La Huella Magistral exhibition's tribute to Maestro Ernesto de Soto —
July 8, 2020

La Huella Magistral exhibition’s tribute to Maestro Ernesto de Soto

the Critic
Ernesto de Soto, The Critic, lithograph, 2010

La Huella Magistral exhibition includes a tribute to Maestro Ernesto de Soto, the first Mexican American Master Printer in the country

For this exhibition, the museum added artworks from the Permanent Collection that recognize additional master printers. It is fitting to highlight Ernesto de Soto, the first Mexican American Master Printer.

For Latino and Latina printmakers and art historians, Ernesto de Soto is known as the first Mexican American master printer and producer of an impressive series of artworks. Ernest Frank de Soto (October 26, 1923 – December 29, 2014) was a master printer, who specialized in American and Mexican prints during his career. De Soto was the first Master Printer of Mexican descent in the U.S. He established and directed his own printing workshop, the de Soto Workshop, for over 27 years. De Soto was also the first American printmaker to establish an international relationship with Mexican artists and had a lasting impact on printing in the United States.

Ernest F. de Soto was born in Tucson, Arizona.  An eighth-generation Tucsonan, de Soto left home after high school to study at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles when he was seventeen. While in Los Angeles, he discovered the art of lithography under the master printer, Lynton R. Kistler. He was drafted into the Army Engineers–his background in art landed him work as a camouflage technician. After serving in the South Pacific, de Soto returned to Los Angeles briefly and then used money from the G.I. Bill to fund his studies in Guadalajara, Mexico at the Escuela de Bellas Artes. De Soto also attended the Escuela de Belles Artes in San Miguel de Allende, where he learned fresco painting. While a student in Mexico, he also was an apprentice under David Alfaro Siqueiros, a founder of the Mexican Muralism movement.

His education also includes work at a number of other institutions, among them the University of Illinois, Urbana, where he earned a B.F.A. degree in 1961 and the California Institute of the Arts, Los Angeles. In 1965, he received a grant from the Ford Foundation to work, learn and experiment at Tamarind Lithography Workshop in Los Angeles for two full years. After two years of apprenticeship, he was awarded the title of Master Printer.

“A Master Printer is one who has learned every possible way to make a lithograph: how to tackle a problem and solve it,” he stated. “A printmaker should be able to prepare the work in such a way that long editions, sometimes up to 200 can be printed. This requires special skill, especially in lithography, because the higher the number of impressions, the greater the effort and knowledge needed to prepare for a long print run. The Master Printer also must be inventive in helping the artist to achieve any special effects he wishes, and above all, a Master Printer cannot make mistakes.”

In 1967, shortly after leaving Tamarind, de Soto became co-founder and Master Printer of Collectors Press Lithography Workshop in San Francisco. In 1972 he became partners of Editions Press with Jose Luis Cuevas. He remained with Collectors Press until the founding of his own shop in 1975, the Ernest F. de Soto Workshop, located in San Francisco. The de Soto Workshop “is known for specializing in contemporary Latin American and American lithographs.”

“La Huella Magistral: Homage to Master Printmakers” features works from 19 printmakers, each contributing an individual print to the limited edition portfolio. Each artist pays tribute to a master printmaker who mentored, taught, or inspired them and contributed artwork in their mentor’s preferred medium or recognizable style.

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About Merideth Cox 239 Articles
Merideth is a music writer who has covered bands from her hometown in Colorado to London to Bangkok to Shanghai and finally back to Austin. Led Zeppelin changed her life. So did Dolly Parton. You can read her music reviews at

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