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"People in Mexico" by Jacob Heller, Amer., (20th Century)
Woodcut, ca. 1950-70, Ed. unknown, 14-1/2 x 9-11/16, on brown chine colle, attached to a warm white wove support sheet, signed and titled in ink on the support sheet. There is a mat line and toning verso from a previous acidic mat. I have encountered block prints by this artist, always signed "jacob" for many years. Just today, I discovered my first real biographical information, though some basic details about the artist remain a mystery. Jacob Heller, was an American who retired to Mexico in the the mid 20th century. Having discovered a beautiful set of woodcutting tools there, he began to make woodcuts inspired by Mexican city life and culture, signed them "jacob", and sold them at the Bazar Sabado in the Saint Angel section of Mexico City. He proved very popular with the tourist trade, as I have seen a good number of prints, all either woodcut or linocut, printed on a wide variety of papers of differing weights, colors and textures, occasionally with a complementary variation in ink color and application as well. Sometimes the adhesive used to glue the chine colle to the heavier support sheet has stained the image. While I have seen images of of ancient Aztec gods and culture, most are boldly cut images in a naive abstracted style of Mexican towns; strongly patterned street scenes of adobe buildings with people in native dress. Most prints are printed in black, but as mentioned, colored inks and papers were used as well. The vitality and directness of his cutting was always evident, often creating striking and delightful compositions which reveal an artist worthy of respect and attention. If anyone knows more of the origin and life history of this American artist Jacob Heller and his interesting body of work, I would very much appreciate hearing from you and learning more about the bold and prolific artist known as "jacob."