Thursday, 21 October 2010

Dorothy Burroughes (British, c1895 - 1963)

Dorothy Burroughes is an artist we know far too little about. Even the spelling of her name has caused confusion. I know nothing at all about her; the only prints by her that I have ever seen are the one illustrated here and one I used to own. Both are monochrome linocuts and very similar in style, relying for their impact on very bold cutting, powerful borders and the contrast between deep black and translucent hand-made paper. Both prints have these big structural clouds with diagonal cuts behind, with the light bouncing off wherever it can. Reproduction completely loses this effect. The subject of the one I used to own was quite opposite to one you see here: a ploughman drives a horse and plough up a far too steep hill with some very unlikely furrows zig-zagging across the picture plane. Again the same boisterous cumulus clouds. I don't think it could be anywhere but England.

Burroughes is closest to Ursula Fookes (1906 - 1991) whose linocut 'Shakespeare Memorial Theatre' 1930, is here for comparison. I don't think Fookes comes out it all that well. Just looking at these two images here, it strikes me Burroughes is the better artist although my old print was nowhere near as complex as the industrial scene. And it's this choice of subject and the deliberate feel to what she is about makes me add the famous cover of the war edition of Blast! as a tail-piece.

Incidentally, I hope the person (or institution) that now owns my old print is more deserving of it than I was at the time. (Let's face it, if I had been, I'd still have it now). They may also be interested to know it was used as the illustration for the Burroughes entry in British Printmakers, 1855 - 1955 (Garton, 1993). I can no longer lay a hand on the book and it may contain more information than I have here. It just makes you sick, it really does.


  1. Hi Charles

    The Burrows entry in Garton spells her name as Burroughes, Dorothy Mary, and mentions that she did a London Underground poster For the Zoo (1922) designed like a Japanese colour woodcut.

  2. Hi Mike,

    Thanks very much for the correction and the information. It helps to explain why I have turned so little up on her, doesn't it?


  3. She lived with my grandmother and was a talented writer and artist. There are at least two underground posters and numerous books. Her animal studies are fabulous.

  4. I own the most fabulous Mandrill monkey painting of Dorothy Burroughes. Her signature has a little tail at the end. I bought it in the seventies in Barnes (London) at a now defunct gallery. There was an elephant painting I wish I had bought, as well. The monkey has attitude and is extremely well painted. For all lovers of wildlife, it is the zenith. As art it is the best.

  5. Yes, there's another later post on the animals illustrations and posters. She was cool. And she's under-rated. That's was a very good buy in Barnes.

  6. We now have in house at auction a military gouache by Dorothy Burroughes. I do not understand the military connsection.