Mixed Media

In various books throughout time, you can read about the vulgar arts; it is mostly a term for any mass production and in art that means printmaking. From an art history perspective, the patron and the artist was a system that was more or less redundant in the 20th century. It was at this time that printmaking came into fashion because if an artist didn’t have one major sponsor, they would need many smaller incomes from the public.

The history of printmaking and the taboo also follows publishing technology. After 1800 the wood-engraving was considered to be un-artisan and best left to newspaper printing and advertising. When wood-engraving was embraced by artists as a reaction to various exhibitions of Japanese woodcuts, the artists who used colour printing aped the Japanese styles of carving with British scenery. Sylvan Boxsius is a good example printing in a traditionally Japanese way. 


 Sylvan G. Boxsius – A Devon Village, 1930s. From My Collection

With more traditional styles of English wood-engraving colour wasn’t welcome. Linocut had a vogue with Cyril Powers works but for printmaking it would be the 50s when colour came in for most artists; much like how colour photography wasn’t considered artisan until the 1980s.

It is important to add this is only in Britain. In France artists had worked in colour. Many of the big artists even worked in advertising making large lithographic posters. Pissarro made colour woodcuts in a medieval style. The French also had the fantastic Atelier 17 – a studio founded in 1927 by Stanley William Hayter. He was a British artist and working mostly in intaglio prints, but he developed new printing methods for colour etchings. Towards the end of the 40s the studio had encouraged mixed media printing methods that crossed over the sea to Britain.


 Stanley William Hayter – Cinq Personnages, 1946

But the biggest taboo to some would be to mix medias, pen and ink with wood-engraving or an etching with a lino-cut. It was the 20th century when nothing was classed as holy. For me I should also add there is a thrill when you see something new. When was the last time you saw something new?

The images below are a series of John O’Connor wood-engravings with pen and ink continuations of the illustrations surrounding it. It might look to be obvious, but it is something new to me and I can’t recall seeing it before or after. The book is E. L. Grant Watson’s Departures from 1948.


 John O’Connor – Illustration from Departures, 1948

On the face of it John O’Connor doesn’t look to be a rebel. A student of Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden at the Royal College of Art his wood engravings always have an old-world charm to them. But I think adding the ink drawings really worked with these illustrations. Below, I love the way the woodcut ends at the child ankles and the ink drawing takes over to show the feet submerged in water.


 John O’Connor – Illustration from Departures, 1948

John O’Connor would go on to surprise me with printmaking by making colour wood-engravings. After spending a great deal of time carving the main black inked block, rather than waste time with wood to make the colour layers he would instead use Lino to make his abstract shapes that are loosely thrown over the engraving. Below I have over-saturated the colour layer to make the point, and it might look lazy but I think it’s fantastic and gives a lovely quality to the prints. So many artists fail in printmaking by trying to be too technically accurate, I think of

Stephen Whittle for example.


 John O’Connor – Illustration from A Pattern of People, 1959


 Michael Rothenstein – Horse and Sunrise, From my collection, 1974.

The other artist that thrills me somewhat is Michael Rothenstein. He is an artist that doesn’t get the credit he deserves and different people who represent his collection push the agenda that suit them. 

Having a diverse career in art he started making accurate and twee illustrations of the countryside. As part of the Record Britain project he was sent out to document areas of Britain as artworks before the start of the Second World War. But after the war is where his life and work is far more interesting. He became one of the real innovators of printing and an early British Pop Artist, before the term was coined.  

His first print was made in 1947 and after that he went to study at Atelier 17 with Hayter. There he developed skills with lithography and etching but abandoned them for their time consuming preparation processes and influenced by Edward Bawden he moved into Linocut.  

Michael Rothenstein, for instance, has applied boundless energy to extending the range of the relief process of wood and lino, sometimes combining them with screenprint and photo-screen.


 Michael Rothenstein – Marilyn I, From my collection, 1978

This Rothenstein print is made up of two screen prints of a photograph of Marilyn Monroe with a pink frame over printed impressions of a burnished planks of wood in green. I think it may need repeating; printed planks of wood.

When I was at art school at the end of the previous century I thought my printing of pavements and blocks of wood were new ideas, however Rothenstein had already penned a book on the topic called Frontiers of Printmaking – New Aspects of Relief Printing in 1966. In the book he shows printed Tree-trunks, metal cans, chicken fencing, the board at the back of an old Pye radio, electronic motors… anything flat you could get an impression off of. 

