Great Bardfield and the Beeb

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Before television, the radio was the main media for the nation. The British Broadcasting Corporation was free from advertising and their early aims were to ‘educate, inform and entertain’. It was the education element that lead to leaflets being produced as a visual aid to the radio. The public could send a stamped-addressed envelope off and receive guide to the content in the radio show, from photographs of master paintings as part of a series of lectures on art to song sheets.

All of the artists from the Great Bardfield group would at one time or another work as commercial artists, many illustrating books. Here is a selection of works made for the BBC.

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 Eric Ravilious – BBC Talks Pamphlet, 1934

Published in 1934 this booklet was to follow six lectures on art, there are seven pages of text and 30 pages of black and white illustrations. The cover design is a wood engraving by Eric Ravilious showing a Bewick style wood-engraving, an artists pallet and oil paints and some beautiful graphic devices hand carved around the vignette. This booklet could be bought as a softback at seven pence or a hardback at one shilling. 

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 Edward Bawden – Dust Jacket for the BBC Year Book 1947

This cover by Edward Bawden shows Broadcasting House and All Souls Church with musical faeries flying around. The BBC Year book started as an annual review beginning 1928. In the mid 50′s it became the BBC Handbook and in the 80s merged into an Annual Report. The focus of the publication would range from statistics of people with Radio Licences, to essays on Opera, Art and even Foley House, the building that Broadcasting House replaced. But this gives me a wonderful excuse to share a picture of this magnificent building so you can compare it to Bawden’s drawing.

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 BBC Broadcasting House, London, 1932.

Many of the other works in the rest of this article are simple two colour illustrations made for various children’s educational radio programs. The way each of the artists went about solving this problem is interesting but mostly it is based on technique and time. Inside the covers is usually sheet music, lyrics and an illustration for most of the songs.

Many of Shelia Robinson’s illustrations are black and white pen drawings or her cardboard-prints, but rarely is there much colour and when there is it looks to be the printer flooding the image around her illustration with it. It’s a shame because her art prints are extraordinarily competent. 

Bernard Cheese’s works have a more interesting use of colour and layering for those interested in printmaking and use of one colour with black, as is the work of Walter Hoyle.

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 Shelia Robinson – Sing Together – Rhythm & Melody, 1955

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  Walter Hoyle – Rhythm and Melody, 1961

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  Walter Hoyle – Illustration from Rhythm and Melody, 1961

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 Shelia Robinson – Singing Together, 1961

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 Shelia Robinson – Rhythm and Melody – Summer, 1963

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 Bernard Cheese – Time and Tune, 1963

In a break from BBC radio pamphlets comes the BBC Book of the Countryside. A hardback book with a compilation of the BBC Countryside programs set out in a month by month calendar. For fans of Great Bardfield and East Anglian art,  one gets work by both Walter Hoyle and Shelia Robinson, but also six illustrations by John Nash. The drawings from the book by Walter Hoyle I am delighted to own as part of my collection.

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 Cover to the BBC Book of the Countryside, 1963

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 Walter Hoyle – Page from the Book of the Countryside to the left and the drawing to the right, 1963.

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 Shelia Robinson – January, 1963, illustration from BBC Book of the Countryside

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 Walter Hoyle – April, 1963, illustration from BBC Book of the Countryside

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 Bernard Cheese – Singing Together, 1964

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 Bernard Cheese – Singing Together, 1968

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 Bernard Cheese – Illustration from Singing Together, 1968

To see more illustrations from the Bernard Cheese Singing Together 1968 book, click here as I dedicated a full post to them

Bernard Cheese for BBC (I)

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The BBC Radio for Schools books were a wonder for illustrators and young artists, a chance to showcase a style but also work with a brief given by the BBC based on whatever the topic was about. In the days when Radio was a more dominant media than television the BBC had opportunities for the public and schools to buy printed booklets on the shows with more information and sometimes pictures too.

A music series offering children opportunities to listen to music and sing along, with creative suggestions and games to develop music appreciation and skills.

