Exhibition Review: The Calligraphy Revival 1906–2016

Diane von Arx, United States, 2002

The Grolier Club’s exhibition The Calligraphy Revival 1906–2016 (May 17 – July 29, 2017; 10am–5pm Mon–Sat; free admission) is a unique opportunity for anyone interested in applications of western letterforms to experience firsthand the breadth of calligraphy’s beauty as well as its utility. The exhibition, curated by Jerry Kelly, features works by a diverse range of calligraphers. It runs the gamut from art to design to handwriting and often defies categorization.

Susan Skarsgard, United States, 2007

What is perhaps most striking, other than the obvious abundance of technical prowess, is that so many of the “calligraphers” in the exhibition are in fact equally or more widely recognized for their work in fields other than calligraphy. For example, whereas Alice, Sheila Waters, and Gottfried Pott are primarily calligraphers, Jan Tschichold is known for graphic design and typeface design, Hermann Zapf and Gudrun Zapf von Hesse for typeface design, and George Salter for book cover design. Some “calligraphers” use calligraphy as an end unto itself, others use it either as a practical or theoretical means for approaching and understanding other disciplines. In any case, studying calligraphy can be of great value to practitioners in many fields.

Alice, United States, 1980

Another significant aspect of the exhibit is that almost 30% of the work is by women, which is remarkable considering the timeframe, 1906–2016. Below is a list of the female typeface designers, graphic designers, lettering artists, and calligraphers in the exhibitions with links where possible.

Jacki Sakwa, United States, 1980

Susie Taylor, United States, 1983

Women in the Exhibition

Margaret Alexander
Alice (If you are asking “Alice Who?”, then you need to check out her new book which you can purchase here!)
Irene Base
Pat Blair (current Chief Calligrapher for the White House)
Marsha Brady
Patricia Buttice
Karen Charatan
Heather Child (Author of Calligraphy Today and More than Fine Writing, which is a book about Irene Wellington, another important calligrapher who was a protégé of Edward Johnston and a prolific teacher whose students included Donald Jackson and Ann Hechle)
Hazel Dolby
Georgia Deaver
G. G. Laurens
Joan Pilsbury
Anna Pinto
Jacki Sakwa
Emily Brown Shields
Anna Simons
Susan Skarsgard (A short preview video of her talk at the 2015 Brand New Conference)
Jacqueline Svaren
Susie Taylor
Diane Von Arx
Sheila Waters (Author of the indispensable Foundations of Calligraphy)
Mary White
Jeanyee Wong (Here is a recorded discussion of her work at the Grolier Club in 2010)
Lili Cassel Wronker
Lynne Yun
Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse (Bookbinder, calligrapher, and type designer, perhaps best known for her typeface, Diotima)

Emily Brown Shields, United States, 2010

Society of Scribes (NYC’s nonprofit calligraphy organization) is selling the hardcover exhibition catalog via scribestore.com. All proceeds will be used to support the Society of Scribes scholarship program, which provides free calligraphy instruction and funding for class materials to students whose education or career would benefit from calligraphy.