Joyce Clissold – ‘Footprints’ c.1928 for Footprints Ltd. 

The Footprints workshop started life as a printing press for dress and furnishing fabrics using traditional hand-block printing. It was set up in 1925 by Gwen Pike and Elspeth Little in Durham Wharf, Hammersmith and supported by Celandine Kennington (the wealthy second wife of the artist Eric Kennington). The name, Footprints, was chosen because of the foot pressure used to create most of the block prints.

Originally the Pike and Little partnership was one of artist and business; Elspeth Little owning a shop called ‘Modern Textiles’ and Gwen Pike being the artist / designer of ‘Footprints’.

Modern Textiles was opened in 1926 by Elspeth Anne Little, who had studied painting at the Central and Slade Schools. She had become involved with textiles and block printing by being employed in a theatrical workshop after leaving college.♠ 

Elspeth Little was taken on in 1923 as an apprentice at ‘Fraser, Trelevan and Wilkinson’ – the theatrical workshop run by Grace Lovat Fraser, widow of the designer Claude Lovat Fraser. The pressure of work meant that Elspeth Little soon became an employee, not a trainee, and as such she was involved in printing fabrics for theatre sets and costumes.

Encouraged by Paul Nash, she opened a shop to sell a variety of craft made goods. It was the intention of Modern Textiles to promote superior design and production as an alternative to what were seen as the “hackneyed and exhausted” offerings being mass-produced repetitively by many English manufacturers. This was emphasised in the shop’s publicity which stated that:

The object of “Modern Textiles” is to sell work of good design, principally fabrics of various kinds. A few people already know that well designed materials are being made by one or two artists, but the promoters of “Modern Textiles” believe a very much larger public than is generally supposed would be eager to buy stuffs of individuality and beauty, whether for dresses or furnishing, if there were better opportunity for selection”. ♠


Joyce Clissold – fabric print for Footprints Ltd. c1930s

Elspeth Little sold lengths of fabric, scarves, shawls, cloaks, dressing gowns, velvet jackets and other small ready to wear items, plus some ceramics. Block printed linens and velvets by Phyllis Barron and Enid Marx and batiks by Marion Dorn were offered along side painted and printed fabrics by Miss Little, and artists Paul Nash, Eric Kennington and Norman Wilkinson.Miss Little had a workroom behind the shop where she printed her own textile designs from lino blocks. However, the majority of printing for Modern Textiles was carried out by Footprints, a workshop established to supply the shop. ♠


 Doris Gregg – ‘Welwyn Garden City’, 1930. Lino block print. Footprints Ltd.

The Footprints workshop became the longest-lasting block printing enterprise of the 1920s and continued (despite the break up of the Pike-Little partnership) until after the war. It was predominantly a female workforce. Workers would enter the studio as an apprentice, working making dyes and assisting with printing before designing their own work, this made sure that all the staff were competent in the main processes of the studio.


 Doris Scull – ‘Sheep’ for Footprints Ltd.

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.


 Joyce Clissold – Fabric designed for Footprints Ltd with the original lino block below.


Joyce Clissold arrived in two years into Footprints life in 1927, and continued Footprints when Pike and Little split in 1929. Clissold studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts, learning wood engraving and lino cutting in the printing rooms. When she started working at Footprints she was a student and it was a small printing workshop on the Thames outside London, she is mostly to credit for turning it into a viable business. She focused most on the creative input of designing and block cutting but helped Footprints establish their own set of shops independent of ‘Modern Textiles’ after 1929.


 Footprints Studio, Brentford, 1934-35

In the mid-1930s she relocated Footprints to enable her to live and work on the same premises. The new situation reflected the tradition of textile production by women at home. Household and workshop activities intermingled. The kitchen became known at the “lab”. But the domestic setting belied the fact of an effective business. In its heyday there were 40-50 employees involved in the production, making up, distribution and sale of printing fabrics. The first Footprints shop opened in New Bond Street, London, in 1933 to sell dress and furnishing fabrics; it moved to a more stylish location in 1936, near, near to furriers, milliners and gown markers. An additional shop was established in 1935 in fashionable Knightsbridge. Footprints’ textiles provided interesting alternatives to predictable modernist trends and appealed to artistic customers such as Gracie Fields and Yvonne Arnaud. 


 Paul Nash fabric design. Printined by Footprints Ltd.

