The Old Print Shop

Antonio Frasconi


Antonio Frasconi (Uruguay/American) an artist, teacher, and author recognized for his woodcuts, artist’s books and children’s books. "Time Magazine" called him "America’s foremost practitioner of the ancient art of the woodcut," and "The Art Journal" called him "the best of his generation."

Frasconi was born on April 28, 1919, in Montevideo, Uruguay.  His parents were Italian immigrants who had fled Italy during WWI.  His father, Franco Frasconi, was a chef, and his mother, Armida Carbonia Frasconi, managed restaurants and worked as a seamstress.  Frasconi loved to read and draw.  He studied at Circulo de Bellas Artes.  However, he tired of copying work of other artists and at age twelve he took a position as a printer’s apprentice.  He was producing left leaning illustrations for publications in his teens.  He liked the work of Dore and Goya and was influenced by an exhibition of French impressionist and post-impressionist works, especially the woodcuts of Paul Gauguin.  Frasconi often drew inspiration for his art from social and political issues.  In a 1994 interview he stated “A sort of anger builds in you, so you try to spill it back in your work.” 

In 1945 his work was recognized in the United States and he received a one-year scholarship to study at the Art Students League.  A year later his work was exhibited in the Brooklyn Museum followed by an exhibition at the Santa Barbara Museum in California.  He settled in New York City, and his first gallery exhibition was in the Weyhe Gallery in 1948.  The same year he began studying at The New School in New York where he would later teach.  On July 18, 1951, he married the artist, Leona Pierce, and together they had two children, Pablo and Miguel.  In 1957 looking for a place to raise their two children, they moved to Norwalk, Connecticut.  The home they built in Norwalk would be their home for the remainder of their lives.  In 1968 his work was shown at the Venice Biennale representing Uruguay.  

As an artist he split his time between woodcut images for sale as individual objects, artist’s books and children’s books.  He produced a large body of woodcuts, however, often in very small editions.  The images were often of political and social issues that interested him, working people, and the beautiful landscapes around his home in Norwalk.  Frasconi is likely best known for his artist’s books and the many children’s books he illustrated and wrote.  In 1955 he wrote and illustrated a Children’s book, See and Say: A Picturebook in Four Languages because he could not find any bi-lingual books to teach his children.  The book was written in English, French, Italian, and Spanish.  This was not his first children’s book that he illustrated, but it is the first he wrote and illustrated.  His most celebrated artist book is Los Desaparecidos (The Missing); he worked on the images from 1973 to 1985.  The work is a testament to the human loss at the hands of the rightist dictatorship in Uruguay during this time.  Other books include Known Fables, Kaleidoscope in Woodcuts, Against the Grain, the Woodcuts of Antonio Frasconi, and The Face of Edgar Allan Poe.

In an interview in 1963 with Time Magazine he described how he worked with wood. The artist said:  “Sometimes the wood gives you a break and matches your conception of the way it is grained.  But often you must surrender to the grain, find the movement of the scene, the mood of the work, in the way the grain runs.”  Only an artist or a craftsman who has worked with wood for years can get the feel of what the wood will allow you to do with it.  It is for this reason that Frasconi’s work is so remarkable and moving.

His work is in national and international collections including the National Museum of Visual Arts Uruguay; Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Modern Art; the New York Public Library; the National Gallery of Art; the Smithsonian; National Portrait Gallery, as well as many other institutions.  

Video of Antonio Frasconi creating and describing a woodcut by Pablo Frasconi.

Video on “Los Desaparecidos” music by Miguel Frasconi.