Early Cut-Paper Silhouettes

Long before Kara Walker, there were many folk artists practicing the tradition of cut-paper silhouettes. Pictured above is one page from an album of black paper scenes created by a young girl in memory of her visit to Yverdon in Switzerland. The book is dated Londres 3 Mai 1832 and includes 15 elaborate silhouettes cut from waxed black paper to fit the size of the page. The wax provides a shine that catches the light and adds depth and dimension, not often found in American cut paper work.

Most images are captioned, presumably by the artist, with one entry reading "A ma chere petite Elise en souvenir de son affcte LR." The album has one ownership insciption on the marbled pastedown of P. Atkinson, Belmont, Shipley, with a blindstamp on the free endpaper of the same address.

In 2002, the contemporary artist Kara Walker combined her own black paper silhouettes with the poetry of Toni Morrison for a limited-edition book entitled Five Poems (Las Vegas: Rainmaker Editions, 2002). The book is designed by Peter Rutledge Koch, and printed letterpress from digital imaging and photo-polymer plates at Peter Koch, Printers in Berkeley, California, in a signed edition of 399 numbered and 26 lettered copies. The graphic arts division holds no. 128 (GAX Oversize 2006-0733Q). More of Walker's art can be seen in a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art through February 3, 2008. http://www.whitney.org/www/exhibition/kara_walker/index.html