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In Memoriam
John DePol

John DePol (left) chatted with Wesley Tanner of Passim Editions during his visit to the University of Delaware Library this fall.
Dec. 16, 2004--John DePol, 91, the well-known wood engraver whose work is featured in an exhibit in the University of Delaware Library, "John DePol: Artist and Engraver," died Dec. 15, in Cliffside Park, N.J.

Mr. DePol visited the campus this fall for a special program held in conjunction with the library exhibition, which ends Dec. 17.

“It seems clear from the many conversations that numerous University of Delaware administrators, University of Delaware Library staff and I had both during Mr. DePol's visit to the Library on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 2004, as well as following his visit, that he enjoyed his time at the University very much,” Susan Brynteson, May Morris Director of Libraries, said. “He was extremely appreciative of viewing the exhibition reflecting his life's work and seeing so many friends and professional colleagues who participated in the exhibition program and the American Printing History Association (APHA) meeting.”

Special Collections in the University of Delaware Library is the home of the John DePol Papers. These papers relate primarily to Mr. DePol's extensive and accomplished career as a wood engraver and contain many examples of his work created for keepsakes, private presses, books, businesses and corporations. The papers also consist of a broad range of materials dating from the 1950s into the 1990s, such as letters, greeting cards, books, pamphlets, brochures, proofs, clippings, flyers, broadsides and programs.

An obituary in The New York Times said Mr. DePol's "familiar woodcut images were long a considerable presence in American art."

Mr. DePol was born in 1913 in Greenwich Village. By the age of 16, he was working as a statistical clerk and securities runner on Wall Street and continued to work in the financial district until the outbreak of World War II.

Although Mr. DePol had no formal art training and was largely self-taught, he attended night classes in lithography at the Art Students League in New York. From 1943-45, he served in the U.S. Army Air Force, and while on duty in Northern Ireland continued his lithography studies at the College of Art in Belfast. During this period, he sketched the sights and scenes of Ireland, images which would later form the basis for a series of wood engravings and a 1982 exhibition catalog, “Ireland Remembered: A GI’s Recollections.”

After being discharged from the service, Mr. DePol returned to New York, married Thelma Roth, and went back to work on Wall Street, although his interests lay elsewhere. In 1950, he became a production assistant with Lewis F. White & Co., a small commercial printing firm in New York.

His new job provided the opportunity to learn all aspects of the printing business, including typography and graphic design. Throughout this period, Mr. DePol continued to develop as an artist, refining his techniques as a printmaker, especially wood engraving, in which he had been seriously engrossed since 1947.

By the mid-1950s, he began to accept independent commissions illustrating private-press booklets, separate prints, broadsides and limited edition books. In 1952, his work was chosen to appear in a series of publications by The Woodcut Society. In 1953, he began illustrating the Ben Franklin Keepsake editions for the annual New York Printing Week celebration and continued to do so for the next 30 years.

Mr. DePol was recognized as one of the premier American wood engravers and over the next several decades worked with some of the best-known fine-press printers.

Mr. DePol is survived by his wife, Thelma Roth DePol, and daughter, Patricia DePol.

Photo by Greg Drew