Previous Exhibitions

Andrew Schumann

Recent Works

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November-December 2011
Andrew Schumann's work has evolved from an interest in the energy of forms and in the relationship between the naturally occurring and the man-made. This has led him to a preoccupation with materials and processes and an understanding that visual clues and information added together bit by bit will enable the recognition of both the familiar and unfamiliar. He likens it to a query typed into Google; each letter, each additional shred of information gets us closer to a result. Schumann seeks visual pleasure in his work; he reads shape, size, shadows, texture, colour, temperature and relationships. Sometimes the driving force is abstract or conceptual, like the world of randomness, the intimate relationship between order and chaos. Titles of works give insight into their motivation, from the purely physical like Holes Hills & Hollows to the abstract of SpaceTime.

Andrew Schumann was born in 1938. He has a degree in Art History from Cambridge University although earlier, as one might imagine, had excelled in science and mathematics. He lives and works in King's Lynn, Norfolk. He exhibits mainly in East Anglia and occasionally in London.
 

More Clouds and Myths

Monotypes by Lino Mannocci

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May - June 2011


I love monotypes.

In the orchard of printing techniques monotypes are an anomaly: they yield only one fruit. In so doing monotypes deny the very essence of all of the printmaking techniques - that is, the possibility to produce multiples.

Unlike engraving, etching and lithography, where the initial idea has to be processed through the various stages of the specific technique, with monotypes one draws directly on to a new plate. It is direct, generous and dangerous.

Personally I like to draw on a copper plate with a brush or a cloth or anything else that seems useful to achieve the desired result, using etching ink diluted with oil and turpentine. One can do a very quick sketchy drawing or a fairly elaborate one, given that the ink remains workable for several hours. I particularly enjoy the results created by the use of different viscosity of the ink. There is no other way to obtain certain greys and textures.

Though in my prints and my paintings I deal with similar subject matters, the demands of the two very different processes lead to very different results. To arrange my little figures in my imaginary spaces I use stencils. My "protagonists" move around and act out their well-rehearsed stories stemming from a long and illustrious tradition, like the theme of the Annunciation or Susanna and the Elders. In many other instances there is only the suggestion of a story - a story that might never have been told.

The monotypes in this exhibition were made during the last six years. Some were exhibited for the first time in January 2010 at The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. On that occasion they were presented, eventually, with what I thought was a very satisfactory title: 'Clouds and Myths'.

This title reflected accurately my frame of mind and the predicament in which I found myself when making these prints. That is, if it is true that my attraction for my themes has its roots in the tradition of Western Paintings, I am also aware that the times and culture that generated and nourished those Myths have long gone. And yet in the mist of this contradiction, I find these themes irresistible and to dispel the cloud-mist that surrounds them I work my way through them.

Lino Mannocci, London, April 2011

Click here to access a video of the artist discussing his work.
This was made to accompany his exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum.

 

Peter Blake: The Paris Suite 2010

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March 2011
A portfolio of twenty silkscreens printed at Coriander Studio, London, on 56x37cm, 410 gsm Somerset tub-sized paper in an edition of 113 of which 100 are for sale. Each print is signed and numbered by the artist. Published by Paul Stolper and Coriander Studio, London, 2010. Prints may be purchased separately [enter exhibition for details].

Please note that two of the separately issued images are now sold out. However complete sets remain available at the published price of £14000 including VAT.


 

William Blake: Engravings for The Book of Job and Other Prints

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June-July 2010

With the exception of the monumental Canterbury Pilgrims most of the prints in this exhibition were made in the 1820s towards the end of William Blake's life. The engravings both for Job and for Dante are complicated and sophisticated works and show Blake at the zenith of his powers as a printmaker. We are fortunate that such works are still accessible for many of his earlier prints and illustrations, especially those in colour, were produced in very small numbers and have long since disappeared from the marketplace. Blake's success in later life was very much the result of his association with the painter, John Linnell, who managed through several commissions to re-establish Blake's reputation following the complete failure of his 1809 exhibition.

