Douglass Morse Howell
Douglass Morse Howell was born in 1906 in New York City. He stumbled into papermaking while seeking better paper for his own wood engravings in the 1930s. Howell set up his first papermill in a cold-water flat on Grand Street in New York City, and in 1950, set up a paper studio on Long Island in New York. Howell began by producing paper for his own limited edition books, but his endeavor was not particularly well-received in conservative book arts circles, where he was accused of “making baby blankets, not paper.” Howell’s papers, made from pure linen or home-grown flax and local spring water, were indeed of an entirely different and original texture, color, and weight than anything else being produced at the time. Artists, including Joan Mirò, Stanley William Hayter, Jasper Johns, Anne Ryan, and most notably, Jackson Pollock, delighted in this beautiful and novel substrate for printing, collage, drawing and watercolor. In the words of his student and chronicler, Alexandra Soteriou, Howell “emancipated paper from its role as printing surface alone. He focused instead on the nature, aesthetics, and creative possibilities of paper itself.” Howell himself began creating paper art, or papetries, with inclusions of fiber, fabric and subtly placed filaments within the paper itself. He made his first pulp paintings by ‘stopping out’ a design with wooden stencils and reimmersing the mould in different batches of colored pulp. Howell also experimented with three-dimensional paperworks on wire molds.
Howell had his first one-man show in New York at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1955 and had retrospectives at the American Craft Museum in 1982 and the New York Public Library in 1986. He is represented in many public collections, including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New York Public Library and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England.