H.C. Westermann - Editions & Works on Paper New York Monday, October 24, 2022 | Phillips

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  • "The Connecticut Ballroom suite addresses a number of other issues of great interest to Westermann, including cruelty to animals, the menace of nuclear proliferation, world hunger, conservation, and ecological issues."
    —Dennis Adrian, Art Historian
    The Connecticut Ballroom series is an articulation of Westermann’s personal worldviews and fundamental concerns. The artist draws from his experiences fighting in the Korean War and traveling across the United States to construct satirized images of American landscapes and culture. Westermann’s vision of the world as a frightening and corrupt space is balanced by his humor, and his belief in the heroism and nobility of the individual. His scenes combine mythic tales with historical knowledge, as well as film, novels, and short stories that center around adventure and science fiction.

    In 1976, H.C. Westermann was on jury duty in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The intriguing building illustrated in the title page of The Connecticut Ballroom series is the Pyramid Temple, a Masonic lodge, which was situated across the street from the courthouse. The first color woodcut of the series, The Green Hell, appropriates the dangerous and exotic jungle settings from popular science fiction films in which paradise has descended into chaos. At the forefront of the composition, a figure wrestles with a large snake representing the battle between man and nature, calling attention to growing environmental issues. 

    The Green Hell. Estate of Joanna Beall Westermann

    Similarly, the Arctic Death Ship portrays the bleak dangers of polar exploration, the solitary nature of which is humorously emphasized by the presence of a lone polar bear. The title of the third color woodcut is a reference to the medieval allegorical concept of the Dance of Death, in which the living are confronted by their own mortality. Westermann subscribes to the traditional visual representation of the concept through his depiction of a youthful couple dancing in the shadow of death, symbolized by the moored Death Ship in the background of the scene. Deserted Airport N.M confronts the destructive effect of nuclear testing on the environment, a fear that encompasses Westermann’s anti-militaristic views as well as his concerns for ecological issues. Popeye and Pinocchio is perhaps the most positive woodcut of the entire series, depicting two popular characters from children’s literature who are celebrated for overcoming adversity through their heroism and courage. The final woodcut in the series, aptly titled Elephant’s Graveyard, examines the ecological threats faced by animals, as signified by the gaunt elephant wading through the shrinking waterhole, surrounded by the carcasses of fellow elephants and prepared vultures waiting to pounce. The Connecticut Ballroom exemplifies Westermann’s “commitment to articulating visually his own highly personal sensibilities, however initially incomprehensible to others.”1
    "Westermann’s name is a byword among artist, collectors, curators, and critics for thoroughgoing, compulsively expert and painstaking craftsmanship."
    —Dennis Adrian, Art Historian
    Westermann is described as “a perfectionist in the production of his prints.”2 His exploration of printmaking began in the early 1960s, where he cultivated a strong linear style with boldly executed compositions and coloring. While the specialized equipment required for lithography necessitated Westermann’s collaboration with print studios, the media of relief printing (linoleum and woodblock) allowed Westermann to execute the entire process himself. He cut and printed all of his relief prints in his studio, using the traditional Japanese method of rubbing, and thus negating the need for a printing press. 

    "Westermann’s themes and subjects present a view of contemporary American culture that is both harsh and humorously ironic." —Dennis Adrian, Art HistorianThe Connecticut Ballroom series, a set of seven woodcut prints, is considered Westermann’s “most complex set of color woodcuts” and exemplifies this aforementioned relief printing technique.3 Prior to cutting each woodblock, Westermann prepared a pen, ink, and watercolor study of the composition in order to map out the principal zones of color. The artist next executed a full-size watercolor of the intended final design, which was then copied onto tracing paper. This allowed for the separation of color areas which would next be transferred onto individual blocks to print the layers of color.


    It is rare to encounter a complete set of The Connecticut Ballroom series because most of Westermann’s major printmaking projects were often split up to be sold or gifted as individual prints.


    1  Dennis Adrian. H.C. Westermann: The Artist As Printmaker in See America First: The Prints of H.C. Westermann. 12.
    2 Ibid. 30.
    3 Ibid. 23.

    • Provenance

      The artist
      By descent to the present owner

    • Literature

      Dennis Adrian and Richard A. Born 22B - 22H

    • Catalogue Essay

      Including: Connecticut Ballroom (title page); The Green Hell; Arctic Death Ship; Dance of Death; Deserted Airport N.M.; Popeye and Pinocchio and Elephants' Graveyard


The Connecticut Ballroom (A. & B. 22B-H)

The complete set of seven woodcuts in colors, on Natsume #4007 paper, with full margins.
all approx. I. 18 x 24 in. (45.7 x 61 cm)
all approx. S. 24 x 30 in. (61 x 76.2 cm)

All signed and variously numbered from various edition sizes in pencil, published by the artist, all framed.

Full Cataloguing

$40,000 - 60,000 

Sold for $50,400

Contact Specialist


212 940 1220

Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 24 - 26 October 2022