It was the enthusiastic John Linnell who obtained for Blake the commission to illustrate Dr. R.J. Thornton's edition of The Pastorals of Virgil. Thornton was no stranger to publishing; his magnificent Temple of Flora had appeared some twenty years earlier and given the beauty and precision of the colourful engravings it contained we should not wonder at his disappointment on first seeing the crude and naïve wood engravings that Blake laid before him. Only the intervention of several eminent figures of the day, Sir Thomas Lawrence and James Ward apparently among them, prevented Thornton having them recut. Thornton's book published in 1821 is a school text, thus the few copies occasionally found are often in poor condition through early use. Blake contributed his now famous seventeen wood engravings to the first volume but his work was not well received nor as we have seen was it well treated by the publisher who cut down the blocks and printed them carelessly. Despite this, they are now recognised as the most significant wood engravings in the history of British art and their influence can be traced from Calvert and Palmer right up to the present day. The blocks were ultimately acquired by Linnell and printed shortly after Blake's death as separate impressions, reputedly by Calvert, and again in 1977 by Ian Bain, for the British Museum where they are now deposited.

Samuel Palmer's high regard for these woodcuts was recorded in one of his sketchbooks, now lost but dating from November 1823 until July 1824 and quoted by A.H. Palmer in his biography of his father:
"I sat down with Mr Blake's Thornton's Virgil woodcuts before me, thinking to give their merit my feeble testimony. I happened first to think of their sentiment. They are visions of little dells, and nooks, and corners of Paradise; models of the exquisitest pitch of intense poetry. I thought of their light and shade, and looking upon them I found no word to describe it. Intense depth, solemnity, and vivid brilliancy only coldly and partially describes them. There is in all such a mystic and dreamy glimmer as penetrates and kindles the innermost soul, and gives complete and unreserved delight, unlike the gaudy daylight of this world. They are like all that wonderful artist's work, the drawing aside of the fleshy curtain, and the glimpse which all the most holy, studious saints and sages have enjoyed, that rest which remaineth to the people of God."

Blake's preoccupation with the story of Job goes back to the mid-1780s but it was John Linnell's admiration for the watercolours that Blake had made for his patron, Thomas Butts c.1805-10, that ultimately led to the commissioning of the engravings in 1823. Blake made twenty-one engravings plus a title page; according to Linnell the border designs were a last-minute addition. They were published in March 1826 in an edition of 315 divided into three parts as follows: 150 sets printed on laid India paper with the word Proof engraved in the lower right-hand corner of the plate, 65 sets on so-called French paper still retaining the word Proof and 100 sets on wove Whatman with the word Proof removed. It should be noted that erasure of the word was poorly executed and it can often still be seen on Whatman impressions. It is the opinion of the present writer that the quality of impression is fairly even throughout the edition but it is certainly the case that the Whatman impressions seem far less likely to suffer the ravages of time than their laid India counterparts in particular. The Whatman examples in the present edition have required no restoration and are as fresh and strong as the day they were printed.

The watercolours for Dante's Divine Comedy were begun in 1824, also at John Linnell's request. The first indication that Blake had made progress on the engravings is to be found in a letter he wrote to Linnell in February, 1827. In one of his last letters, on 25 April 1827 he tells that he had, "Proved the Six Plates, & reduced the Fighting devils ready for the Copper". However when Blake died later that year the engravings remained unfinished and the plates became the property of Linnell. Apart from a very small number of progress proofs printed by Blake himself and an equally small number of early impressions on laid paper the first edition of thirty-eight sets was not printed until 1838 followed by another fifty c.1892. Both editions were rather thinly printed on laid India paper and it is impossible to tell the difference between them.

In July 1937 the Linnell Trustees sold the plates to Lessing J. Rosenwald in America. Between 1953 and 1955 he had a small edition of 20 to 25 taken, unfortunately by a very inexperienced printer. The impressions were very weak, so poor in fact that they were described by the Blake scholar, Ruthven Todd as 'ghosts'. Todd later recommended to Rosenwald that a new edition be printed by the expert printer, Harry Hoehn of Long Island, N.Y. Most importantly Hoehn began by cleaning the dried ink from the lines in the plates, the first time this had been done since the 1890s. Tests were run on a wide variety of papers until the most suitable was found and finally, in August 1968, Hoehn printed the definitive edition of twenty-five on the most receptive paper used to date, namely a Japanese Kochi. Hoehn had left a little more tone on the plates than we are used to seeing on Linnell's impressions and the results were outstanding.

From the comparisons which Todd himself was able to make with early impressions he concluded, "There can be no doubt that these prints are more brilliant and show far more detail than any I have so far gathered for comparison." He continues, "Blake, it must be admitted, was not an especially good printer, judging him from the plates for Hayley's Ballads, 1802, which we know he pulled himself, with some assistance from his wife. An outstanding modern printer, such as Mr Hoehn, aims at perfection in each print, bringing out all that a copper plate has to offer."

