Black Bear is a relief print, a wood-engraving, created in 2020 by American printmaker Richard Wagener (born 1944). It is pencil signed, dated and editioned 10/28. Black Bear was printed by the artist on a sheet of ivory Zerkall wove paper and the image measures 4 x 4-1/8 inches.
This is a marvelous portrait of the American black bear with its thick black coat and lighter snout, staring at and almost daring the viewer. The black bear is native to North America and typically lives in forested areas but will roam in search of food. Wagener engraves each line individually into the end-grain of the block, not with a multiple line tool. When asked if he had encountered this bear in the wild, Wagener responded: “The Black Bear engraving was based on photographs taken at zoos and an unfinished engraving that I started many years ago. Trust me, if I encountered this bear in the wild, my first thought would not be to take a photograph.”
Richard Wagener was born in Texicana, Arkansas in 1944. He studied biology at the University of San Diego and earned an M.F.A. in painting from Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. In 2006, Wagener established the imprint Mixolydian Editions for his own fine press projects. He collaborated with David Pascoe of Nawakum Press, Santa Rosa, California, co-publishing three fine press books, one of which, Loom, earned the 2016 Carl Hertzog Award for Excellence in Book Design. Wagener has also produced a number of engraved bookplates that have been collected internationally. He designed the logo for the XXVII FISAE Congress held in Boston in 2000. His bookplates have been featured in Print Magazine; “Contemporary Ex-Libris Artists,” an article by James Keenan, that was published in Portugal in 2003; California Bookplates by Robert Dickover, published by the Book Club of California in 2006; and Three Centuries of the American Bookplate by James Goode, the catalog accompanying a show of bookplates at the University of Virginia from 2010.
A notable American wood engraver, Wagener's works are held in over 100 public collections in the United States and England. He was awarded the Oscar Lewis Award for contributions to the book arts.