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December 21, 1897 – October 20, 1988

Lawrence Nelson Wilbur joined Local 1P* in 1920 and for the next 43 years used his knowledge of color and hand skills as a finisher in the finest engraving shops in New York, doing work for every major magazine in America.

But Wilbur’s talent went beyond his craft. He was an artist whose oil paintings, drawings, prints and watercolors received wide acclaim from art critics. His life and career have been portrayed on public and cable television on a video that has also been acquired by major museums, universities and libraries.

Wilbur was born in Whitman, Mass in 1897. As a young man, he traveled to Boston and Los Angeles before settling in New York. He studied art at night while working in photoengraving plants during the day.

Wilbur’s interests in the graphic arts and the fine arts complemented each other. Photoengraving gave him the financial means and fostered some of the skills he used in his career as an artist. He made color plates for reproduction of the work of most American illustrators and found that the meticulous nature of that work aided his artistic development. While he worked in wood engraving, wood cuts, linoleum blocks and lithographs, his favorite method was drypoint engraving. Even at the age of 90 with failing eyesight, he worked in drypoint with the aid of a magnifying glass.

Wilbur’s art career spanned more than seven decades. His style was traditional with elements of abstract distortion. Although he lived and painted in Massachusetts, California, London and Mexico, he was principally a New York artist who concentrated on cityscapes, landscapes and the human figure. Some of his most treasured paintings were portraits of his wife Sally, who had been his constant companion and model since 1935.

Permanent collections of Wilbur’s works reside in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum, Boston Museum, Library of Congress, Museum of the City of New York, National Gallery, National Museum of American Art, Pennsylvania State University, Boston Public Library, New York Public Library, Princeton University, and New York Historical Society.

He received awards from the American Watercolor Society, Allied Artists of America, National Academy of Design, American Artist Magazine, Salmagundi Club of New York, Painters and Sculptors Society of New Jersey and Society of America Graphic Artists.

To see samples of his work click here (hyperlink to

Source: “Local 1P member was gifted artist.” GraphiCommunicator, March 1989: 10.

Reprinted with permission.

* Local 1P merged with Local 1L in 1998.