It should be pointed out that Bob Essick, the eminent Blake scholar, is not of this opinion, shunning retroussage and manipulative printing in favour of the clean-wiped nineteenth century edition impressions. We are unable to share this view bearing in mind the existence of several magnificent proof [?] impressions on laid paper which had been printed sometime before the 1838 edition and show what the plates were capable of giving when expert inking and careful wiping were employed. By using similar techniques in 1968 Harry Hoehn achieved comparable results.

The original copper plates are now in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.


In describing the individual prints we have made reference to the following:
Binyon, Laurence. The Engraved Designs of William Blake, London, Ernest Benn Ltd., 1926.
Bentley, G.E., Blake Books, Oxford University Press, 1977.
Bindman, David. The Complete Graphic Works of William Blake, London, Thames and Hudson, 1978.
Essick, Robert N., The Separate Plates of William Blake, A Catalogue, Princeton University Press, 1983.


 

Peter Blake: The Venice Suite 2009

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March 2009
A portfolio of twenty silkscreens printed at Coriander Studio, London, on 16x12 inch, 410 gsm Somerset tub-sized paper in an edition of 86 of which 75 are for sale. Each print is signed and numbered by the artist. Published by Paul Stolper and Coriander Studio, London, 2009. Contact the gallery for price and availability. Prints may be purchased separately [enter exhibition for details].


 

Wood Engravings by Eric Gill

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April - May 2008
Best remembered for his love of line and form, Eric Gill was one of the most prolific and controversial British artists of the last century. Calligrapher, stone-cutter, typographer, sculptor, engraver, essayist and even architect, Eric Gill's work famously includes the fourteen Stations of the Cross in Westminster Cathedral and the Prospero & Ariel carving at Broadcasting House.

Gill's lifetime's work reveals the dual identity of a deeply religious man for whom the utilitarian function of art - and of flesh - weaves itself inextricably through both his personal and working life. Throughout his career Gill was forever challenging high art principles in favour of craftsman-like simplicity and honesty, devoting his entire life to integrating work and leisure, art and industry, flesh and spirit.

Eric Gill was born in Brighton in 1882 into a large family, the eldest son of clergyman, Arthur Tidman Gill and his wife Rose, a former professional singer. Early adolescent drawings reveal an enthusiasm for line and symmetry but also a fascination with things mechanical; he shared with his father a love of contraptions and it is possible to surmise that, even at an early age, the problem-solving craftsman in Gill was never far from the surface.

The family moved to Chichester in 1897 where Gill enrolled at Chichester Technical and Art School. Here under George Herbert Catt he began to learn the finer points of lettering. Two years later he moved up to London as an apprentice in the Westminster office of the architect, W.D. Caröe, the big gun of church architects as Gill called him. Here Gill trained in architectural drawing and building techniques - skills he upheld to be invaluable to every type of artist; the three years he spent with Caröe were also to play a significant role in shaping Gill's own lifelong view that it all goes together. It was during this time that he was introduced to one of his most influential mentors, George Carter. Carter encouraged Gill's own views that the role of public architecture lay in uniting the secular and the sacred, something Gill went on to realise in full in his designs for a church in Norfolk, St. Peter the Apostle.

Crucial to his later development as an artist, Gill also began to attend the Central School of Arts and Crafts. Under the expert tutelage of Edward Johnston he learned much about lettering, masonry and the techniques of stone-cutting. Having received a number of commissions for lettering he parted company with W.D. Caröe in 1903. At the end of the year work for W.H.Smith & Son took him to Paris where he painted the fascia of the shop on the rue de Rivoli.

In 1904 Gill married Ethel Moore, later to be known as Mary, and after a brief spell in Battersea they began the first of their many and varied household moves, this time to Hammersmith. Gill and his family - they went on to have three daughters and an adopted son - continued to travel across England in pursuit of the ultimate domestic idyll; a monastic and communal way of life where spiritual inspiration, workmanship and industry flourished.

