Discipline: Visual Art

Vera Berdich

Discipline: Visual Art
Region: Chicago, IL
MacDowell fellowships: 1963
Vera Berdich (1915-2003) was an American printmaker. She was born to Czech immigrants in Cicero, a suburb south of Chicago. She graduated from grammar school in 1929 and worked through J. Sterling Morton High School babysitting and housecleaning to pay for her books. Her art instructor there, Claudia Stevenson, encouraged Berdich to study at the School of the Art Institute (SAIC). Berdich began night classes at SAIC, working odd jobs to save money. A friend helped her gain employment with a postcard company, where she did color separation and photo retouching. At age 26, Berdich left home and moved to Chicago, joining the Illinois Arts Project, where she first encountered printmaking. She was instantly taken with the etching medium, especially the opportunity it afforded to explore tonal effects. When World War II began, she took a course in drafting and worked for the American Steel Company. She returned to the SAIC after the war, attending full-time and graduating with a B.A. in 1946. A year later, Berdich was hired by SAIC, where she founded the printmaking department and continued teaching until her retirement in 1979 as a professor emeritus. Berdich used experimental techniques, applying various colored inks by hand to the etching plate to create one-of-a-kind works. This approach to creating layered and subtle shifts in tonality is evident in her prints Things to Be Remembered, 1949, and View Through Distorting Spectacles, 1952. The latter is a fine example of her surrealist etchings, with its repetitive eyes and references to perception couched in a symbolist, dreamlike atmosphere. Berdich was one of the first artists in the United States to develop photographic images on copper plate intaglio, and in 1956 introduced a photo transfer method to canvas and paper. Throughout the 1950s, Berdich won prizes at the annual Chicago and Vicinity shows at the Art Institute, and she exhibited her work throughout the U.S. and abroad in international print exhibitions. Retrospective exhibitions were mounted at SAIC in 1979, and in honor of her 80th birthday at the Chicago Cultural Center in 1995. Berdich's works are held in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution, Museum of Modern Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Studios

Adams

Vera Berdich worked in the Adams studio.

Given to the MacDowell Association by Margaret Adams of Chicago, the half-timbered, stuccoed Adams Studio was designed by MacDowell Fellow and architect F. Tolles Chamberlin ca. 1914. Chamberlin was primarily a painter, but also provided designs for the Lodge and an early renovation of the main hall. The studio‚Äôs structural integrity was restored during a thorough renovation in…

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