Angelica Garnett obituary

from The Guardian, May 7th 2007.

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A woman of great beauty and personal magnetism, Angelica Garnett, who has died aged 93, had many gifts. She turned her hand to mosaics, painting and sculpture and transformed domestic interiors with hand-painted decorations. As a writer, she used words with great sensitivity and precision. Her speaking voice was startlingly beautiful owing to her exquisite pronunciation. Her creativity must have been partly genetic, for she was the daughter of the artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, a parentage that gave her a double share of Bloomsbury inheritance.

This proved to be both a blessing and a burden. During much of her life, and particularly in the essays and books that she wrote, she struggled to come to terms with the psychological complexities that she associated with her upbringing. Her difficulties and anger with her elders emerged in her memoir Deceived With Kindness (1984), which contributed a poignant coda to the history of Bloomsbury and triggered a fresh spate of antagonism towards it.

To some extent, Angelica shared this negative view, while, at the same time, remaining a principal exponent of Bloomsbury, its values and way of life. Listening to her speak in public about herself and Bloomsbury, it was distressing to witness the tension between her pride in her forebears and the pain that these memories caused.

Her mother often reminded Angelica that she had French blood in her veins, for her great-great-grandmother had been married to the Chevalier de l’Etang, a member of Marie Antoinette’s household. But it hardly needed this distant connection to stimulate the young girl’s interest in all things French, including art. In her childhood, there were long periods spent in the south, mostly in a small villa outside Cassis.

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When she was 18, she was sent to live for a while with a family in Paris so that she could learn the language. In old age she observed that her life had been “loosely and pervasively mixed up with France for as long as I can remember” and that “nothing in it would be the same or have the same flavour without this connection”. The country eventually became her permanent home and her last 30 years were spent living in Forcalquier.

She had been born at Charleston, a Sussex farmhouse situated at the foot of the South Downs and at some remove from the nearby village of Firle. Nowadays visitors stream through the house, during the six months of the year that it is open to the public, but at the time of Angelica’s birth it was remote from civilisation and devoid of modern comforts. Vanessa Bell had rented it so that Grant and his friend David Garnett, both conscientious objectors, could obtain necessary employment as farm labourers. Her husband Clive Bell visited at weekends, but marital relations between them had ceased and Vanessa had fallen in love with Grant. He returned her love, despite the fact that he was predominantly homosexual.

Knowing this, Vanessa agreed that the good-looking Garnett, with whom Grant became obsessed around 1914, could become part of their wartime menage. Soon after Angelica was born, she was weighed in a shoebox on the kitchen scales. Garnett, watching the procedure, was astonished that the baby already showed signs of intelligence and independent will. He wrote presciently to Lytton Strachey: “Its beauty is the remarkable thing … I think of marrying it; when she is 20 I shall be 46 — will it be scandalous?” Angelica did indeed marry into her parents’ generation and Garnett was to be her husband.

The immediate issue at the time of her birth was her paternity. This was attributed to Clive, partly to protect the servants at Charleston from embarrassing gossip, and possibly also for financial reasons, as it was the habit of Clive’s colliery-owning father to settle allowances on his grandchildren. From what Vanessa later told Angelica, she also felt that Grant was too young to become a father (though he was by then 33). As a result, Angelica grew up believing she had the same father as her two brothers, Julian and Quentin, and that Grant was no more than an enchanting family friend. By the standards of the day, Bloomsbury was highly unconventional.

Angelica’s early life was spent in an unorthodox and slightly precious environment. As Vanessa’s youngest child and only daughter, she lived under a spotlight of concentrated attention. (She later fictionalised this experience in her short story When All the Leaves Were Green: “It was like being in a hall of mirrors, where she saw only reflections of herself.”) Her mother readily gave in to her whims.

At the age of 10 she was sent as a boarder to Langford Grove, in Essex. Its headteacher cared more for culture than the curriculum and thought nothing of interrupting the timetable in order to carry off select pupils to a London play reviewed in the newspaper that morning, or to attend a concert in Cambridge. More educative for Angelica would have been the Bloomsbury conversations at home, or over tea with her uncle and aunt Leonard and Virginia Woolf. Often Angelica went to see Virginia alone with Vanessa, and amused herself while they gossiped, ever afterwards envying the intimate relations between sisters. 