The draw of Hammersmith for Gill was that there already existed a strong arts and crafts community - a movement that celebrated the craftsman's skill and favoured the hand-made over the mass-produced. Amongst those living in Black Lion Lane at the side of the Thames were the Johnstons, the Walkers, May Morris and the Peplers. It was with Hilary Pepler that Gill formed the closest bond - a relationship that lasted many years, but eventually fell apart owing to differences of opinion, mainly over money. In this thriving arts and crafts community husband and wife collaborations were also common; Gill for example carved decorative mirrors which Mary gilded. Gill's ingrained Victorian mindset and 'conscious maleness' added some degree of hypocrisy to this otherwise idyllic scene. He soon established a workshop at the side of the house to pursue the more masculine tasks of letter cutting and stonemasonry with assistance from his first apprentice, a very young Joseph Cribb. In these convivial workshop surroundings Gill's natural ability as a teacher figure were allowed full vent, the workshop providing an ideal forum for Gill to expound his many views on both social and spiritual issues.

After Hammersmith the family moved to Ditchling in Sussex; Pepler followed later and by 1916 had established the St. Dominic's Press. The years spent at Ditchling saw the flowering of Gill's talents as wood engraver and 'his mastery of linear communication'. Encouraged by Count Harry Kessler, the publisher and patron of the visionary theatre designer and printmaker, Edward Gordon Craig, Gill's first attempts were made in 1908, a year or so before he produced his first sculpture. Early works were mainly of a religious nature and often for St. Dominic's but towards the end of his time in Ditchling Gill produced a rather ambiguous series of life studies of his daughter Petra - the girl in the bath. With his characteristic cross-hatching, these drawings are a celebration of the female form entering adolescence. The relief shading, 'like a nimbus around the limbs' is reminiscent of the chiaroscuro effect in Renaissance painting and whether intentional or not this illuminated quality has the effect of elevating the simple nude figure into the realm of the sublime. Many of the prints made at this time are amongst the best that Gill produced.

The sexual undertones evident in the studies of his daughters seep into his religious iconic work; Divine Lovers in particular was inspired by Art & Scholasticism - an interpretation of St. Thomas Aquinas' teachings - for which Gill provided illustrations. In 1913, Gill converted to Roman Catholicism, in particular the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas. It was in the Order of the Dominicans that Gill found sense and reason combined, which in turn justified his growing belief that 'sexual intercourse is the very symbol for Christ's love for His Church, His Bride'. This is perhaps best depicted in his wood engraving, Nuptials of God and in the erotic life drawings that formed the basis of his wood engravings for Twenty-Five Nudes, completed at High Wycombe in 1937.

Gill's fascination with wood engraving makes sense; the medium appealed to his sensibilities as a craftsman. As an advocate of self-sufficiency he was even known to have advised his apprentices to fell their own trees to make woodblocks! Every stage of the process was controlled by the craftsmen making this an efficient and cost-effective way of working and ensuring that Gill could master the medium - for Gill, this was everything: the discipline of technique is at the heart of doing things well. Although Gill was probably financially secure, wood engraving during the Capel-y-ffin years and later into the 1930s must have provided him with a steady source of income. The fashion for collecting prints and livres d'artistes was at its height in the late 1920s and Gill's illustrations for the Golden Cockerel Press, especially for Troilus and Criseyde, The Canterbury Tales and The Four Gospels received huge acclaim.

Eric Gill's physical and spiritual journeys reflect his innate, sometimes deviant curiosity, his restless yet tireless sense of self-discovery and his fickle but passionate allegiances, all of which led him to produce a phenomenal amount of work right up until his death in 1940. For Gill - as revealed in his autobiography - it was always about achieving his ultimate goal: to create a cell of good living.

Lucy Lott


In writing the above and describing the individual prints we have made reference to the following:

Gill, Eric. Autobiography. Jonathan Cape, London, 1940.
Physick, John. Catalogue of the Engraved Work of Eric Gill. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1963.
Yorke, Malcolm. Eric Gill Man of Flesh and Spirit. Constable, London, 1981.
MacCarthy, Fiona. Eric Gill A Lover's Quest for Art and God. Faber and Faber, London, 1989
 

Robin Tanner: An Exhibition of Original Etchings

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ONE ENGLISH PATH
A Centenary Tribute to Robin Tanner
Written and Illustrated
by
Paul Miller


'While my love of etching has driven me on, it has brought to birth only forty plates. Were I to live to a hundred though, I should not have exhausted the subjects I feel passionately about. Nor should I ever cease to express through them my sense of outrage at the destruction of Britain. My etchings are not just pleasant pastorals: they are my protest.'

