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The Art Legacy League-Catfish Letter Arts School

About Catich, The Art Legacy League

& Catifish Letter Arts School

Edward Michael Catich was born in Stevensville Montana on January 4, 1906. He was orphaned at age 12 and, with his three brothers, was moved to the Mooseheart orphanage near Aurora, Illinois. Following a sign-writing apprenticeship with Walter Heberling and graduating from Mooseheart in 1924, he worked as a union sign-writer and musician in Chicago and vicinity. He also attended the Art Insitute of Chicago for two and one half years.

Ned Catich enrolled at St. Ambrose College (Davenport, IA) in 1931 and graduated in 1934. He earned his M.A. in Art from the University of Iowa in 1935 and was awarded a four year scholarship to the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Italy by the Diocese of Davenport that same year. He conducted intensive paleographic and epigraphic research while studying for the priesthood from 1935 until his ordination in December of 1938. His special fields of inquiry: Paleography and Archeology.

Reverend Catich returned to St. Ambrose College in 1939. He taught art, math, engineering, and music while establishing and expanding the Art Department as a permanent entity. Catich also published several books with his own Catfish Press which he operated from his studio. Through his research, he saw and formulated the kinesthetic linkage between the inscription letter making of Imperial Rome and his own familiar Chicago sign-writing.

Father Catich was president of the Catholic Art Association, staff consultant for Encyclopaedia Britannica – he designed EB’s corporate identity symbol and bicentennial medal – and was consultant for several nationally known architectural firms. His stone inscriptions have been exhibited in institutions throughout the country and are the permanent decor at Encyclopaedia Britannica’s corporate headquarters, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Reed College, the Morton Arboretum, Harvard University, and the George M. Bevier Library of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Engineering. Among his many awards and achievements, perhaps the best known was the Frederic W. Goudy Award which he received in 1976. Father Edward M. Catich died on April 14, 1979.

Reverend Edward Michael Catich remains the leading authority of the Imperial Roman letter as found at the Trajan Column in Rome, Italy. The Trajan Inscription has been generally regarded by paleographers, calligraphers and others interested in the letter arts as the finest example of the best period of Roman monumental lettering. It is accepted as the basic model of the Roman alphabet. Until Father Catich, the majority of the studies made of this inscription were not based on the original stone, but on reproductions of it which were in many ways misleading.

E. M. Catich began his intensive paleographic and epigraphic research throughout Europe and the Middle East in 1935 as he studied for the priesthood in Rome. After his ordination in December of 1938, he returned innumerable times over the course of his life to gather facts which he published in two major works; Letters Redrawn from the Trajan Inscription (1961) and Origin of the Serif (1968). Both books were published by his own Catfish Press at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa where he was chairman of the Art Department. Father Catich did more than just write about the letters on the Trajan Inscription, he made an actual full-sized cast* directly from the monument itself. A feat that will, most likely, never be repeated.

Father Catich is well known as an author, stonecutter, calligrapher, photographer, musician, liturgical artist, historian and lecturer. He taught at St. Ambrose College (now University) for over forty years, to include the years he attended as an undergraduate student when he taught music. He taught Art at the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery an equal number of years and offered calligraphy workshops all across the country during his lifetime.

*located at the RR Donnelley Corporate offices in Chicago, Illinois

Father Catich’s private press was located on St. Ambrose campus but it was not funded by the university. Therefore, he could not call it the St. Ambrose College Press. His initial reasoning behind the press was the advancement of the Pictorial Apostolate and so the name should reflect its religious roots. The logotype incorporates the initial letters CP (Catfish Press) which are also designed to read as the Greek letter phi and the Chi-Rho ligature (XP) combined with the catfish and read as “Jesus Christ our Light,” to signify the guiding beacon for the Catfish Press.
The Art Legacy League has been formed to ensure that Catich and his legacy are not forgotten. We have created a working division of our organization called The CATFISH Letter Arts School. Our mission is to offer workshops and classes teaching the Catich Method for Calligraphy and Letter Arts as well as other fine art studio disciplines. The Fall 2017 workshops are the first to be offered in our new home at the JB Youn Opportunity Center, Davenport, Iowa.


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