In the summer of 1937, when Angelica was 18, Vanessa informed her of her true parentage. This information did not alter things greatly. Angelica was advised by Vanessa not to tell Clive, as he liked to think of her as his daughter, and for some reason she did not approach Grant with her new knowledge.
He maintained a barrier of simplicity and kindness that prevented her seeing what lay behind it. Later she asked herself if in fact there was anything further to see. “Assuredly there was, but it was too nebulous, private and self-centred to respond to the demands of a daughter. As a result our relationship, though in many ways delightful, was a mere simulacrum. We were not like father and daughter. There were no fights or struggles, no displays of authority and no moments of increased love and affection. All was gentle, equable and superficial … My dream of the perfect father — unrealised — possessed me … My marriage was but a continuation of it.

By the time she married Garnett — “Bunny”, as he was known to friends and family — he had become a renowned editor, reviewer and novelist. The marriage took place in 1942, two years after his first wife had died of cancer. Their preceding affair had caused bad relations between Bunny and Grant and Vanessa Bell, but with the marriage came an uneasy truce.

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Angelica moved into Hilton Hall, Cambridgeshire, which Bunny had acquired in 1924. A Jacobean house that had been altered in the mid-18th century in a slightly old-fashioned countrified manner, it made an often cold but romantic, commodious setting in which to bring up their four daughters, Amaryllis, Henrietta and the twins Fanny and Nerissa, and to accommodate Bunny’s two sons by his first marriage. The house was a hotbed of creativity: not only were all four daughters highly talented, but Angelica, who had earlier studied acting under Michel Saint-Denis and painting at the Euston Road School, now had her own studio. She painted and Bunny wrote.

The marriage, however, as Angelica later remarked, had been an act of rebellion and was ill-judged. After some 25 years, they parted. For Angelica, there followed a nomadic period: she set up home in Islington, north London, then moved back to Charleston after Grant’s death in 1978, there experiencing severe depression. Next she bought a house nearby, at Ringmer, before finally settling down in Forcalquier. There were further relations with men who had been associated with Grant, but she never remarried. One of her most constant admirers was her brother Quentin and her likeness appears often in his paintings and ceramic figurines.

In her own work, she picked up sudden enthusiasms, some of which she equally quickly dropped. In the 1960s she worked for a period with mosaics, also publishing a manual on this medium in 1967. She was primarily a painter, but in the 1980s revealed a flair for constructed sculpture, making witty and concise use of found objects and materials. Exhibitions of her work were held in Milan, with Deborah Gage in London, at Forcalquier and elsewhere.

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Some posts from my instagram account.
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Wisden, Ravilious and a Supplementary Spy.

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 Woodcut design by Eric Ravilious by Wisden.

In 1938 typographer and spy, Robert Harling commissioned Eric Ravilious to produce an engraving for the Wisden Cricket Almanac. Harling knew Ravilious had a “special enthusiasm for the game” and wrote: “His engraving of mid-19th century batsman and wicket-keeper remains an ideal graphic introduction to one of England’s most durable publications.

Over 75 covers have been published since 1938 with the Ravilious batsmen on the cover. The engraving briefly lost its cover-star status in 2003, when a photograph of Michael Vaughan relegated it to the spine of the book’s jacket, incurring the displeasure of traditionalists.

It was immediately restored to the cover in 2004, while staying on the spine as well. And so, for ten editions now, including this one, Ravilious’s creation has been more visible than ever.

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Whatever the origin, we do know for certain that Ravilious played cricket, if at a lowly level. In 1935, he wrote of turning out for the Double Crown Club, a dining club for printers and book designers, against the village team at Castle Hedingham in Essex, where he lived for a while. He said the game went on “a bit too long for my liking and I began to get a little absent-minded in the deep field after tea”. He made one not out in defeat, and bowled a few overs. “It all felt like being back at school, especially the trestle tea with slabs of bread and butter, and that wicked-looking cheap cake.” He went on to record the comment of the Double Crown captain Francis Meynell that his bowling was “of erratic length, but promising, and that I should have been put on before. Think of the honour and glory there.

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 Sketch design by Ravilious for Wisden.

In another game at Castle Hedingham, with his wife Tirzah (a talented artist herself) “in charge of the strawberries and cream”, Ravilious talked of hitting three sixes. “It is, you might say, one of the pleasures of life, hitting a six.

Ravilious saw only five of the Almanacks to carry his engraving. Yet his work — in many ways a distillation of Englishness — lives on.

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 John Wisden’s 187th birthday by Google doodle – 5th September 2013.

PS: Before the second world war, Robert Harling taught at the Reimann School of Design in London, where one of his pupils was the young émigré Alex Kroll, later to join him as art director on House & Garden. A keen weekend sailor, Robert took part in the wartime evacuation of British forces at Dunkirk in May 1940, which he described in his book Amateur Sailor, published in 1944 under the pen name Nicholas Drew. The poet John Masefield praised the book as the best eyewitness account of Dunkirk ever written. Robert then joined the Royal Navy, first serving on mid-Atlantic convoy duty. Again, he gave a marvellous account of this experience in his atmospheric memoir The Steep Atlantick Stream (1946).