This short paragraph, from the closing pages of his autobiography Double Harness, represents Robin Tanner's raison d'etre: his mission statement as an artist, unchanged throughout over sixty years of committed creativity.

I first saw Robin's work in the appropriate setting (given the other central commitment of his life) of the Old School Gallery in Bleddfa, at what effectively became a memorial exhibition following his death on May 19th, 1988, just nine days before its opening. Characteristically, knowing that he was by then too ill to travel, he'd prepared a recoding of his speech to be played in lieu of his attendance at the event. A cassette copy of this, along with the show's modestly produced catalogue, remain the treasured mementos of what I now recognise was a seminal experience for me.

Back in 1923, visiting the spring exhibition of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers as a student, Robin had himself been 'permanently damaged', as he put it, by his first encounter with the etchings of F.L. Griggs: 'The Catholic overtones and the chaste Gothic severity were not for me, nor the grandeur of scale and the sad emptiness and sense of loss, but the marvellous realisation of stone and water, foliage and sky, and the intense feeling for Cotswold England bowled me over.' Similarly, although I felt no compulsion to take up an etching needle or to try to emulate Robin's style, something about his joyful absorption in the detail of things, and the way he could then weave that detail into a rhythmic whole, struck an immediate chord which has continued to resonate over the years.

In an art world so currently dominated by the Big Idea (or by the next remarkably small one, it often seems), Robin's subjects and his treatment of them can all too easily be dismissed as quaint relics from a bygone age. And even with a fledgling landscape and wildlife artist like myself, the 'Shock of the New' succeeded in blinding me to the obvious for a while, as I cast about in search of contemporary influences to follow.

I'd become completely immersed in colour by the time I next saw Robin's work, forming a stark contrast to his own lifelong state of being 'most blissfully at home in this world of Black and White'. And whereas he had 'no desire' to represent the accidental, photographic, surface appearance of things', my own drawings were now exploring precisely that territory, and finding nothing accidental or superficial about it, either. But poring once again over his infinitely fine network of lines, lyrically depicting a few square inches of woodland floor or an entire landscape of doomed elm trees, a gradual crystallization took place in my earlier strong but ill-defined sense of recognition: 'Here was my man', as Robin said of Griggs.

Robin always freely admitted that his etched world was an ideal one, but a world 'that could still be ours if we did but desire it passionately enough, instead of poisoning it'. And as if to emphasize this fact and to assist in its implementation, many of his landscapes bring a footpath out to the edge of the picture space, placing a stile, a low bridge or an open gate at its border, awaiting our re-entry. His still life arrangements, too, made up of flowers, ferns, ripe fruits and seed-heads, stand like heraldic emblems on the threshold, allowing us tantalizing glimpses around and through them of the fertile country from which they came.

In Double Harness I read Robin's wonderful accounts of how each plate developed, as he worked 'absorbed in its exacting intricacies' for perhaps two thousand hours before a final state was reached. Commercial pressures, then as now, made such painstaking care extremely difficult, and during his first years as a professional Robin felt several of his plates bore the tell-tale signs of haste. He immediately vowed to 'work more slowly and... give my thought only to what I longed most to express' - watchwords I still return regularly to in support of my ongoing struggle with compromise.

From the end of the Second World War until 1970 Robin's etching tools lay idle, while he travelled to various parts of the country as an H.M. Inspector of Schools. What astonishes me most, looking at the plates he produced on either side of this twenty four-year gap, is the seamless continuity of purpose and execution they display, despite being separated by some of the most dramatic social and environmental changes in the century. 'Slowly, as I etched' I saw the path that had seemed to end with my June etching in 1946 opening into a wide and lustrous vista - a landscape inviting, illimitable, magical, compelling'.

Spanning the gap and helping to sustain Robin during that long fallow period were the drawings he made for Woodland Plants, one of a series of outstanding books which he and his wife Heather collaborated on, she as writer and he as illustrator. Their preparatory work began in 1940 under the shadow of war, and for Robin 'it proved the greatest solace' to explore with my pencil the gentle intricacies of twayblade, the subtle forms of wild columbine and martagon lily, and all the patterned veinings and flower symmetry and infinite variety of textures in the generally unnoticed, the self-effacing plants, like sanicle and dog's mercury, cow wheat and enchanter's nightshade, spurge laurel and moschatel.' Four decades and nearly a thousand studies later, Woodland Plants finally appeared in print in 1981, its eighty two illustrations each a vivid evocation both of their subject and Robin's abiding vision.

