C.A. Seward

1884 - 1939

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Throughout his life C.A. Seward supported his family of six through his work as an illustrator and commercial designer.  His own personal art work was created during weekend sketching trips and late evenings in his home studio. Seward’s earliest known works were of course from his childhood and carefully stored away by his mother. Family stories tell of his constant efforts to improve his natural skill as a draftsman. Squirrels, trees, characters from favorite books all were turned into careful pencil studies. After graduation from high school he soon was supporting himself as a sign painter in the communities surrounding his hometown of Chase, Kansas.  At the age of 20 he attended the St. Louis Exposition and after viewing the extensive exhibitions Seward determined that he would also become an artist.


In pursuit of this goal he went to Topeka, Kansas to attend Washburn College and study with Kansas born, European trained painter, George Melville Stone and another Kansas artist, Albert T. Reid.  When Stone left on an extended  European painting trip, Seward transferred to Bethany College in nearby Lindsborg, Kansas to study painting for a brief time with Swedish born painter, Birger Sandzen.  This one year of study was the extent of his formal training.  He succinctly explained in a letter to the Curator of the Smithsonian Museum in 1930, that he was “largely self taught.”  Seward remained, however a life long student.  He subscribed to both European and American newsletters and art publications.  He also acquired a large library of volumes on art and artists as well as an extensive collection of prints. His print collection ranged  from the European masters to well established American print makers.  In addition just  as he urged other collectors to do, Seward constantly sought out the work of other American printmakers.


When viewing Seward’s work it is important to consider that today anyone with  computer skills, a camera, and access to a copy machine-scanner can create images of their choosing on their home computer and then broadcast them throughout the world. It is thus perhaps difficult  to appreciate the skills required of the commercial illustrators and designers in the early years of the 20th Century.  Success for a commercial illustrator required a chameleon-like agility.  One client's needs might require a humorous cartoon-like character, another a glorious depiction of an unfurling American flag, and another a truer-than-life cowboy riding off into a sunset. In those early years, all these special needs could only be met by a highly skilled artist alone at his drafting board with the pencils, pens, and paints of his trade.


With this in mind, the startling thing about C.A. Seward was that he possessed in abundance this chameleon-like ability to lend his well above average skill as a draftsman and painter to any commercial project set before him.  Yet when it came time for his own fine art images,  he used these considerable skills to create a very personal body of work. His professional life kept him in constant contact with all the technological advancements of not just the printing industry but also the industries of his clients.  This client base which ranged from entrepreneurs in businesses ranging from aviation to food products depended on Seward’s skill.  Yet for his personal art work his chosen subject matter was distinctly removed from technical progress and competition. With his keen eye and expertise as a draftsman, painter and printmaker Seward chose the subjects that were closest to his heart;  the landscape of the Kansas prairies and flint hills, and the deserts and small pueblo villages near Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico. With a careful and thoughtful viewing of Seward's compositional choices, his autographic use of his lithographic crayon and the consistency of his subject matter,  a collector or historian can have the pleasure of experiencing the wisdom of C.A. Seward's personal vision and private world.


In his brief 54 years, Seward created over 150 prints and about  23 paintings.  By 1920, printmaking and particularly lithography, had become his chosen medium.   He was often quoted as saying, "the lithograph is the medium for the man who wants to draw," and draw he did to capture and share the nuances, and the particular essence of the landscape he knew.  

    

Today after 70 years, Seward's images of the landscape of the mid and south west continue to resonate with viewers because of their iconic timelessness.  In this light his prints are very much like those of his  peers who were working in other regions of the States.  Just as Stow Wengenroth’s lithographs capture the essence of the East Coast shoreline and Frances Gearhart’s the varied landscape and light quality of the West Coast, Seward captured the flint hills and prairies of the MidWest and the mountains and deserts of the SouthWest.

 

Exhibitions & Awards



During his lifetime Seward’s work was included in over 9 one-man exhibitions in museums and galleries across the United States.  One of which was at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.  His work was also included in over 30  juried exhibitions.  The most recent exhibition which included his work was the Museum of New Mexico.

Click on the title above to see a selected list of exhibitions.



Reviews & Publications



A 1925 issue of a Paris based French magazine on the arts was the first in what became an impressive list of publications which included discussions of Seward and his work. 

Click on the title above to see a selected list of Reviews & Publications.



Museum Collections



This list is ongoing but  today Seward’s work can be found in at least 20 museum collections.

Click on the title above to see a selected list of Museums Collections.


Biography/Chronology


Click on the title above to see a photo illustrated chronological biography of Seward in the context of his time


Catalogue Raisonne



to order a copy of the October 2011 publication, “C.A. Seward:Artist and Draftsman” click here

 

Seward - Artist & Printmaker

Images on this page (top to bottom, left to right): Seward - Four Mile Creek, Seward at about the age of about 36,  Seward lithograph - “Penitente Shrine,” sketch book drawing for  Four Mile Creek and two paintings by Seward: (peaches in tin bucket) and (vase of Sunflowers) and  prints by Seward friends and peers - Stow Wengenroth, lithograph -  “Breakwater,”  Frances Gearhart, color block print - “Lonely Sierra.” Seward lithographs - “Prairie Stream” and “Aspens Hondo Canyon.”

For more information click on titles below

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