The Footprints shops and represented artists like Paul Nash, Eric Kennington and Marion Dorn. Footprints used a much wider colour range than Barron and Larcher. Block printed fabric was very much the desire of the Avant-garde and influential. Without machines the fabrics were hand printed, this was a slow process. These fabrics were exclusive and expensive with the average price of hand printed fabrics, at 12 shillings per yard, while manufacturers such as Warners could produce printed textiles for 6 shillings per yard.

In 1940 Clissold had to close the shops due to the lack of essential supplies and the female employees being required for war work. The workshop managed to re-open after the war, but with fewer printers and a more modest range. 


 Paul Nash – Two variations on ‘Big Abstract’ printed by Footprints Ltd. 

Other clients included Deitmar Blow, the architect to the Duke of Westminster, and the stylish and fashionable decorator Syrie Maugham.

† Dictionary of Women Artists by Delia Gaze, 1997. 9781884964213
Modern Block Printed Textiles by Alan Powers, 1992. 9780744518917
‡ The Woodcut No.1 An Annual, 1927.
♠ Printed Textiles: Artist Craftswomen by Hazel Clark, 1989

War Art – The Horror

I am no longer an artist interested and curious, I am a messenger who will bring back word from men who are fighting to those who want the war to go forever. Feeble, inarticulate, will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth, and may it burn their lousy souls.’ – Paul Nash

This is a post about four artists and their reactions to war through their art.


 Paul Nash – Mine Crater. Hill 60. December 1917- Stone Lithograph.

The Art of Paul Nash for the war was a remarkable thing. Graphic in detail of metaphor and gloom they showed the public, at home in Britain, the front line. Nash was supported by a host of art critics and writers that wrote to the nervous Admiralty reaffirming that these works must be seen by the public and not censored and locked away. The Sunday Times critic Frank Rutter wrote in August 1917: 

I have seen and studied carefully a number of Mr Paul Nash’s drawings and watercolours made in the Ypres salient and consider them to be among the best and most moving works of art dealing with the present war. Facilities enabling Mr Nash to produce further drawings and pictures of the Front could in my judgement only result in enriching contemporary British art.

In the next year the War Office would control and present what the public saw of this art with the 1918 series of four magazines called ‘British Artists at the Front’. Volume one: CRW Nevinson, Volume two: Sir John Lavery, Volume three: Paul Nash and Volume four: Eric Kennington. 


 Paul Nash – Wire – Watercolour.

Francisco Goya (1746 – 1828) was a Spanish painter and printmaker. His early artistic works were oil paintings of romance and the Spanish court under Charles III. He’s also credited for painting one of the first totally nude, life-sized paintings in western art without mythological subtext. 


 Francisco Goya – The Third of May, 1808. 

Towards the end of Goya’s life he produced a remarkable series of 80 etchings called ‘The Disasters of War’. The etchings and aquatints depict a set of scenes from the Spanish struggle against the French army under Napolean Bonaparte, who invaded Spain in 1808. When Napolean tried to install his brother Joseph Bonaparte, as King of Spain, the Spanish fought back, eventually aided by the British and the Portugese. 

Above is the painting ‘The Third of May’, painted in 1814. Goya sought to commemorate Spanish resistance to Napoleon’s armies during the occupation. During this time Goya was still a court painter, now under the French and may have been seen as a collaborator by some. Painted while the print series was in progress it marked a change in style, with a darker and more sinister attack on the French and a show of patriotism for the sacrificed Spanish.


 Francisco Goya – Esto es peor (This is worse)

The prints show the French as a merciless army and the people in the crossfire, confused or abused victims. Some of the prints are supernatural. They are mostly divided into three styled themes:

war, famine, and political and cultural allegories. Goya travelled the battle fields and towns in the conflict to sketch out plans for the works. Above in ‘Esto es peor’, the image shows the aftermath of a battle with the mutilated torsos and limbs of civilian victims, mounted on trees, like fragments of marble sculpture.


 Francisco Goya – Por una navaja (For a clasp knife). 

Above from ‘Por una navaja’, a garrotted priest grasps a crucifix in his hands. Pinned to his chest is a description of the crime for which he was killed – possession of a knife, that hangs from a cord around his neck. His body tied to an execution post while the bystanders look away in horror. This again is an image of horror after the event, with the consequences being witnessed by the civilians.

As graphic as the images were and even with ten years spent on their execution, it wasn’t until after Goya’s death that the prints where published. While it is unclear how much of the conflict Goya witnessed, it is generally accepted that he observed first-hand many of the events recorded.