Any materials that were fairly thin were printed on the platen press. In proofing surfaces of rough texture, however, a soft, flexible packing was placed above the paper as already described … Before use, metal from the scrap-head needs cleaning. It is clamped to the bench and brushed down with a wire brush or wire circumference brush used in a power-tool. An industrial mask should be worn for this process. Very dirty metal taken from the scrapheap or city dump should be first put in the sink and scrubbed down with disinfectant. †


 Example page from Frontiers of Printmaking, 1966

Rothenstein later claimed that Hayter had prompted him to take pictorial risks and avoid predictable effects.

What Hayter did in France to stimulate etching and engraving’. wrote James Burn lately, ‘Michael Rothenstein has done in England for relief printing’. ♠

Rothenstein found and collected things to make really wonderful works and I think he should be celebrated more than he is. 


 Michael Rothenstein – Red Gothic, 1962

Michael Rothenstein – Frontiers of Printmaking, 1966
Richard T. Godfrey – Printmaking in Britain, 1978
The Penrose Annual: Review of the Graphic, 1964

Eric, John and the War.

In 1940 Eric Ravilious became one of the first official war artists. During the summer he was posted to HMS ‘Dolphin’ in Gosport, drawing the interiors of submarines and sometimes sent out to sea. He had already conceived the idea of a set of submarine lithographs intended as a children’s painting book, and in November he set to work.

The drawings inevitably lack the distinctive texture and colour of the lithographs. In this post they are set next to the finished lithographs with the colours and textures produced at W. S. Cowell Ltd over the original drawn and watercoloured pictures by Ravilious. But we must start first with his appointment as a war artist:


 Eric Ravilious – Drawing for Commander and Periscope, 1941

Dear Ravilious,                                                         23rd December, 1939
You may have heard rumours of a scheme which is now being launched for having various phases of the war recorded by selected artists working for the Government. The Admiralty has already appointed one official whole-time artist, and you and John Nash have been selected to work for the Admiralty on a part-time basis, if you should be willing. We very much hope that the idea will appeal to you; indeed it would be a great disappointment to the Admiralty, the Ministry of Information, and, I may add, myself, if you should feel unable or unwilling to undertake work of this kind. 

If you should be willing, please let me know here as soon as you can and tell me when you could come and see me to discuss details. From our point of view, the sooner you get to work the better. Perhaps I should say that the Treasury have already approved the necessary expenditure.

Yours sincerely
            R. Gleadowe

During World War II Reginald Gleadowe was an Admiralty representative on the War Artists’ Advisory Committee.

Below is a letter from fellow artist (and Ravilious’s tutor) John Nash. Nash had been a war artist in the First World War found himself being asked to become a war artist again.

My dear Eric,
  I was at the M.of l. (Ministry of Information) on Friday playing truant part of the time from College and heard from Dickey that you had been there. I don’t suppose I have anything more to report than you have they talk of sending us a ‘contract letter’ but that only deals with the finance and I have heard nothing from the Admiralty since I went there. When I was there I broached the subject of commissioned rank to Gleadowe and there seemed no difficulties. Captainships seemed as cheap as farthing buns and it seemed as if one only missed being made a Major because one had to recognize Muirhead Bone’s seniority! But I begin to doubt now if Gleadowe really has the authority to promise these insignia – we must continue to wait and see I suppose… .
  I went to College yesterday and saw most of ‘the boys’. Form was good or even above average and Percy [Horton] made a fine story of a week spent teaching the Punch artist H. M. Bateman to paint. Dickey tells me that the Army War Artists are to be dressed in War Correspondents’ uniform with W.C. on the hat band rather shaming so I’m glad you and l are in the Senior Service!

Let me know if you hear anything fresh.
Yours ever,

It is fitting that they both should be chosen so early for this as a lot of the work for both of them was to be painting docks and the boats. Below are paintings each by Ravilious and Nash. They had got to know each other at the Royal College of Art, where Ravilious was a pupil and now they were both on the staff. A year before Gleadowe’s invitation, and on Nash’s recommendation they both went to sketch at Bristol Docks. They painted the same location at night, when the docks were quiet and the boats tied up.

John Nash had been much inspired by painting in Bristol, and he told Eric it was the best port in England, so they planned together a painting visit there. 


 Eric Ravilious – Bristol Docks, 1938


 John Nash – Nocturne: Bristol Docks’, November 1938 

The Second World War, unlike the First, was not much recorded by printmakers and the Ravilious Submarine series, perhaps the most important such work, was eventually turned down for publication by the Artists Advisory Committee.

