Herbert L. Fink, longtime professor and chairman of the Art Department of Southern Illinois University Carbondale, was one of the Midwest’s most popular graphic artists, and his work continues to be highly sought-after by a growing number of collectors following his death in 2006.
If you have lived in Southern Illinois for more than a few decades, you probably own one of Fink’s prints. He’s best known for his regional landscapes and figure drawings.
SIUC has a large collection of his work, but the largest collection in the world is owned by Judith Quevreaux Carter, wife of the late Richard Carter, owners of Carter’s from Boskydell, a studio where the couple matted and framed art and photographs, and sold a lot of Fink’s work.
Judith is selling most of her collection of original drawings, prints, plates and posters and has partnered with the Longbranch Cafe and Bakery in Carbondale to exhibit some of the best pieces. They’re hanging in the Back Room, ready to be scooped up by anyone who realizes what they represent.
“I’m ready to part with most of it,” Carter said. “But it’s bittersweet. These pieces represent a vital piece of Carbondale history, and this is the first time that many of these works have been exhibited anywhere.”
Fink created most of his prints by etching and engraving zinc and copper plates. Carter’s collection includes several of those, too.
“You could use one of these plates to make new prints,” she said. “But you would have to take the artist’s signature off and mark it clearly as a ‘restrike.’ I have one of Fink’s plates, ‘The Beach,’ that has never been used.”
The Carters had a close business relationship with Fink that began with another one of their good friends, the late John Gardner, a writer and associate professor of literature at SIUC.
“Before we started selling Fink’s prints, not many people in Southern Illinois were familiar with his work,” she said. “I like to think that my husband and I had something to do with spreading the word about his talent and putting a lot of his prints in a lot of Southern Illinois homes.”
If you’re not familiar with Herbert Fink (1921-2006), you’re missing out. Fink’s contributions as an artist, teacher, arts administrator and art scholar are well-documented and evidenced by his many awards and honors. His original drawings and etchings are included in collections in more than a dozen museums, libraries and universities, and in the Library of Congress.
The Carters wrote the book on the artist, literally. In 1981, the SIU Press published “Herbert L. Fink: Graphic Artist.” It takes readers through the first 60 years of Fink’s life and work, and includes a catalog and evaluation of 275 prints and 12 drawings and watercolors, and a wonderfully creative introduction by John Gardner that’s a vivid description of their long friendship.
Fink’s landscapes are very popular with local artists and enthusiasts for many reasons, but largely because they evoke a feeling of home. His subjects, noted in the titles of some of his prints, such as “Rend Lake” and “Southern Illinois,” are ones that we recognize. But the others, whose titles are not so specific, such as “Cattails” and “Summer Doorway,” still feel familiar and comforting, as if unexpectedly running into an old friend.
“He loved it here in Southern Illinois; he loved the people,” Carter said.
The body of Fink’s work also contains many studies of the female figure. In fact, Fink is widely recognized as one of America’s great modern masters of the nude.
“He tried to convey his love for exploring what life was all about,” Carter said. “Landscapes seemed to give him the opportunity to do that, as did the female form.”