Printmaker · Sculptor
Born December 24, 1935, New York, New York
Died October 31, 2017, Newtown, Pennsylvania
Printmaker and sculptor Charles Wells was as well-known for his sculptures as his etchings. After studying as an apprentice with the master printmaker and sculptor Leonard Baskin, two fellowships allowed him to work alongside the great carvers in Italy. Wells' sculpture evolved over a 30-year period from stone heads, torsos, and figures, to large-scale wooden pieces, to a synthesis of the two, combining warm woods like cherry with the cool of white marble. His austere angel-like figures often appear to be emerging from their folded wings, unlike earlier crouching or recumbent figures. Wells' favorite medium was stone, finding it easier to carve than wood, although he took pleasure in working with local hardwoods.
Incised lines often appear on his sculpture, and this fascination with the depiction of lines carries over into his etchings. Characterized by asymmetrical faces and lighting reminiscent of Rembrandt, his etchings are most often portraits. Wells has exhibited widely in the US and abroad, and is represented in the permanent collections of MIT, the Library of Congress, the National Portrait Gallery, the Whitney Museum, and Nelson Rockefeller.
Charles Wells was also part of the exhibition The Rodin Legacy in conjunction with Rodin: The Human Experience Selections from the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Collections exhibit at the Michener Art Museum in 2015. The Legacy exhibit explored the influence of Rodin on 20th century and contemporary American sculptors, some of whom continue to embrace Rodin's legacy with their interest in naturalism and the partial figure, direct carving, and a desire to express inner psychological states through the physical form.
Photograph of Charles Wells, "Bucks County: Artists Three", James A. Michener Art Museum library and archives