The difference of print-making in WW1 and painting in WW2 was that in WW2 the Blitz brought the war to the artists, they could see defences, barrage balloons and blitz bomb damage while still in Britain and record it with most of their materials at hand. The paintings and drawings were recorded quickly as a reaction. In contrast to the prints made in WW1 mostly depicted life in France and Belgium on the front-lines. Works would have to be sketched out and when back in Britain, the prints made from memory and worked up from sketchbook studies for a wider publication. The bridge of a month would mean that the art of WW1 was already retrospective of conditions. People living in the south of England would have been aware of defences, blacked out road signs, and the blitz.

Much of what we know from the process of the lithographic Submarine series comes from letters sent to Dickey (Edward Montgomery O’Rorke Dickey.) At the beginning of the Second World War ‘Dickey’ was seconded from the Ministry of Information and, from 1939 to 1942, was secretary of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee. He was a full member of the committee from 1942 to 1945. During this period he established his close relationship with Eric Ravilious.

Bank House, Castle Hedingham, Essex                      24th January 1940.
Dear Dickey,
The Curwen Press have sent me an estimate for the lithographs I spoke to you about – to do six, in five workings each about 15″ x 22″ will cost £36. This seems reasonable to me, if your committee think the idea a good one. Paints and materials will bring the total expenses to, say, £40; so that the choice is actually between £4 or £40, whatever they feel inclined to do. I very much want to do some lithography if that is possible, also it will make a change of medium. Will they call on us to begin work soon, do you think? It is now I see just a month today since the Admiralty wrote about this appointment, and nothing more seems to have happened since then. ♠


 Eric Ravilious – Study for Ward Room #1, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941


 Eric Ravilious – Ward Room #1, Lithograph, 1941

HMS Dolphin, Gosport, Hans.                                        2nd August 1940.
…At the moment I am living here having been to sea at different times for the last two weeks in the submarine, trying to draw interiors. Some of them may be successful I hope, but conditions are difficult for work. It is awfully hot below when they dive and every compartment small and full of people at work. However this is a change from destroyers and I enjoy the state of complete calm after the North Sea – there is no roll or movement at all in submarines, which is one condition in their favour, apart from the smell, the heat and noise. The scene is extraordinarily good in a gloomy way. There are small coloured lights about the place and the complexity of a Swiss clock…


 Eric Ravilious – Study for Ward Room #2, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941


 Eric Ravilious – Ward Room #2, Lithograph, 1941

Dear Dickey
…Neither Curwen, Ripley, Murray or Lane can produce these submarine pictures, for all sorts of reasons, so I’ve not abandoned the idea of a book and yesterday went to see the lithographic printers at Ipswich. They will produce the things simply as pictures in a small edition for £100; and if I can manage it this shall be done…
The Leicester Gallery say that they are willing to sell the lithographs if I produce them, so that with luck (if they are not bombed meanwhile) it may pay the expenses. ♣ 


 Eric Ravilious – Testing Davis Equipment, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941


 Eric Ravilious – Testing Davis Equipment, Lithograph, 1941


 Eric Ravilious – The Diver, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941


 Eric Ravilious – The Diver, Lithograph, 1941


 Eric Ravilious – Working Controls While Submerged, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941


 Eric Ravilious – Working Controls While Submerged, Lithograph, 1941


 Eric Ravilious – Diving Controls #2, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941


 Eric Ravilious – Diving Controls #2, Lithograph, 1941

The final lithographs were printed in a small run in 1941. In 1996 a limited edition reprinting of 375 was made. Ravilious died in 1942, he was reported missing, presumed dead while on flight over Iceland. He was 39 years of age.


 Eric Ravilious – Commander and Periscope, Pencil and Watercolour, 1941


 Eric Ravilious – Commander and Periscope, Lithograph, 1941

Had Ravilious’s idea of a children’s book proceeded it is hard to tell if it would have been just outlines of the men and nautical instruments or with the base watercolour and pencil drawings that he used for the lithographs. Either-way a child could paint over with their own colours. That is really what the printers at

W. S. Cowell Ltd did with the lithographs anyway.

Eric Ravilious: Memoir of an Artist – By Helen Binyon
The Modern Spirit in British Printmaking, 1910-1950. Garton & Cooke, 1987
Submarine Dream – Lithographs and Letters – The Camberwell Press, 1996
Avant-garde British printmaking, 1914-1960

Bernard Cheese

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


 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, Sheila 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.


 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 Sheila 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.


 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.


 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.
Sheila 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.


 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.


 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.


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