From the Studio of Master Lithographer Fred Genis. A Retrospective Exhibition: 1965 -1995.
By Julianna Kolenberg. February 1997
Serendipity marks the beginning of Fred Genis’ career as a lithographer. Applying for a place at the Amsterdam Graphic School in 1947, but having no clear idea of what he wanted to do there, he was put into the stone lithography department under the tutelage of Coen Hafkamp. It was like finding himself at home. He found he had an innate flair for the exacting medium, and the enjoyment that comes form acquiring and discovering the necessary skills.
Once more, happy chance intervened before Genis had finished at the School. At the time there were no artist lithographic workshops in Amsterdam, so some artists applied to the Graphic School for help. The three third-year students were asked if they wanted to make lithographs for artist in the evenings. Genis was interested. Loving the stone but seeing that all around him the printing industry was on the verge of leaving stone lithography behind forever, he was keen to stay with it. He found his niche- found he preferred the creative, ever changing challenge that artists brought to the medium, found that he was able to respond to their needs and assist their inventive struggles.
However, there were few chances for an eager but very young man to pursue work in such a specialized area. He had the good fortune to find early an activity that gave him immense satisfaction and to which he could fully devote his energies. Yet it was many years before such work became a viable possibility.
There followed years of employment in the rapidly changing and increasingly mechanized printing industry, and a “wanderlust” that took him to Rhodesia, Brazil, Sydney, back to Holland, The USA again back to Holland and finally, again to Sydney.
While in Australia in the early 1960’s Genis had come across a Time magazine article about the setting up of the Tamarind Workshop in Los Angeles (‘Art: Because water hates grease’ Times 10 April 1964). This began to coalesce the still nebulous idea of working with artists. In 1966, after making contact with Tamarind, he joined Ken Tyler, who had been Tamarind’s technical director, at his newly set up Gemini Ltd. Lithographic workshop in Los Angeles.
Thus at the age of 32 he was able to set a course to follow his youthful, then seemingly impossible dream of working with artists.
While many artists are able to, and prefer to print their own relief prints – etching, woodcuts or engravings – a few have the means of setting up the materials and tools needed for lithography. The medium is also rather complex and difficult to learn and manage, unless practiced constantly and with variety. Hence most artists who print – or wish to print lithographs must rely on a workshop and collaboration with a lithographic printer.
Genis has worked with artist experienced, inexperienced, famous, unknown. Bohemian, pedestrian, orderly, disorderly, and in each case there has been a unique personal collaboration to which the artist brings his or her personality, creative urge and own use of materials. Genis contributes his personality, experience and knowledge of the lithographic medium and his patience, as both partner and singular midwife to assist the birth of a work of art.
Genis describes his part in this process as being “like water’ quiescent, fluid, unformed, but able at any instant to show, suggest, assist or even withhold. It is interpretation that is both instinctive and highly intelligent, leaving enough room for the artist and yet giving him or her as much as is needed, even, occasionally, more than is needed, if that is what is needed. This knife-edge of sensitivity and response drives both the artist and lithographer in the early creative and testing stages, and compensates the lithographic printer for the later more regulated work of bringing out ‘the edition’, whether it be of 10 or 99.
The first such exhibition, in 1974 of his American artists’ ‘printer’s proofs’, was shown in Holland in ‘Coopmanshus, Franker, Friesland near Oudkerk, where Genis had his lithographic workshop from 1972-79. …………………..
To read more of this article please contact Lois Genis at
From the Catalogue titled: From the Studio of Master Lithographer Fred Genis. A retrospective Exhibition : 1965 -1995. Written by Julianna Kolenberg. 1997. Westpac Gallery Victoria Melbourne.