On June 3, 2000, the day that Leonard Baskin died, the art world lost a true renaissance man, and I lost my mentor, collaborator and close friend. I console myself with the remembrance of many different Leonard Baskins, each one with sufficient achievement for any single lifetime.
There was Leonard Baskin the writer, with his searing comments on important and often overlooked artists, and Baskin the maker of books, whose Gehenna Press set the standard against which all fine press books are measured. There was Baskin the Caldecott-honored children’s book illustrator, and Baskin the watercolorist whose explosion of color burst so unexpectedly, in mid career, like fireworks over his previously black sky. There was Baskin the printmaker, who reinvented the monumental woodcut, and at the core was Baskin the sculptor (“I am foremost and fundamentally a sculptor.”), who in the estimation of many, was the preeminent sculptor of our time (“Not because I am so great, though I am, but because all the others are so dreadful.”)
His most prominent public commissions include sculpture for the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Woodrow Wilson Memorial, both in Washington D.C., and the Holocaust Memorial in Ann Arbor, MI.
Baskin received numerous honors, among them a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Gold Medal of the National Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Jewish Cultural Achievement Award. He had many retrospective exhibitions, including those at the Smithsonian, the Albertina, and the Library of Congress. His work is in major private and public institutions, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the British Museum, and the Vatican Museums.
As an artist and a cultural force, Leonard Baskin will be with us forever. Personally, my life is inconceivably richer for having known him.
Read the essay Leonard, Ted, and Me by gallery owner Richard Michelson
Masks: A fine press book of poetry by Richard Michelson, illustrated by Leonard Baskin