Frederick Becker (AM 1913-2004) – Portrait – Lithograph, ca. 1932, signed and titled in pencil. Federal Art Project WPA NYC stamp on left lower margin. This is a very rare piece, in excellent condition.
An excerpt from the Artist's obituary in the New York Times:
Fred Becker, a well-known artist and printmaker who taught in the fine arts department at the University of Massachusetts from 1968 until his retirement in 1986, died on June 30 at his home in Amherst, Mass. He was 90.
The cause was esophageal cancer, said his daughter, Carla.
Mr. Becker's work is represented in many important museum collections, among them the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. His most recent shows were at the Susan Teller Gallery in New York in 2002 and 2003; he had a retrospective at the Herter Gallery of the University of Massachusetts in 1999.
His career began in the 1930's with quirky characterizations of musicians made during frequent visits to Manhattan jazz clubs and lively observations of the urban scene, done with a Surrealist touch.
In 1935, he was accepted by the Graphic Arts Division of the Works Project Administration. His etchings and wood engravings brought him his first one-man show, at the Marion Willard Gallery in 1938. But in 1940 he was drawn to Atelier 17, the workshop established by the British engraver Stanley William Hayter, where Mr. Becker turned to abstraction, developing technical expertise while using various intaglio techniques and color printing methods developed by or with Hayter.
His work at first was related to Surrealism and Constructivism, but by the mid-1950's he was using his skilled draftsmanship in a gestural, Abstract Expressionist mode.
Throughout the rest of his career he continued to join his technical proficiency with experimentation, and his approach to subject matter became highly individualistic, as in ''Workman's Glove,'' a 1986 woodcut in which a shapeless glove was made into a vivid color abstraction while retaining its worn identity.
Frederick G. Becker was born in Oakland, Calif., in 1913 and reared in Hollywood, where his father, Frederick Becker Sr., was an actor in silent films. After study at the Otis Art Institute, the younger Becker moved to New York in 1933 to study architecture at New York University, but abandoned it for the freer mediums of drawing and printmaking. Drafted during World War II, he returned to civilian life in 1946, then began teaching at the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.
In 1948 he joined the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis, where he established a printmaking department. He taught there for 20 years before going to the University of Massachusetts.
Mr. Becker's wife, Jean Morrison, a painter, died in 1994. In addition to his daughter, of Amherst, he is survived by a son, Anton, of Newburyport, Mass.; his companion, Alberta Booth, of Pelham, Mass.; and three grandchildren.