CHESTER — A luminous field of dandelions drawn in pale silvery gray graphite, rendered with breathtaking precision and delicacy, hangs above the fireplace in the front room of the Chester Gallery.
“I can work on a drawing for a long time. I’m working on a drawing now — it’s on my dining room table — that I started probably six months ago,” said artist Richard Ziemann, who is showing about 70 of his drawings, etchings and engravings at the gallery from Oct.1 to Nov. 20, along with works by his sons, Eric, Jeremy and Kurt Ziemann.
Ziemann, who has lived in Chester for 54 years, is known for his highly-detailed black and white landscapes but this show will include a few of his never-seen-before color paintings.
“I always did both but I just didn’t show the paintings,” he told CT Examiner. “I’m not a great marketer. I still have a lot in my studio in boxes and I just started pulling them out. I did show my prints all over the world, but I just never got around to showing the paintings.”
He said he has worked outside for years, making sketches and preliminary drawings that he brings to his studio.
“So far as the etchings and engravings, I usually take the metal plate right outside and draw directly on the metal. It’s actually zinc and I coat it with this substance that’s an acid resistant and I scratch out the image on this ground. Wherever I scratch, eventually the acid will etch those areas into the plate when I take it back into the studio,” he said.
Ziemann said engraving involves cutting directly into the metal plate with a tool called a burin.
“You can cut very deep or light, but you can also make some changes if you want to with what’s called a scraper, where I just eliminate the line and because of the pressure on the press will pull down and pick up those lines anyways if that plate gets a little indented. I’ve seen some plates of Piranesi or Rembrandt, and they’re all sorts of different surfaces because [they] scraped and changed areas a lot, so it’s fairly flexible,” he said.
Ziemann earned a BFA and an MFA at Yale where he studied with Josef Albers. He later traveled to Holland on a Fulbright Fellowship for a year. In 1963, he was invited to be part of an exchange show in Russia where he met Norman Rockwell, who painted Ziemann’s portrait there.
He said he was able to buy his etching press after he finished a commission of the Pan Am building, designed by Walter Gropius. He and his family — and the etching press — moved from New York to Chester in 1967.
These days Ziemann, 87, said he has mostly switched to drawing because it is physically less taxing than etching.
He said he has been making a lot of drawings in his house, just looking out of the windows.
“Right now I know there’s a drawing I would like to do from my living room window, so that’s sort of in the future. But it usually takes like two, three months to get a good part of the drawing done,” he said.
Sosse Baker, who opened the gallery in 1982 with her husband, Jack Baker, said Ziemann was one of the first artists the gallery carried, along with Sol LeWitt. Baker is no longer the owner of the gallery. Nancy Pinney has been the gallery director since 2019.
Baker said she was awestruck when she saw the “Dandelions” drawing, which Ziemann produced in 1982.
“That’s not an engraving. That’s a pencil drawing. I’ve never seen it and I’ve been here 40 years. There’s work here I’ve never seen and we’ve handled Richard from day one at the gallery,” Baker said.
The opening for “Richard Ziemann Drawings, Etching and Engravings” is on Friday, Oct. 1, from 5 to 8 p.m. The show is open from Oct. 1 to Nov. 20. For more information, click here.
This story has been updated to correct the title of Richard Ziemann’s piece, “Fallen Tree,” not “Woods in Green” as previously stated.