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 Bernard Cheese – Cover to Singing Songs, 

Below are the drawings made by Bernard Cheese in 1968. As the BBC wanted to save money the booklets were normally one colour and black on white paper. Here Cheese is working with pure Cyan. Some of them use dotted plastic film that was used in the printing process then, normally to save money on ink and to add shading. But in the cover picture above there are various features going on that make it a remarkable print technically. The band in black but with the drum and flag decoration shaded in blue, the crowd to the right are in black at the front and behind in blue – a cunning use of limited colours. The shading too is in blue and black dots. This is a process that the other images have been separated up using. 

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The following illustrations are curious as they incorporate parts of 19th century illustrations, likely from religious books like the Quiver, the sea and the trees are clearly from steel engravings, the King and Queen I also suspect are not from Cheese’s own hand. It is a jolly way to use and recycle such illustrations. 

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Coronation Lithographs

For the Coronation of Elizabeth II, a group of artists were invited to create lithographs for the Royal College of Art. Following the success of the Schools Prints series and Contemporary Lithographs, these prints were sold in limited editions and helped boost the RCA’s skills at reviving lithographic techniques. They were exhibited at the Redfern Gallery from April – May, 1953.

Most of the prints are held in Government collections and gain large prices at auction. It’s one of the least known lithographic collections but showcases some of the best British Artists of the mid twentieth century. 

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 Kenneth Rowntree – Country Celebrations

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Bernard Cheese – Drum Major

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 Edwin La Dell – Bandsmen in the City

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 Edwin La Dell – Horse Guards Parade

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 Alistair Grant – Hampton Court

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 Julian Trevelyan – The Mall

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 Robert Austin – Heralds

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 Barbara Jones – Prepairing the Coronation Coach

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 John Minton – Horseguards in their Dressing Rooms at Whitehall

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 Edward Bawden – Horse Guards

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 Ceri Richards – Costers Dancing

 William Scott – Busby

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 Charles Mozley – Buckingham Palace Guard

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 Peter Downing – Celebration Dancers 

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 Michael Rothenstein – Night illuminations

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 John Bowles – The Royal Barge

Bernard Cheese

“It is by his coloured lithographs that Bernard Cheese is best known to connoisseurs”

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 Picnic on the Beach  – Bernard Cheese

Bernard Cheese was born in Sydenham, south-east London. His father Gordon William Cheese was a cab driver. He trained at Beckenham School of Art with Walter Hoyle, both studying Graphic Art until they were called up for military service during the Second World War. Joining the Arillery, Cheese served four years in the army until the War ended.

Having being demobbed, in 1947 Cheese resumed his studies and enrolled at the Royal College of Art. Studying under Edward Bawden and Edwin La Dell. It was La Dell who inspired him with printmaking and lithography and encouraged Cheese to improve his draughtsman skills, sending him out with sketchbooks to markets, pubs, parks to record the social life of people around him. Together with artist-printer George Devenish, La Dell and Cheese worked at perfecting traditional lithographic techniques.

While at the Royal College of Art, Bernard met what was to become his first wife, Shelia Robinson. They were married in 1951 and lived together in Beaufort Street, Chelsea. Husband and wife both worked independently on ‘Festival of Britain’ murals, along with other artists like Barbara Jones, John Piper, John Hutton and Edward Bawden.

Bernard’s mural was in the Shot Tower (demolished to make way for the Queen Elizabeth Hall), it was called Kaleidoscope and circled the tower. The boards they were painted on have been lost and are presummed to be destoryed. It was at this time Cheese was getting work as a commersial artist with a set of posters and decorations for London Transport and printed by the Baynard Press.

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 Section #5 of Kaleidoscope by Bernard Cheese, Festival of Britain. 1951. Fry Gallery.

