I need to completely revise the few details I gave about the life of the British artist Ethel Kirkpatrick (1869 - 1966). Needless to say, I haven't changed my view that she fits well within the British topographical tradition, is both a keen and accurate observer, a talented colourist, a skilful woodcutter and, last but not least, has the kind of appeal many modern British printmakers can only dream of.
She was born in Holborn, London, the daughter of Mary and Thomas Sutton Kirkpatrick. Her mother was from Yorkshire, her father a professional soldier from a landed family at Coolmine in Dublin. He had left the army the year she was born and the family eventually moved to Exeter when her father was made governor of the prison and then to Harrow-on-the-Hill near London when he became governor of Newgate. There was an older sister, Ida Kirkpatrick (1866 - 1950) who also became an artist.
Ethel had the broader art education, studying at the RA Schools and the Central School of Arts and Crafts before taking the well-worn path of British artists at the time to the Academie Julien in Paris. Some time after this Ethel moved to St Ives in Cornwall where the artist Lily Kirkpatrick lived and worked and where there was a growing colony of artists. Ethel Kirkpatrick also exhibited in the town.
Ida also moved to St Ives but both sisters moved back to the family home, The Grange at Harrow, in 1906. Ironically, it is still impossible to date much of the work shown here except on the grounds of style and subject. The second image of the woman walking towards the full moon could be a Cornish scene but has a French genre feel to it. Both I would think are early woodcuts. The river scene above, variously described as the Clyde and the Thames, is dated 1911. I think the hills are too close and the river too broad to be the Thames but a work of this skill suggests she had taken up colour woodcut a few years before.
The third image with the windblown hedge may be somewhere like Carbis Bay near St Ives. As she probably used watercolour sketches as a basis for her woodcuts, she could have made them quite a lot later. Even so, she must be one of Morley Fletcher's earlier followers, along with Sidney Lee, and once the two women returned to Harrow they made frequent trips to join the artists at Walberswick in Suffolk. Lee also made a colour print there.
The rocky, hilly coasts I think we can safely say are Cornwall rather than Suffolk and I've included another fine proof of Kirkpatrick's view of Mousehole near Penzance. As a woman of independant means and mind, she travelled elsewhere and I especially like this view below of Venice. It shows just how much she took note of the light in Cornwall. Her Cornish pieces are never as limpid as this.
She could quite obviously ring the changes, both in mood and style as you can see from the second, strikingly expressive view of the city from the lagoon. Even if she did train initially with Frank Morley Fletcher, the way she handles those reflections is closer to Munch. Everything depends on the subtle and brilliant tonality and disparate array of shapes. You can hardly believe it is the same artist whose keen eye apprehended the pilchard boats as they left Mousehole.
Readers will have seen this view of the Thames before as well but this is a better image and will appear in larger format. It is strikingly fresh with all kinds of subtle reflections.
The print below of nesting rooks is still near London. In fact, it's at Harrow-on-the Hill, with what looks like a subtle smoggy dawn. Her mauves are as improbable as they are irresistable. The rooks are also a bit flat and unconvincing but she has top marks for the original bird's eye view. One wonders how she got so close. It shows by just how much her work depends on empathy and imagination.
I think the last two images are later work. The first is a Swiss view, the second is called 'Communication, past and present'. The line is sharper and more modern but the tone alot less sympathetic but we have to acknowledge that she always varied her approach. Boats and colour woodcut may have been great loves, but her style changes.
It's fascinating to see her take on the world of the inter-war years even if the print itself is less appealing - at least for me. And I need to add that I was totally dependant on the London dealers Abbott and Holder for these images. They all come from their Christmas exhibition and some are still for sale: abbottandholder.co.uk/ . If you go onto the site, just scroll down to the prints section.