Paul Landacre was an illustrator who specialized in wood engravings of naturalistic images executed in a sparse, rhythmic, linear style. Born in Columbus, Ohio, he was an athlete as a youth. During his sophomore year at Ohio State University, he contracted a life-threatening illness that left him partially disabled. During this same year he also enrolled in a drawing class. After a long recuperation, Landacre moved with his family to California. In order to increase his physical strength he took long walks in the nearby rural areas, and on these walks, drew in his sketchbook. By 1918 he found a job as a commercial illustrator. In 1923 he enrolled at the Otis Art Institute, where he studied all types of media, including wood engraving.
Landacre's artistic reputation began to emerge in the early 1930s with the publication of his book California Hills and other Wood Engravings and his first one-person exhibition in Los Angeles. He received many commissions for book illustrations; since he worked in a careful, deliberate manner, his large projects required years to complete. For thirty-one years the artist maintained a hand press in his home, allowing him to have total control over the printing of his designs. In 1939 he was made an associate of the National Academy of Design. The remainder of Landacre's professional career was balanced between teaching and illustrating books.
Two examples from the National Gallery's permanent collection demonstrate the range of Landacre's work. His engraving, Smoke Tree, evokes the nearby desert scenery that the artist knew. The sharp, angular canyons of the mountain contrast with the delicate, small-leafed tree in the foreground. Some Ingredients is a still life composition that displays the same strength of line, forceful contrasts, and textures seen in his landscapes.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion program to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art. Produced by the Department of Education Resources, this teaching resource is one of the Gallery's free-loan educational programs.]