The marriage was blessed with a child, Chloe Cheese in 1952. Both Bernard and Shelia were weary of London accommodation and with a child they looked at moving out the city. It was under Edward Bawden’s suggestion that they resettled in the artist community of Great Bardfield, Essex, where Bawden also resided. In 1953 they moved to Bardfield End Green, neighbouring Great Bardfield but closer to Thaxted. Bernard set up a studio in an old chip shop in Great Bardfield.

Life in Great Bardfield:

Being in Great Bardfield in the 1950’s forged a legagacy of ‘artists’ that focused the attention on to each other by their location, much like the artists in St Ives in the 1920’s. The artists that lived there were able to share exhibitions that might have been too expensive for solo shows. The set was made up of Edward Bawden (who had Eric Ravilious lodging with him at one point in Brick House), John Aldridge, George Chapman, Stanley Clifford-Smith, Audrey Cruddas, Walter Hoyle, Michael Rothenstein, Marianne Straub and Sheila Robinson with Bernard Cheese. Most of whom are now eulogised by the Fry Gallery, Saffron Walden.

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 Drum Major — Bernard Cheese

In 1953 Edwin La Dell asked Cheese to contribute to the Coronation Lithograph series: a portfolio of 40 prints by staff and former students of the Royal College of Art, (most notiably featuring Kenneth Rowntree’s ER decorations print) for a celebratory exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in 1953. Bernard’s submission was ‘Drum Major’. In 1954 Cheese and Robinson’s second child Benjamin was born.

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 A Fisherman’s Story — Bernard Cheese. Tate

Maybe the most famous image of all for Bernard Cheese was for the Guinness lithograph series. Intended to be hung on the walls of the pubs to brighten them up, the artworks where inspired by the Guinness book of world Records. Cheese’s response to this project was ‘A Fisherman’s Story’, an image of an old man in a pub telling of the largest fish… Other works in the series were Edward Ardizzone’s ‘The Fattest Woman in the World’ and Barnett Freedman’s ‘The Darts Champion’.

Life after Great Bardfield.
Shelia Robinson and Cheese separated in 1957 and followed in divorced in 1958. Cheese married his former student Brenda Latham Brown. They moved to Stisted, Essex (closer to Braintree) where their daughters, Joanna and Sarah, were born. For a studio, Bernard rented a Sunday school room.

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 Bernard Cheese – London Transport Museum Poster

Now working as a teacher and with a good income, Bernard was able to print off lithographs with more ease. Since the rise of the Lyons, Guinness and School Print lithographs… this generation of artists where seeing signed lithographs as a viable commercial option. With people like La Dell and Freedman leading the way in modern lithography for artists, not publishers. With more works came more exhibitions and Cheese’s work would be shown all over the world, both in solo shows and contemporary printmaking exhibitions. Other commercial work would be for the BBC and A&C Black to P&O Cruises.

In the 70’s Cheese taught at Goldsmiths College (70–78) and part time in the 80’s at the Central School of Art and Design, London. He and Brenda (nee Latham Brown) separated in 1988 and divorced in 1992. In the 90’s Cheese moved to Nayland, north of Colchester. While he continued to travel in search of new subjects for watercolours that he subsequently reworked as lithographs, he turned increasingly to delightfully idiosyncratic still-life arrangements such as ‘Trout on a Plate’ and ‘On the Rocks’ and ‘Green Apples’many printed by the Curwen Press.

Cheese seams to have picked up Edward Bawden’s sense of humour for his later lithographs, partially Bawden’s talent for comic sketch-work. Many of the later prints contain a humorous twist.

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 On The Rocks  –  Bernard Cheese.

Chesse’s works reside in the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Collection to the Museum of Modern Art in New York and New York Public Library. The Tate London and the Fry Gallery in Saffron Walden.With more than 100 lithographs and watercolours, Aberystwyth University holds the largest public collection of his works. In 1988 Cheese was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.

Cheese was predeceased by Ben. He is survived by Chloe, Joanna and Sarah.

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Bernard Cheese, painter and printmaker, born 20 January 1925; died 15 March 2013.