"Victor is more of a monk than anybody I know because he is rooted in his own solitude, his integrity and his work which receives no publicity. And he does not rebel uselessly, he is content, yet maintains his true honor in simplicity. There's therefore in him a humility and honor together, a kind of monastic silence. Not a passive self-effacement but a quietness that speaks to anyone who can listen, for it is full of honest reality."
- Turning Toward the World, p. 69
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Victor Hammer - "more of a monk than anybody I know"
Victor and Carolyn Hammer at the Stamperia del Santuccio in Lexington, KY, ca. 1960.
Victor Hammer was a traditional artist-craftsman from the old school. Born in Vienna, he revered dexterity, apprenticeship, recipes passed down through generations of studio work. When the Nazis annexed Austria, he came to the United States, eventually becoming an artist-in-residence at Transylvania College in Lexington, KY. There he re-established a printmaking art known as the Stamperia del Santuccio, a name he had used while making books in Florence. Designing many of his own typefaces and cutting by hand, he was able to print some of the most beautiful books one will ever see.
Merton and Victor began working together in 1958, and the bond between them could not have been stronger. In 1960 he published an edition of Merton's much-appreciated poem, Hagia Sophia, the female figure of Holy Wisdom. Victor had painted her image without knowing who it was he was painting.
Of Victor, Merton wrote in his journal: