Frumenti is one of the very first prints that Bernard Childs made. He had already made a name for himself as a painter when he went to Paris in about 1952. Late in 1954, Childs spent a month or more studying engraving at Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17. It was there that he made Frumenti. (Childs made 200 impressions of Frumenti, which was so exhausting that he vowed to never again make such a large edition!)
Before he moved to Paris, Childs had spent a year in Rome. It was there that he had his first solo exhibition, at the venerable Galleria dell’Obellisco. Judith Childs, Bernard’s wife, told me that after the opening, Childs’ friends brought him up to the wheat fields that were then still to be found outside the city to relax and celebrate. It was those fields and that occasion which inspired Frumenti.
Childs’ great contribution to print-making was his innovation of using power tools to engrave the plate. He referred to these prints as “power drypoints”. Though it proved to be a superb tool for Childs, Hayter was less enamored of it. He told Childs that he could not do that engraving at the atelier because it made too much noise. Years later, Judith Childs introduced herself to Hayter at the opening of a Hayter exhibition in New York. Hayter’s immediate response: “Uch! All that noise!”
In early 1955 a friend offered Childs a printing press at no cost other than moving it. Childs successfully moved it, though it weighed two tons, and later brought it to New York. Initially it was housed in the basement of the famous Chelsea Hotel, where Bernard and Judith lived, and later moved to a cousin’s garage. It was on that press that Childs made most of his prints.