Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Mary Wrinch (Canadian, 1878 - 1969)

Here is another artist born in the 1870s who began her career as a painter then turned to relief printmaking. Mary Wrinch was born in Essex, England, presumably emigrating to Canada before training at the Central School in Toronto. (She also put in time at the Grosvenor Life School in London and the Art Students League, New York). The painting below dates to this early part of her career. By the late-ish twenties, she had taken up linocut.

She clearly took care to master the technique. Her first compositions were all monochrome and like the one below either landscapes or flower studies, some rather symbolist and undemanding for the date. Not that I would turn this one down. It's a finely balance little piece and more focussed than the hollyhocks from the garden of the governor's house in Quebec.

Not that it was long before the painter in her began to reassert itself. It was at this point she began to make her most individual work. As she said later, 'Colour was all I cared about... I loved contrast'. You can of course see this love of contrast in both prints here. Not for her straightforward blocks of colour. It would have been impossible for her to reproduce the same gradations of colour print by print and this was obviously her intention. It's very reminiscent of the ceramic flower vases of the period with their subtle glazes and shifts of colour. At the same time it is quite flat and finally unconvincing as landscape. In this she is quite similar to her British contemporary Eric Hesketh Hubbard (1892 - 1957). The night piece at the head of the blog is more subtle and painterly than anything he would have attempted. It also notably dispenses with the keyblock. Here is an artist who was not content to stick with a formula.

The moonlit lake is a beautifully judged, simple image and very evocative from my own perspective, on a damp November afternoon in the English Midlands. It's miles way from Essex as well. It's too translucent and forward-looking to be old world. In part it's the fine and careful use of keyblock in her later flower studies that make them look so contemporary. That and the bold and unsentimental use of colour. What she loses in evocativenes, she gains in clarity. I suppose that was where she was heading. Most date from the later thirties and forties. Compare the approach taken to the same flowers taken by her British contemporary Mabel Royds (1874 - 1941) in the early thirties.

Perhaps I'm not being entirely fair to Wrinch here because I think Royds is the better artist. Her tulips are mortal; for all Royd's artistry, we are in the living, dying world with her. Wrinch is coherent but doesn't move that far beyond design.

She did no paintings after the twenties and produced 44 colour linocuts between 1930 and 1944. Unlike her British contemporaries her market clearly held up. No wonder those tulips are so confident! And I can tell you it makes a refreshing change to be able to finally write about a woman artist who is documented and had a long career. Hooray for Canada!

1 comment:

  1. again wonderful reading and very informative. I appriciate your choice, observations, comparisons and commentary very much.