The distance from the publication of Goya’s prints from the events helped them not be censored and with the war won, they reaffirmed Spain’s national pride.


 USA propaganda to build popular support for American intervention in the European war, WW1. Note the Germanic tattoo on the hand.

Censorship of art is always something of contemporary issue. A few years before Nash’s works of the battle fields in the early months of World War One was the ‘The Rape of Belgium’. 

Belgium at the start of the war was in a state of neutrality from the 1839 ‘Treaty of London’. Under the treaty, the European powers recognised and guaranteed the independence and neutrality of Belgium. Article VII required Belgium to remain perpetually neutral, and by implication committed the signatory powers to guard that neutrality in the event of invasion. 

The German army desired to invade Belgium to face the French forces and in doing so the German army engaged in numerous atrocities against the civilian population of Belgium, defying the Treaty. 


 A destroyed Leuven. The Germans burned the city from August 25 to 2 September 1914. 

The outcome was the ransacking and burning of civilian, church and government property; 6,000 Belgians were killed, 25,000 homes and other buildings in 837 communities destroyed in 1914 alone. One and a half million Belgians (20% of the entire population) fled from the invading German army. The Germans killed 27,300 Belgian civilians directly, and an additional 62,000 via the deprivation of food and shelter. 


 Pierre-Georges Jeanniot – IV – The Massacre at Surice

In reaction to the 1914 carnage and maybe after Goya, Pierre-Georges Jeanniot produced a series of ten etchings in 1915 called ‘The Horrors of War’.

Jeannoit’s first exhibited the works in Paris for less than a day before the French police banned it on fear it would cause panic amongst the Parisian population. The etching plates where locked in a box and lost, only to be rediscovered nearly 100 years later. 


 Pierre-Georges Jeanniot – X – In The Church 

These etchings, show a detailed situation of an atrocity, where as Goya’s works are almost surreal illustrations of war-craft. They were found and restored by Mark Hill who has had a limited edition printed of them. This posthumous edition was officially published on 4th August 2014, the centenary of the invasion of Belgium and the start of World War One.


 Percy Smith – Death Waits

The last printmaker I want to look at is Percy Delf Smith. Smith made two series of war prints. ‘Drypoints of the War’ and ‘Dance of Death’ – both series of prints documenting life on the Western Front of the First World War. 

In 1916 he joined the Royal Marine Artillery and arrived at the Somme in October. He served as a gunner until 1919 in France and Belgium. Rather like Jeanniot, Smith witnessed the Germans destruction of Belgium. 

At the start of 1917 Percy Smith was located in Thiepval, Belgium where Lutyens’ Memorial to the Missing of the Somme now stands. When the Germans entered Thiepval on 26 September 1914, the village and its château were utterly destroyed. Smith’s diary entries describe the desolate landscape: 

Thurs. 4th (January 1917) ‘Trenching’ as usual. No shelling. Went over Thiepval hill. Thiepval simply a heap of rubbish decorated by gaunt tree trunks. Must sketch it. Finished reading Doyle’s ‘The White Company’– war as it was and read about while the guns cracked’.


 Percy Smith – Thiepval Chateau, 1917 – from Sixteen Drypoints of War

Smith was covert about his drawings of time at the front line and was arrested twice of being a spy. He smuggled etching plates in books and magazines both too the front line and home. He printed ‘Drypoints of the War’ while on leave in 1917. 


 Percy Smith – Thiepval, from Sixteen Drypoints of War, 1917

The ‘Drypoints of War’ are very matter of fact, they are images of the landscape and its desolation that was all around, similar in subject matter to the works of Paul Nash. Destruction with abstraction.

The second series of prints ‘Dance of Death’ was less of a witnessing of war and more of an attack of it. With death always watching, waiting or lingering with the solders, they were produced after the war in 1919.


 Percy Smith – The Dance of Death No. 1: Death forbids

In ‘Death forbids’, a hand of the solder that is pinned down by a fallen tree and in the barbed wire reaches up, trying to get the attention of the medics and stretcher bearers to the top left of the picture. I am sure the skeletal death is meant to look harrowing and like he is suppressing the man, but to me it looks affectionate and like death is helping the man surrender to the fate. 


 Percy Smith – The Dance of Death No. 3: Death awed.

In ‘Death awed’ we are presented with a death, shocked and impressed by the might of war, the carnage and ballistics of force that don’t even leave a body but two boots with broken bones in the wet earth.


 Paul Nash – Ypres Salient At Night, 1918.