentioned in the plays of William Shakespeare, which will be illustrated by over fifty floral engravings and may take several years to complete.
Brender à Brandis has had solo exhibitions almost every year since 1965, as well as numerous group shows. His work is included in both public and private collections, and public and university libraries from coast to coast in Canada and the United States.
Name: Gerard Brender à Brandis
Media: Wood engraving, paper making, binding, book production
Studio: Stratford, Ontario
Education: McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, BA in Fine Arts
History; Private Study
Selected permanent collections:
National Gallery and National Library, Ottawa, Charlottetown Confederation Centre for the Arts, P.E.I., London (Ontario) Public Library and Art Gallery, Metropolitan Toronto Library, Concordia
Univ. Library, Montreal, Quebec; New York Public Library, Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton, Ontario; Hunt Botanical Library at Carnegie-Mellon Univ. of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Selected Solo Shows:
Carnegie Gallery, Dundas, Ontario, 1988
Victoria College, Univ. of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, 1973, 1983
Alice Peck Gallery, Burlington, Ontario, 1967, 1969, 197l, 1972,
Lyghtesome Gallery, Antigonish, N.S. 1988
Memorial Univ., St. John's, Newfoundland (travelling), 1984-1987
Grimsby Public Art Gallery, Grimsby, Ontario, 1980
Burlington Cultural Centre, Burlington, Ontario, 1979
Gallery Stratford, Stratford, Ontario, 1975, upcoming 1994
Selected Group Shows:
Craft Gallery, Tornto, Ontario, with Annagret Hunter-Elsenback, 1979
Sarnia Public Gallery, Sarnia, Ontario, with David Blackwood, 1974
Centennial, Gallery, Oakville, Ontario with Robert Held, 1970
Burlington, Ontario, with Madzy Brender à Brandis, 1965
Oct. 22 - Nov. 28, 1994: Solo Show, Gallery Stratford, Stratford, Ontario
"The lines are rich and black, and the images...are like pastoral poems...Brender à Brandis' ability to capture mood is unparalleled."
The Windsor Star, Windsor
"His sensibility as an artist is reminiscent of the Hawthorne story, 'The Artist of the Beautiful,' in which a watchmaker finds beauty in smallness and abhors the enormity and power of modern industrialism."
Books in Canada, Toronto
Gerard Brender à Brandis lived in Nova Scotia for a year as a young teen and enjoys returning to the Atlantic provinces to visit and sketch with the perspective of one "from away". This farmstead is located along the road outside of Amherst, Nova Scotia heading towards the coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Although the construction of the buildings is typical of much of the turn of the century architecture in the Maritimes the unusual fact that the house and the barn are connected is what caught his eye. He has always been particularly fascinated with how architecture reflects the patterns of peoples' lives as well as how buildings and the use and division of space in turn affects their lives and cultural habits.
Wood engraving in black and white; Edition 250; Size 6 5/8" x 4"; 1988;
Wood engraving in black and white; Edition 200; Size 5 7/8" x 8 7/8" (horizontal); 1988; $80.
Large gabled apple barn with a stone foundation flanked by trees still bare and ground still covered with snow.
Wood engraving in black and white; Edition 250; Size 7 7/8" x 10 7/8" (horizontal); 1984; $100.
A flock of Canada geese enjoy the open water, the ice and pebbled shore of a small pond against a background of snow banks and thick varied woods.
Wood engraving in black and white; Edition 100; Size 6" x 9" (horizontal); 1991; $75.
A masterpiece composed of three individual wood-engravings, side by side, following the same garden through the seasons of spring, summer and fall. The images are lush and abundant tangles of flowers and foliage, with exquisite botanical detail.
Wood engraving in black and white; Edition 100; Size 5 3/8" x 8 3/4",
7 7/8" x 8 3/4", 5 3/8" x 8 3/4"
(horizontal); 1987; $150.
A full bloom display against a mass of dark leaves, filling the full image.
Wood engraving in black and white; Edition 200; Size 5 3/8" x 8" (horizontal); 1985; $70.
A lovely spread along the mossy forest floor of the spotted leaves and delicate blossoms of "trailing arbutus", native to Eastern Canada, sketched in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia.
Wood engraving in black and white; Edition 250; Size 4" x 5" (vertical);