University Museums

Title: Tobias and the Angel
Name: Wood engraving
Date: 1958
Medium: Wood engraving. on paper Printed by the International Graphic Arts Society.
Country/Culture: American
Dimensions: 14 15/16 x 14 15/16 in. (37.9 x 37.9 cm)
Signed: Signed with pencil, lower right, "Leonard Baskin"
Marks: Signed with pencil, lower right, "Leonard Baskin"; titled with pencil, lower left, "Tobias and the Angel"; numbered with pencil, near lower left, "148/300"; initialed in cartouche in block, lower left (they are Leonard Baskin's initials).
Edition: 148/300 Numbered in pencil, lower left corner
Classification: Prints and Printing Plates
Credit Line: Gift of the estate of John Huseby. In the permanent collection, Brunnier Art Museum, University Museums, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa.
Object Number: um94.62
More Information
Leonard Baskin was born on 15 August 1922 in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the son of Rabbi Samuel Baskin and his second wife May Guss. In 1929 the family moved to Brooklyn where Samuel Baskin had obtained a post as Rabbi at Congregation B'nai Israel. In 1936 Leonard started to attend night school at the Educational Alliance on the Lower East Side, where he met sculptor Maurice Glickman. Baskin had his first exhibition at Glickman's studio in 1939 and in 1940 won an Honorable Mention for Sculpture in the Prix de Rome competition. After attending New York University, School of Architecture and Allied Arts, in 1941 Baskin won a scholarship to Yale University, School of Fine Arts. From 1943 to 1946, he served in the United States Navy, after which he resumed his education at the New School for Social Research.

In 1950 Baskin travelled to Paris and studied at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. In early 1951 he moved to Florence, where he enrolled at Academia di Belle Arte. Baskin returned to the U.S. in the spring of 1951, and later that year moved to Massachusetts, where he became an instructor in printmaking at the Worcester Art Museum. From 1953 to 1974 Baskin taught art at Smith College in Northampton, and later taught at Hampshire College in Amherst from 1984 until 1994. Throughout his teaching career he continued to produce his own sculpture and graphic arts at his studio in Leeds, and ran a small art press, Gehenna Press, which he had started at Yale in 1942. A fifty-year retrospective of Gehenna Press books toured the United States in 1992. Among his public works are the Holocaust Memorial sculpture on the site of the First Jewish Cemetery in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a bas relief of Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1945 funeral procession, part of the FDR Memorial dedicated in 1997 in Washington, D.C.

Based on the apocryphal Book of Tobit, the story of Tobit of Nenevah describes a man of good faith who suffers from blindness and poverty. Tobit sent his son, Tobias to a distant city to collect money he had deposited there, and hired a companion to accompany the youth. The disguised companion was the archangel Raphael who also offered instructions to Tobias on how to use fish organs to drive away demons and cure blindness. Their journey was successful as the money was recovered, and medicine made from the monstrous fish Tobias encountered along the way cured Tobit's blindness. In Hebrew, Raphael's name means God has healed.

In Renaissance paintings of this theme, Raphael often holds a golden mortar used for compounding medicinal ingredients or a medicine box. In this print Raphael's identity is established by the presence of the large fish held by Tobias. This story was probably popular in 15th and 16th centuries Italy with painters such as Filippino Lippi, Andrea del Verrocchio, Leonardo da Vinci, and Antonio del Pollaiolo, because of the story's appeal to merchant families, whose sons were often sent to trade in far-away cities. Renaissance paintings of Tobias and his angelic guardian were likely commissioned as dedications to ensure a safe journey, or offer thanks for a safe return.

Published References: 1984 Fern, Alan and Judith O'Sullivan. The Complete Prints of Leonard Baskin: A Catalogue Raisonne 1948-1983. Boston: New York Graphic Society Book, Little, Brown and Co., 1984. Tobias and the Angel, Fern and O'Sullivan, 367