Revelling now in 'that delicious state we call 'retirement', 'Robin completed and published a further twenty seven plates after his return to etching: two thirds of his entire output. Galleries, dealers and collectors were all quick to show an interest, and the prices of his prints began their steady rise - much to the discomfort of his socialist principles. The limited edition held no appeal for Robin and he would never cancel a plate, believing it should continue to be used for as long as perfect impressions could be taken from it. Nor did he accept any income from the sale of his work in these later years, requesting instead that cheques be sent directly to the many causes which he, Heather and their foster son Dietrich supported.

Old Chapel Field, the family's North Wiltshire home, served as their base of operations as well, increasingly, as a tranquil haven to return to. In The Hazel Copse, Robin's final plate and a particular favourite of mine, spring is gathering pace in the small woodland he and Heather planted there some fifty years earlier. The familiar footpath, flanked by primroses, hellebores and unfolding hazel leaves, has at last come to an end at Robin's own front door. But always, when I look along it, I imagine it winding back through his other plates, over that quiet stretch of countryside where he found 'all' I wanted to say on copper.' And the same path, viewed from a different perspective, leads away via his beloved Griggs to Edward Calvert and Samuel Palmer: an unbroken line of English pastoral printmaking in which Robin's place is secure.

This short and very personal tribute has focused solely on Robin's work as an etcher, giving only the briefest mention to his 'other' long and distinguished career as an educator. In fact, of course, the two were utterly indivisible. Robin had unshakeable faith in creativity as a liberating and empowering force. To him, it was the one subject which ought to be implicit in all others, driving each forward, in order for an education system to be truly balanced and effective. The closing lines of his autobiography include these heartfelt words, never more relevant than they are today:

'I believe that the arts must be at the very centre, the core of our lives. I believe that if the proper dignity of every human being were respected and his or her native gifts well nourished and cherished we should then reach our full stature and come into our rightful heritage - and help others to theirs.'

Thank you for your help Robin.


Published originally by the author in April 2004. Reprinted here with his permission in November 2008.

Robin and Heather in the Hazel Copse - Paul Miller
 

The Etchings of Walter Sickert

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Nov - Dec 2007
It is only in recent years that the true significance of Sickert's work as a printmaker has been appreciated by a wider audience. The exhibition at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut in 1979 and the appearance of Ruth Bromberg's catalogue raisonné have shown us the range and extent of his graphic output. The somewhat ephemeral nature of his early etchings, in particular those inspired by the teachings of Whistler, explains to some degree why recognition was slow in coming. Even Sickert himself was conscious of his own position when he admitted to a friend in 1907 that his etching, Noctes Ambrosianae, was, one of not more than half a dozen museum-pieces that I have done in twenty-seven years.
If Whistler's influence was responsible for much of Sickert's early work then real inspiration came later through his friendship with Degas. Sickert's subsequent mature etchings of music halls and the seedy side of urban life in Islington and Camden Town mirrored to some degree the French master's monotype studies of intimate interiors and Parisian brothels. The fascination with the more squalid aspects of ordinary modern life remained a prominent feature of Sickert's work for the rest of his life.

While commercial success from printmaking eluded him in the 1880s it was probably a lack of money that drew Sickert back again to the medium in 1905. For ten years he struggled for recognition but ultimately without the critical acclaim and the financial reward he so deserved. He wrote to his American friend and patron, Ethel Sands, I have always known that I was, potentially, the only living etcher, but I was quite prepared never to prove it. It was throughout this period of course that he produced his finest prints. At a time when retroussage and heavy burr were being served up in great quantities by the likes of Cameron, Bone and McBey, the delicately clean-wiped, almost abstract offerings of Walter Sickert, laced as they were with intricate patterns of light and shade, were far removed from the fashionable requirements of the day.

Sickert was one of the great British artists of the twentieth century; in accepting the influence of the Impressionists he altered the course of British painting. As a printmaker he was a little less influential perhaps but did produce a body of work that is uniquely his own both in subject matter and style. He was eclipsed in the market-place often by the less-deserving heavyweights of the day; by the time of the crash in 1929 he had given up printmaking altogether. Sickert died in Bathampton on 22 January 1942.
 