His friend Ian Fleming was responsible for Robert’s sudden transfer from anti-submarine warfare to the newly constituted Unit 17Z, given its name by Fleming himself and headed by Donald McLachlan. This small and, to Robert, highly congenial outfit, soon to be known as Fleming’s Secret Navy, was responsible for day-to-day liaison between the naval intelligence division and the British war propaganda teams.

Secret navy assignations, involving solitary missions to the US and the far and Middle East, appealed to the cloak-and-dagger instinct in Robert. The fastidious James Lees-Milne described him as “a rough diamond”. So, to some extent, he was. Wartime experiences cemented Robert and Fleming’s mutual admiration. Robert is depicted fondly in The Spy Who Loved Me as the make-up man on the Chelsea Clarion — “a man called Harling was quite a dab hand at getting the most out of the old-fashioned type faces that were all our steam-age jobbing printers in Pimlico had in stock.”

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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.

The Lion and the Unicorn

 Enid Marx

The Lion and the Unicorn are heraldic symbols of the full Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. The lion stands for England and the unicorn for Scotland. The combination dates to 1603, the accession of James I of England who was already James VI of Scotland. The union of the two countries required a new royal coat of arms combining those of England which featured two lions, and Scotland whose coat of arms featured two Unicorns. A compromise was made thus the British coat of arms has one Lion and one Unicorn,

hence “The lion and the unicorn”. 

By extension, they have also been used in the Coat of Arms of Canada since 1921.

 Eric Ravilious

In the art of Heraldry the Lion and the Unicorn are called ‘supporters’ to the clans device, the Arms. The centre of the Arms depicts the Leopards of England in the first and fourth quarters, the lion of Scotland in the second and the Harp of Ireland in the third quarter. The motto around the centre means: “Evil to him who evil thinks” which relates to the Order of the Garter. The motto at the bottom means: “God and my Right”.

 Paul Bommer

In satire the Lion and the unicorn have become many people over time in issues of Punch and other publications they are posed as rivals fighting for the common good of the country. Most famously perhaps in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass when the illustrator John Tenniel made them into caricatures of Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone.

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 Edward Bawden

The traditional legend of enmity between the two heraldic animals and countries is recorded in a nursery rhyme. It is usually given with the lyrics:

The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown

The lion beat the unicorn
All around the town.

Some gave them white bread,
And some gave them brown;

Some gave them plum cake
and drummed them out of town.

The legend of the two animals may have been intensified by the Acts of Union 1707 and it was one year later that William King (1663–1712) recorded a verse very similar to the first stanza of the modern rhyme. This seems to have grown to include several other verses. Apart from those above only one survives:

And when he had beat him out,
He beat him in again;

He beat him three times over,
His power to maintain.

Post War Furniture

The 1939 war has been responsible for a remarkable social experiment in the furniture field. The extreme shortage of timber, much more marked than in the previous war, and the destruction of furniture by bombing led to an unprecedented situation. A rationing system was essential, and this entailed standard specifications and designs. The President of the Board of Trade appointed a Committee to advise him. 

“On diversifications for the prediction of utility furniture of good sound construction in simple buy agreeable designs for sale at reasonable prices, having regard to the necessity for the maximum economy of raw materials and labour.”

‘The Things We See #Number 3 Furniture’ By Gordon Russell Penguin Books — 1947.:

The interesting feature of the scheme is that there has been a definite and conscious effort to grade up both designs and specification. Through it the public has therefore become accustomed to a much better and simpler type of design than was common before the war. In fact it is true to say that such designs were only obtainable then in the more expensive shops.

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This applies not only to the woodwork but to the textiles, some of which reach a surprisingly high standard of design. In view of the immense scope of the scheme, which a range of standard school furniture, it is bound to have a lasting effect, not only on the public but on the trade.

‘The Things We See #Number 3 Furniture’ By Gordon Russell Penguin Books — 1947.:

Permanent government control of design in consumer trades is hardly likely to be beneficial, but it may well prove that war-time control, accompanied by a positive urge, at a very formative period, has enabled this whole trade to review its position more freely, since the anxiety of what to make for next autumn and next sprint has for the moment been removed.


From — The things we see. Number Three: Furniture.
By Gordon Russell. Penguin Books — 1947.

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Some posts from my instagram account.

Canal Boat Baroque

Woodcuts by John o’Connor
Canal boat decoration is more sever and generally smaller in scale and form than that of the gypsy caravan. The shape of the boat itself, build for narrow bridges, tunnels, and wharves, denies excesses and frills.

