Excerpt from the Preface
to June Culp Zeitner's book "Gem
and Lapidary Materials"
June Culp Zeitner
are often discussions about whether lapidary is an art or a craft. Like
oil or watercolor painting, it is both. Every painting is not art. Artists
must know their craft and be able to use it well to convey their feelings
to others. The true artist not only knows the basics, scale, proportion,
rhythm, focus, perspective, harmony, unity and color, but he knows how to
use these tools to present an original emotion or observation to draw the
ultimate viewer into the picture. Certainly the best lapidary work is as
much art as the best paintings. A cutter of highly polished domed oval cabochons,
is not an artist, but neither are thousands of "Sunday painters"
artists, who dab watercolor, oil, or acrylic on paper or canvas. Conversely,
if a lapidary's work is fresh, original, and done with skilled craftsmanship,
and if it conveys a feeling of awe, wonder, understanding, or curiosity
to the viewer, it is every bit as much art as when a painter is successful
with his work on canvas.
We have today,
the best craftsmen ever in the lapidary field. Many of our cutters are innovators
and will be copied for generations. That is art. Our carvers are producing
meaningful works in hard material, which are the equal of many master-works
in hard material, and which are the equal of many masterpieces of the past
done in marble or other soft material.
of what is art have changed so that the National Endowment for the Arts
calls experimentation art, even if it is ugly or biased, or absurd.
are naturally ahead of much of what passes for art, because their medium
is gem materials, the most colorful and beautiful bits of this earth. With
love and imagination, lapidaries through the ages have made their craft
an art, and that art has never flourished as much as in the second half
of the 20th century.
For some reason,
art galleries have been slow to accept lapidary work as art - which may
be because lapidaries are outnumbered so greatly by those who work with
paper, glass, or clay. This is changing now
. As people become more
familiar with stones other than diamond, ruby, sapphire, and emerald,
the appreciation and acceptance of lapidary as an art will grow, and may
well become a leading art form in the next century."
June Culp Zeitner, the "First
Lady of Gems," passed away on October 11, 2009.
Excerpt from the Forward
to Anna Maria Giusti's book "Pietre
Dure" by Alvar Gonzalez Palacios
quite recently, there were few scholarly studies on the Italian decorative
arts, and those which did exist were, for the most part, the work of amateurs.
As far as academic research was concerned, there was a kind of barrier between
the history of the so-called Fine Arts and that of what in Italy, until
a few years ago, were called the 'minor' arts. However, until the end of
the nineteenth century, this division had been unthinkable, and archivists
had continued indiscriminately to investigate all fields of artistic endeavor,
regardless of their classification as 'major' or 'minor'. The documents
unearthed by these studies were soon buried again in erudite publications
whose content was ignored by art historians. This gave birth to a curious
phenomenon of mutual exclusion; parallel studies were carried out by men
who were ignorant of each other's existence, resulting in two types of publication.
In one, the documents were published in full or summarized by scholars who
were either unfamiliar with the works referred to in the archival material
or had not taken the trouble to discover their whereabouts; in the second
were the objects themselves, but inadequately described because the critics
had not consulted these archival studies. This paradoxical state of affairs
has gradually been righted. Art historical criticism is now no longer undertaken
without reference to contemporary documents, and the derogative and meaningless
category of 'minor' arts is rarely referred to in Italy. In fact, if there
is a European nation and a period where the division of Art with a capital
letter and the work of artisans and decorators never existed, it is Italy
in the long centuries before the Risorgimento, when various reigning families
who divided up the peninsula gave much attention to the embellishment of
their palaces. To this end, these princes employed men of genius and talent
without distinguishing between artists and artisans. The history of hardstone
inlay which in modern times began in Italy between Rome and Florence provides
an excellent framework for the understanding of that freedom from intellectual
constraint which allowed princely patrons to use for their own ends whoever
was capable of providing ideas or crafting objects. A careful reading of
Anna Maria Giusti's book will reveal the continual interaction between celebrated
painters and artisans whose names will be unfamiliar to most. Who was the
more important of the two for the creation of the marvelous artifacts examined
here: the painter who prepared the cartoon, or the craftsmen who gave masterful
expression to it? It would be useless, and perhaps tendentious, to attempt
to give an answer to this question because even the great artists were forced
to alter their ideas when they found themselves confronted with technical
problems beyond their control. The objects that are analyzed in these pages,
like most of those which form the great European decorative tradition, are
works where the roles of artist, craftsman, administrator and patron come
together to form, as it were, a perfect geometric figure with many sides.
It is pointless, therefore, to rank them one above the other. We do have,
however, the task to define the part played by each, but the important thing,
that astonishes and delights, is the final result."
Alvar Gonzalez Palacios
Rome, October 1991
to Edition 1.0
What you see
here are examples of some of the finest artwork and most durable masterpieces
ever created. Little known outside their small circles, these fine artists
labored long and hard to create beauty, only for itself and not for monetary
gain, fame, or even recognition (although some have achieved such). Their
dedication, humility, perseverance, and skill reflect what true Fine Art
is all about.
used is the hardest medium known: gemstones. The use of hard stones takes
patience, supreme skill, and true love of the creative process. The natural
colors, textures, and patterns of these pictures made of stone are exquisite
and far superior to any man-made paint or other media.
. . . . . .
of artwork is derived from the great Italian tradition of Florentine mosaics
or pietre dure. There are practitioners of this art left in Italy, but those
that still use the traditional techniques are few. Here in America, this
art form has been revived by a group of dedicated artists beginning in the
1930's, who developed their own techniques using whatever tools and machinery
were available. In order to produce these difficult and time consuming masterpieces,
years of living and experience are necessary to develop the mind set required;
so most of these artists are or were elderly and retired from the workplace.
However, among several tribes of the Native American community, this tradition
now spans into a fourth generation.
. . . . . . .
di pietre dure e tenere (intarsias) represent one of the highest levels
of creative achievement in American Art History.
. . . . . . .
to Edition 2.0
American Masters of Stone Edition 2.0. This edition is an upgrade from the
first edition. It not only includes many improved images and additional
images from the artists represented in Edition 1.0, but there are a number
of new artists as well. Many of them are from a new generation of American
Masters of Stone.
. . . . . .
featured are many more Native American artists. These include several members
of the fourth generation. The workmanship and artistic sensitivity of these
new artists is second to none.
. . . . . . .
to the two-dimensional work featured in Edition 1.0, we have included stone-to-stone
(intarsiate) sculpture from some of the finest lapidaries in North America.
They include a few of the artists previously featured, who have produced
both two and three-dimensional work, as well as several masters who specialize
. . . . . . .
variety of work created using natural gems and minerals is immense, an effort
has been made to be as representative as possible of this fact. The criterion
of inclusion in this edition is not limited to only the commesso, but gemstone
micro-mosaics, pebble-paintings, sculpture, and some high-end channel-work
are also featured. Although the vast majority of the artwork demands the
more challenging stone-to-stone techniques, it is not limited to only that
technique. There are bits of grout or silver channel in some of the artwork.
. . . . . . .
in the previous edition, these are examples of some of the finest artwork
ever made and now this fact has been recognized.