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.

Cecil Buller

Cecil Buller (1886–1973) was a Canadian artist most notable for her wood engravings.

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She was born in Montreal and travelled north America, and at 16 years old travelled Europe, mostly England and France. In 1910 She moved to New York where she attended the Art Students League in New York where her wood engravings started to get noticed. Then in 1912 she travels to Paris again where she would have been exposed to Cubists movment that had gained momentum at that time, this inspired the form of her woodcuts in the 1920’s.
She moved to London in 1916 to focus on graphic arts where she was educated under Noel Rooke, at the Central School of Art and Design. It was there that she met John Murphy, they married in 1917 and as an American he was able to move his new wife with him to Greenwich Village, New York in 1918.

Cecil Buller:

She gained success in the 20’s and 30’s for her wood engravings and were exhibited. In 1924 her only son was born, in 1930 an essay on her work was published in The Print Collector’s Quarterly. In 1937 she separates from her husband. From then on she travelled widely to Egypt, Iran, Greese, Afghanistan, and back and forth to London and Paris. In 1973 she died of a stroke.

She was awarded the Pennel Prize, Library of Congress, D.C. (1945), the Audubon Society Award (1947 and 1953) and the National Academy of Design Graphic Art Award (1949).

Great Bardfield Artists

The Great Bardfield Artists were a community of artists who lived in Great Bardfield, a village in north west Essex, England, during the middle years of the 20th century. The village’s “open house” exhibitions attracted national press attention and thousands visited the remote village to view art in the artists’ own homes during the summer exhibitions of 1954, 1955 and 1958.

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The principal artists who lived there between 1930 and 1970 were John Aldridge RA, Edward Bawden, George Chapman, Stanley Clifford-Smith, Audrey Cruddas, Walter Hoyle, Eric Ravilious, Sheila Robinson, Michael Rothenstein, Kenneth Rowntree and Marianne Straub.

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 Edward Bawden CBE RA (1903–1989)

Other artists associated with the group include Duffy Ayers, John Bolam, Bernard Cheese, Tirzah Garwood, Joan Glass, David Low and Laurence Scarfe. Great Bardfield Artists were diverse in style but shared a love for figurative art, making the group distinct from the better known St Ives School of artists in St Ives, Cornwall, who, after the war, were chiefly dominated by abstractionists. Below are pictures from the 1957 exhibition catalogue.

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 John Aldridge RA (26 July 1905–3 May 1983)

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 Walter Hoyle (1922–2000)

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