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Canal boats in the 1960s still used a formal pattern of décor, in the style of road transport vehicles, and the rose and castle of the water bucket now have a strangely insecure position on the shelves of some departmental stores, although a few are still to be seen on the canals. In brilliant green, scarlet, yellow, and pale blue, the landscape and flower pictures are painted in a tradition as rigid as a Gothic screen.

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Black is used as a foil to white cord in ship-shape order. These decorations are as incongruous in the setting of an English landscape, hedgerow, weed, and dark water, as a flowered teapot at a picnic. 

Cheap fairing pieces of china in the 1880s may be the direct source of inspiration for these designs. Recalling as they do the corded mantelpieces of a Victorian midland cottage.

From ‘The Saturday Book #22’ (1962) Edited by John Hadfield
& The best of the Saturday book 1941–1975 (1981) Edited by John Hadfield

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With Nature and a Camera

With Nature and a Camera: being the adventures and observations of a field naturalist and an animal photographer.
This book has some of the most wonderful photos. It’s full of curious poses and ideas in nature. How to look after birds, catch cats and tripod ideas.

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“South of England, where the conditions are different, mischievous cats are caught by a trap popularly known amongst some keepers as “ Bill Adams,” its terribly character. It is baited with herring and often placed on a plank thrown across a stream, as shown in our illustration .Just as pussy steps softly beneath a kind of triumphal arch, its weight releases a bit of cunning machinery, and a couple of doors swiftly closed, one before and one chine and all chance of escape is instantly cut off.”

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Woodcut Patterns by Paul Nash

An essay from The Woodcut No.1 An Annual.
In its beginning engraving had certain practical uses. One of these was the cutting of hieroglyphics on wooden stamps for the purpose of producing impressions on clay. The cuts were made both in intaglio and in relief. Blocks of this kind, for stamping bricks, where employed by the Egyptians and in Babylon. The accompanying illustration represents a wooden block found in a tomb at Thebes.

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Considering these examples of an early method of printing, it is obvious that it was used in other directions, and the inference is that blocks were cut not only with a directly useful intention, as for impressing clay and similar substances, but with a decorative purpose in marking cloth. From the moment the simple craft flowed over from its utilitarian groove it assumed the nature of an art.

That is not to deny that the craft of cutting hieroglyphics may produce consummate art, but a skilled craftsman is not of necessity an artist. Therefore, I date the birth of the art of engraving on wood from the time the craft developed a consciously decorative purpose, and the first-fruits of this were probably in the nature of patterns marked by dyes upon cloth.

It was not until centuries later that the art took on a pictorial significance: even then, for many years after its application to books as an accompaniment to text, its decorative or pattern value was still its true importance.
With the increase of skill, however, this quality began to diminish. 

The discovery of chiaroscuro only hastened its disappearance, and once the conception of wood engraving as a means for reproducing drawings rather than creating prints was firmly rooted, the decorative value of woodcuts became a matter of accident, dependent, indeed, upon the nature of the drawing translated. Thus, although the art of engraving was already doomed, its spirit has perished long before its ultimate decay into a job for skilled mechanical hacks.

With the revival of wood engraving in recent times, artists have instinctively explored the decorative possibilities of the art. This is only natural in an age interested in the rediscovery of the fundamentals of aesthetics. The woodcut re-seen as an end in itself, and not a means to some other end, discovers itself as a very pure form of art, with its sculptural character, its simple expression in black and white, its direct technique and straightforward application. Of all the arts which are crafts it is the most autobiographical. Indeed, if one may account for the abuse of wood engraving for commercial reasons, it is still difficult to understand the neglect it has received as a means of self-expression. But there is always the dangerous seduction of skilfulness to be taken into account. Hitherto this has been a temptation mainly for the craftsman. To-day it is likely to prove the artist’s snare.

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Block Print engraved by Doris Scull

Because, as an engraver, I fear such a danger invading the art I practise I have become lately more interested in woodcut patterns than in woodcut pictures. It is always a relief to be rid responsibility of representation. To concern oneself solely with the problem of formal relationships is to escape into a new world. Here one is in touch with pure reality, and the business of make-believe gives place to other considerations in many ways infinitely more satisfying. I would maintain this about all forms of plastic art, but I feel it to be acutely applicable to engraving on wood. Wood seams to yield to the evolution of an abstract design or a decorative arabesque as stone excites the sculptor to the creation of pure form. For it is the glyptic character of engraving on wood which is its peculiar charm, so that the more the engraver cuts into his block — I do not mean literally in point of depth, in the fractions of an inch — the greater his sense of contact with the reality of his expression.

