Abe Rattner and Esther Gentle: A collaborative work

Part of the reason for starting this blog is to talk a little about works in the gallery that are unusual or pique our curiosity beyond the norm, and this is the first in a number of such works I would like to feature. This is a mixed media print by artist Abe Rattner.

Abraham Rattner, a painter and printmaker, was born in New York in 1895. He studied at the same time at George Washington University and the Corcoran School of Art, in architecture and painting, respectively. He quickly decided to focus on art and went on to study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. In 1917, World War I and his recruitment into the military as a specialist in camouflage design interrupted his education.

At the end of the war, Rattner settled in Paris where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, the Academies Julian, Ransom, and Grande Chaumiere, and the Sorbonne. He remained in France until the beginning of the World War II. Returning to the U.S., he took an extended road trip with the novelist, Henry Miller, whom he met in Paris and he worked at Atelier 17 in New York. Rattner held numerous teaching positions throughout his career. He was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and his work is included in Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Albright-Knox art Gallery, Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Rattner died in 1978.

Abe Rattner: "Among Those Who Stood There"

This mixed media work is a working proof for a print that was intended for publication. It is based on a color etching Abe Rattner did at Atelier 17 in New York around 1943.  The color etching measures 6-7/8 x 9-7/8″ and was done only in proofs and never editioned. An impression of that etching was exhibited in the 1944 exhibition Hayter and Studio 17 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It is illustrated on page 4 of the catalogue.

Rattner’s wife, artist Esther Gentle (1899 – 1991), had worked in the screen-printing division of the WPA and, after the end of the WPA, began reproducing artists’ works in screenprint/pochoir for sale in museum gift stores, etc.  She employed a number of artists that she had worked with at the WPA to assist.  Many of these were done with the permission of the artist and occasionally, as in the case of Hans Hofmann in 1952, worked with Gentle (who had studied with him) to create the image.  Some of her commissions were from museums and galleries.

This work, which measures 12 3/16 x 17 13/16″ image size was intended to reproduce the smaller etching, which was photographed, enlarged and printed in half-tone and then used to created screens for the screen printed reproduction.

This is a unique proof, with the black line and a couple of the colors created by screen, the majority of the color hand applied by Rattner. It does not appear that the print was ever published. The Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art has two impressions of the etching and a black and white offset of this image but the color screenprint does not appear to have been finished.

I personally find this image compelling with the portraits that are captured like deer in the headlights. I presume this is a reference to the world during the beginnings of WWII. The portraits seem to depict a broad scope; a king, a soldier, a woman, a man and another uniformed person.

Here is a link to the work on our Website where more information is available: http://www.annexgalleries.com/inventory/detail/18206/Abraham-Rattner/Among-Those-Who-Stood-There

And a link to the other Rattner prints on our site: http://www.annexgalleries.com/inventory?q=rattner

About Annex Galleries

The Annex Galleries holds one of the largest original fine print inventories on the West Coast. With over 9,000 works, we specialize in (but are not limited to) original prints of the WPA era, Arts & Crafts movement, and Abstract Expressionism through the 1960's, with a focus on American and Californian artists both known and unknown. We have everything from Durer to Baumann to Picasso.
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3 Responses to Abe Rattner and Esther Gentle: A collaborative work

  1. brett says:

    I had the fortune to spend time with Abe Rattner in his studio on Horatio Street and more time with Ester in her studios, as well as meeting her sons, but mostly Alan Leepa. I most welcome correspondence. I knew Abe from 77′ until his death in 78′ and Ester from then until 1984. She I collaborated in a show called Mythomantics”.

    • Brett,

      Thank you for writing. Can you shed any more light on this print? I purchased it from someone who had also worked with Esther at the time of her death. I have a number of other Rattner works on my website at: http://www.annexgalleries.com/inventory?q=Rattner. I notice you spell her name Ester though I have it as Esther, am I spelling it incorrectly?

      Are you an artist, were you giving them technical help? I’d love to hear more about them and I’m especially interested in Esther’s work after the WPA, particularly the screenprint works she printed after other artist, such as Feininger’s “The Gothic Spire” for the Willard Gallery (also on our website). I’m also interested in her gallery in the 1950’s. Do you know if there is a list of her publications and/or a raisonne of her work? I wrote to the Estate and never received any response.

      Daniel Lienau
      The Annex Galleries

      • Brett says:

        Hi Daniel, sort of by chance I have come across your reply to my brief comment. I have been putting together a new art bio as a photographer and I mention my time with Abe Rattner,Esther and Allan Leepa.At one point Esther requested me to look through the letters between her and Abe after the war in an effort to make it collections. I did not fully embark on this venture. I mostly recall stories of her association with Leo Castelli and other like affiliations. She,I and another fellow were working on a table-top book idea to publish. Mostly I assist Esther in her studios with her Golem works and was so moved by them, we had collaborative show at C>W> Post College,1983. The show had my handwritten poetry made into a positive, displayed next to her sculptural pieces.

        I wish I could be of more help with your requests. I certainly hope to visit the museum in Tarpin Springs. All three of them impacted me in many ways.

        It is easier to reach me by email at bmusesong@gmail.com and i can give you a link to where you can view some of my work online.

        Appreciative of this correspondence,

        Brett Klertsfeld

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