Spectacles, Top Hats, and Ties: David Driesbach Prints
David Driesbach is a storyteller weaving humor with wit and mystery into surreal, theatre-like narratives. The spaces of his work are filled with ambiguous architecture, curious actors, and absurd props. These compelling scenes, costumes, and settings emerge from a re-imagining of his own memories and dreams that allude to the full range of human senses and life’s drama and joy.
To create his imaginative theatre, Driesbach borrowed common symbols from Medieval and Renaissance art and developed them into a personal iconography. Throughout his career he would fill his prints with chandeliers, candles, and moons; columns, arches, open windows, and other architectural spaces; as well as motifs of ties, money, eating and drinking, and bouquets of flowers. Driesbach also developed set of repeated characters from policemen, couples in intimate settings, an artist selling prints, Little Orphan Annie, and of course, a bespectacled man in a top hat (often representing himself).
While Driesbach consciously developed a child-like naiveté in his work, his work is built upon years of formal training and a mastery of intaglio print techniques. He is internationally known for innovative etchings, drypoints, engravings, and color viscosity printing learned in years of research as well as studying with master printmakers Mauricio Lasansky and Stanley William Hayter.
The David Driesbach collection at Minot State University is a generous gift from the artist himself and his family and stands as a cornerstone to Minot State’s art collection and commitment to works on paper. When Assistant Professor Ryan Stander began conversations with the family in 2014, Minot State had only two Driesbach prints in their collection. To date, the collection has grown to 70+ prints and plates spanning much of David’s esteemed career. Minot State University is grateful to the Driesbach family for sharing the work with our collection.
Born in 1922 in Wausau, Wisconsin, Driesbach grew up in Rockford, Illinois. David enrolled at the University of Illinois in 1940 following his high school graduation but left after one year for financial reasons. In 1942, David followed his brother into the armed forces, enlisting in the Marine Corps and spent the next three years in Pacific campaign. Following his release on Thanksgiving Day 1945, he resumed his college education taking advantage of the GI Bill, first at Beloit College, then at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for a year and half.
In the fall of 1948, Driesbach left for the University of Iowa to study painting until Mauricio Lasansky pulled him into printmaking. In 1951 he completed his MFA but with little hope of finding a teaching position, and then with a young family, Driesbach took a job as a draftsman at a boiler and furnace factory. Within a year, he secured a position as a one-person art department at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. During this time, he also worked evenings as a draftsman for a school bus factory to help pay the bills. With the addition of twin daughters, Driesbach took a position teaching printmaking at the Iowa State Teacher’s College in Cedar Falls, Iowa. In 1954, Driesbach took a position as Chair of the Art Department at Millikin University, in Decatur, Illinois where he would come to heavily influence a young John Kaericher. Five years later, he left for Ohio University and in 1964 another move to Northern Illinois University where he would spend the rest of his career.
In addition to studying under the great Lasansky, in 1969 on a sabbatical David also spent time studying with the great Stanley William Hayter (another of the most influential printmakers of the 20th C) at Hayter’s Atlier 17 studio in Paris learning the color viscosity printing method.
David was a respected educator, teaching for 39 years at numerous institutions retiring in 1991 from Northern Illinois University where he was appointed as the Distinguished Emeritus Professor. Now at the age of 94, Driesbach lives in Wheaton, Illinois, but is still making prints in weekly visits to the studios at the College of DuPage. David Driesbach has been an exhibiting artist since 1949 and an educator from 1952 to 1991. He has studied with Mauricio Lasansky and Stanley William Hayter. He has exhibited in over 250 one-man shows and a very large number of national and international juried and invitational exhibitions and workshops.
David has a lifetime of artistic endeavors and is well respected as an educator who instilled strong artistic commitments in a large
impressive group of students. He is an internationally known expert and innovator in the printmaking field who helped to create technical advances in color viscosity printing.
A bespectacled top-hatted man holding a wine glass while pedaling a bicycle at night under a crescent moon. A chandelier mysteriously suspended from the sky-an open window with lace curtains billowing white against brick walls. Someone playing a violin. Greek columns, neckties, billboards with enigmatic images, light bulbs and candles-these and many other strange objects and happenings crowd my space and continue a compulsion to create etchings and lithographs.
“I have always admired the prints and drawings of Picasso, Chagall, and Ernst. In artists like Albrect Durer and the Northern Renaissance painters like Van Eyck, Bouts, and Bosch I am fascinated by their microscoptic detail. I am compelled by the brutish naivety of much Medieval Art-their architecture, illuminated manuscripts and iconography. Being primarily a printmaker, technique has always been my obsession.” - DD