Unfortunately, the scope of this article may not be extended to a consideration of abstract design as expressed in wood engraving, rather it mush be confined to a cursory examination of a few instances of pattern making by means of wood blocks as practised to-day in England.

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Design and cut on wood by Enid Marx for The Curwen Press

The artist who has worked most consistently and successfully in this direction is Miss Phyllis Barron, who for many years now has produced block-printed materials for dresses and furnishing, using a narrow range of carefully chosen and tested dyes of rather sober but subtle colours on linen, cotton, silk and velvet. Miss Barron, being a true artist as well as a crafts-woman, has created something very definite: in my opinion, as valuable as any contribution to contemporary art in this country. With her are working Miss Dorothy Larcher and Miss Enid Marx. The former is a design of equal ability with Miss Barron, with a personal invention distinguishing all her output. Miss Marx, in one sense, is hardly more than a recruit, but judging by her first efforts one may predict a most interesting future for her art. In the first place she is attempting in her patterns a three-dimensional design. 

This is a expedient often resorted by the French with amusing results, but our own textile designers seem generally content with the flat arabesque. Miss Marx’s designs have the character of a fugue in music. Another quality which distinguishes them from the majority of textile designs is the peculiarly rigid movement of the units, which are not conceived in fluid waves or undulations, or as an efflorescence, but are more like the delicate architecture of birds, building with rather awkward shaped sticks.

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Design and cut on wood by Eric Ravilious for The Curwen Press

It is difficult to proceed farther in discussing the making of patterns without confessing that they are not all cut on wood. Wood is rapidly becoming supplanted by linoleum, and there is no doubt the latter substance has many advantages for the hand block printer. It is quicker and easier to cut, easily replaced, and there is not the danger of warping, which the wood block so constantly presents. Its disadvantages is its unpleasant pulpy texture, which does not allow of fine engraving, and at the same time is a little too easy to cut. There is however, so much excellent work being done in this medium that is must be recognised here.

The most recent group of designers and engravers on linoleum for producing textile patterns is that established by the energy and resource of Mrs. Eric Kennington (nee Edith Celandine Cecil), in a workshop by the river at Hammersmith. The chief craftswoman here is Mrs. Gwen Pike, a most experienced and able engraver and printer. The works, known as Footprints, reproduce patterns by their own staff, and also designs contributed by independent artists.

Finally, there remain to be considered two new fields of activity for the woodcutter. These are the making of wallpapers and papers for book covers by means of printed blocks, These has been recently a revival of interest in wallpapers, especially in Paris, Such distinguished artists as Madame Marie Laurencin and Monsieur Dufy have been in demand, and produced some charming designs. No doubt there are other artists who should be mentioned, but their omission is due to my ignorance, not my neglect.

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Raoul Dufy — La Chasse (The Hunt) c1910

In England I am aware of only one designer who has turned his attention seriously to engraving wallpaper patterns. This is Edward Bawden, whose invention in this direction has produced papers of real distinction and originality. I need scarcely add that they have either been ignored or rejected by every manufacturer who has seen them.

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Node: Linocut. One of the four ‘Plaistow Wallpapers’ designs commissioned by Curwen Press in 1932

In the narrower field of book cover patterns designers are more fortunate, since there is not only greater demand for ‘original’ papers, but the cost of production is small. Also we have at least one or who enlightened Presses in this country, although our manufacturers remain benighted. Even so, the industry is minute. 

Compared with the production of patterned papers on the Continent, more especially in Germany and Austria, the English output is confined to the work produced by the enterprise of the Curwen Press, which continues doggedly to give encouragement to the two or three artists interested in this branch of design. Alas” that is our trouble in England — the general lack of intelligent encouragement given to her artists for any form of activity, small or great, outside of picture-making.

In England we are still prone to cling rather sentimentally to the idea of the Fine Arts, and think it is a little undignified, or at least unusual, for artists to concern themselves with anything but painting and sculpture, with the result that, for the most part, such arts as interior decoration, stained-glass work, theatre décor and textile designing are left in the hands of the competent but uninspired. The British contribution to the Paris Decorative Arts Exhibition was a shocking enough reminder of this fact, and may serve, perhaps, for as good a reason as any why we should begin to consider patterns as important as pictures.

Paul Nash. 1927

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Paul Nash: Woodcut — ‘Bouquet’, 1927

It is important to mention that the bold praise of the Curwen press was due to Paul Nash being the head printer there for some years, and this essay being printed by the Curwen Press in 1927. This is not to say there were not ahead of the other printers and designers, but it is always important to review essays with any bias that seeps in the ink.