Printmakers You Should Know: Frederick O'Hara

Today's Printmaker You Should Know has quite a few works in the RMAC collection: Frederick O'Hara (1904-1980).

Aztec, NM, 1957, color lithograph of paper. Image courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.
Originally from Ottawa, Canada, O'Hara came to the United States in 1918. He studied art at the Massachusetts Normal Art School and the School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. After he graduated he received a fellowship to study in Europe, where he was able to study the various iterations of modernism occurring at the time, including German Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism.

O'Hara actually started out his artistic career as a painter, and wouldn't get involved with printmaking in earnest until after he moved to Albuquerque in 1942. In 1949, he was a visiting professor at UNM along with fellow artist Adja Yunkers, and both would collaborate on experimental printmaking, particularly monotype, woodcut, and linocut. Relief prints in particular were experiencing a revival in mid 20th-century America for their expressionist qualities. The pair would even try to launch a portfolio program dedicated to experimental printmaking, though this would never take off for financial reasons.

Navajo, 1949, linocut on paper. Image courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.
Woodcuts may have been important to O'Hara for printmaking, but the medium he's really known for today is his work with lithography.

Promenade, 1951, lithograph on paper. Image courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.
O'Hara experimented with the technique to produce layered compositions encrusted with different textures and colors. He became especially proficient at using unusual materials on his stones, and added paper, foil, fabrics, mild solvents, and liquid asphaltum directly to the stone to create his distinctive textures.  

Processional, 1954, color lithograph on paper. Image courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.

Many of his compositions were inspired by petroglyphs and other ancient markings, and his unusual techniques and materials effectively capture the sense of eroded rock and other natural surfaces in these pieces, giving many of his works a somewhat primordial feel.

Cienga, 1958, color lithograph. Image courtesy of Roswell Museum and Art Center.
The RMAC recently had an extensive exhibition on O'Hara's work, so for conservation reasons these prints won't be coming out again for a few years, but he's still a printmaker you should know.

Want to learn more? Here's some fodder to get you going:

And of course, you can see some of our holdings here:;keyword=frederick%20o%27hara;dtype=d