Ben Nicholson - The Later Etchings 1965-1968

Proofs from the Lafranca Collection

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May - June 2007
It is twenty-five years since Nicholson's death and in that time there have been few attempts to assess in any detail his achievements as a graphic artist. While this is beyond the scope of the present exhibition, it is interesting to note how such a large body of work produced over so long a period of time has been largely disregarded by most present-day commentators. There are exceptions; Norbert Lynton in his monograph on Nicholson published in 1993 gave some space to the etchings and of course Jeremy Lewison wrote a splendid article in Print Quarterly in 1985 but this dealt only with prints made before 1939. Hopefully his work in the future will extend to a study of the later etchings.

Nicholson's graphic output was far from small; he made a number of linocuts in the late 1920s and early 1930s, a group of drypoints in the late 1940s and early 1950s and finally, in his most prolific period, more than one hundred and thirty etchings between 1965 and 1968. The majority were done in a concentrated period of activity in 1967. What prompted him to return to printmaking in 1964-5 is not entirely clear; Francois Lafranca thinks he had been asked to provide a couple of drypoint illustrations for a book. The drypoints were quite large however, casting some doubt on this hypothesis and in any event the plates were soon abandoned. At Lafranca's suggestion Nicholson turned his hand to etching instead.

In 1965 Francois Lafranca was a young Swiss artist and would-be printer; today he is an accomplished all-rounder, a sculptor, a print and paper-maker, a photographer, a musician, a gardener and a fine cook. Without his encouragement and assistance Nicholson would never have made an etching; he simply did not possess the skills to prepare, bite and print the plates, nor I suspect, did he have the inclination. He wrote in 1968, I think I am not an 'etcher' as I understand the medium at all - really to be this one should know and have the whole paraphernalia - prepare and print the plates oneself... I suppose mine [his etchings] are really drawings on prepared copper. When Nicholson met Lafranca he was living at Brissago, in a house he had built overlooking Lake Maggiore. He had come to Switzerland in 1958 with his third wife, Felicitas Vogler, by this time a well-known and accomplished photographer. Their travels together in Italy and Greece inspired numerous drawings and etchings; on occasions it seems likely that Vogler's photographs may have provided the source.

Nicholson would always decide on the shape and size of his plates; mostly they are irregular. According to Lafranca, scratches in the plate, variations in inking, happy accidents, were all used to great advantage; Nicholson rather relished the unexpected. Lafranca was responsible for preparing and biting the plates and of course he printed them all. Some editions were issued with and without tone, usually in roughly equal parts. Editions of some plates were destroyed in their entirety or never made at all, although in most cases the odd proof has survived. At random Nicholson would select impressions to be hand-coloured or modified in some way. Both artist and printer respected the need to eventually destroy the plates; typically Lafranca was more fastidious in this endeavour, scoring the plates with a fairly regular diagonal grid; Nicholson's method was more frenetic; he sometimes attacked them with a hammer and apparently enjoyed cutting them up on a guillotine. I have seen about sixty cancelled plates and several are exhibited here. I suspect the rest have long since disappeared; portions of some may have been used by other printmakers working with Lafranca at a later stage; a number were certainly scrapped. In his catalogue of the memorial exhibition of etchings held in Locarno in 1983 and later in Mannheim, Lafranca describes one hundred and twenty seven prints. For reasons best known to the artist more than a third of these had never been published. Many had not gone beyond the proof stage and in some cases Nicholson had ordered the destruction of whole editions. Another eight plates have since come to light; these too had been abandoned for one reason or another and with one exception, it appears that no impressions have survived. All these proof impressions are extremely rare and many are the equal of their published counterparts. We are pleased to have the opportunity to offer at least a few for sale.

A small group of cancelled copper plates will be on display and several will be for sale; details are available on request.

Nicholas Lott.


In describing the individual prints we have made reference to the following:
Lafranca, Francois, Ben Nicholson - Etchings printed by Francois Lafranca,
Ateliers Lafranca, Locarno, 1983.

 

C.F. Tunnicliffe RA OBE: The Memorial Collection Part Two

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A portfolio of nine wood engravings of birds, printed by Nicolas McDowall on acid-free 175 gsm Zerkall paper in an edition of 112 of which 100 are for sale. Published in 2009 by Larkhall Fine Art Ltd, Bath in association with H. & G. Gerrish, Lydart, Monmouthshire. The complete set costs £1500 plus VAT although prints may be purchased separately. Telephone the gallery for prices and availability.