I used to know someone who would say 'Isabel de B Lockyer' so grandly I got it into my head that, of all the forgotten artists, she must be the most glamorous, the most desirable. So when I eventually found a linocut of hers in a shop in Camden Passage, Islington, I was inevitably confused. It was called The striped sail; it was quite small; it was rather abstract. It had none of the bravura I liked to associate with colour woodcut or linocut and I left it there in the shop. I have never seen another one since.
But, if I was wrong to leave The striped sail down in Islington, my other instincts were proved correct. There is chic and glamour in these early landscapes - the little temple screened by trees in Near Vevey (1924), the Italian coast, above, in Rapallo (1926) and the stylish The lagoon, Corfu (1928). They all make me think of house-parties in the country and holidays abroad. And indeed I think she chose as mentor an artist with the most glamorous light of them all. I mean William Giles (see WG: modern printmaker, March, 2011). There is no record that he actively taught her anything but we only have to look at Near Vevey to see that she knew his work very well. But this is Giles without any pretence at realistic lighting. He went to extremes to get that kind of pink; I don't think Switzerland is quite so northern lights as that.
As I said 'Ada Collier, ancient and modern' (March, 2011), we do know that Giles taught Collier and this does suggest to me that other artists may have gone to him for tuition. We not only find the same improbable colours in her linocuts, she also goes in for his precision. She is not only exact about titles, at times she goes in for describing the light the way he does. But in almost all other respects, there the tutorship ends. Although they may look like colour woodcuts because of the water-based inks she uses, all these prints were made from linoblocks. The works from the twenties are also landscapes, very much in line with many British colour woodcutters of that period, including Ian Cheyne and Helen Stevenson. By 1930, though, there is a change.
Which brings us to Wembury Church (1933). The Lockyers came from Plymouth and one of them bought Wembury House in the early C19th. He later moved to Australia with the British Army but the family connection clearly took Lockyer to south Devon to produce this rather unsual offshore print. (It's been pointed out that you could have only see the church this way from a boat). The de Bohun bit of her name is something of a mystery. So far as I can see, the de Bohuns only had a residual Devon connection and my own feeling is that this rather grand addition to her name was made by Lockyer herself. It makes her name as complex as one of Giles' titles.
I like the name, as I said; and what I do like very much about her work is the variety. She uses a wide range of colours but usually doesn't let her interest in them predominate - one of Giles' failings. If she has no interest in natural light (even at its Giles' weirdest) she does have a strong sense of the social world around her. I suspect her early voguish landscapes suggest a social milieu as much as the portrait etchings of Emil Orlik do. These are very specific types of places she is recording. It a view of them as pleasurable with their isolated old buildings. The fur coats, the cloche hats, the Japanese sun shade only add to the general feeling of fashionable exclusivity. [It would also be wrong of me not to credit joseflebovicgallery.com/ in Sydney for five of these prints.]