Friday, 3 February 2012

Gertrude Brodie & the lamps of Settle


I have always been intrigued by Gertrude Brodie's use of the small lamp symbol beside her signature because it suggests a conscious artistic identity for someone who is now very obscure indeed. Although there seems to be one book that she illustrated, she made her living as an art teacher, first at Settle Girls High School and then Giggleswick School, also in the town. (For people outside the UK, Settle is a market town in the North Craven district of Yorkshire in the north of England.)

I've owned this conte crayon and gouache drawing by her for many years but it's only recently come back into my possession and set me off thinking about her again. Part of the original appeal was that her work had a good graphic quality and I would be surprised to learn that she didn't know the colour woodcuts made by Jack B Yeats for the Cuala Press in Ireland. Her work has a similar reliance on dark outlines and a similar vigour and fluidity - the figures are very Yeats - and I place Brodie in the company of colour woodcut artists for this reason.

The building you can see on the right is The Folly, a large C17th century house that now houses a museum. I now learn from their website that Brodie produced a series of drawings of the town which confirms my earlier suspicions that here was an artist with a tendency. Two are called 'The lamps of Settle and I think we can assume her lamp symbol sits alongside that arts and crafts signature of hers. I think we can also take it as read that the pictures included one of the street lamps that you see to the left.

What I like about the picture is its tone and the subtlety of the colours.The narrow street running up into the centre is rather awkard in the way it disappears and the truncated building is odd but she obviously wanted to concentrate our attention on the two-way traffic of rural and urban in a town like Settle. Having just returned from the old town of Girokastra in Albania I know exactly what she means. She isn't only subtle in her colours, she is perceptive about place. The lamps would have had such a modernising effect in a town like Settle. I think she was conscious of the disparity between the wooded hill and the lamps; there is a sense of small-town drama here.



  1. Quite sophisticated and very appealing.

  2. And I wonder of she gained her teacher's certificate from Glasgow School of Art or Edinburgh College of Art?

  3. My Mum has a picture by Gertrude Brodie, of Giggleswick Church. It was given by Miss Brodie as a wedding present to my Grandparents.Granny was taught art by Miss Brodie at school and was married at Giggleswick Church. It's thought she was probably a family friend, hence the wedding present and was always hung over my grandparents' fireplace.

  4. I wonder of your Mum has any of granny's school photographs with Miss Brodie on them? Have you shown this picture to her? I would love to see her picture.

  5. Are there reproduction prints/posters available for purchase anywhere?

  6. I don't think so. You could try contacting the museum at Settle.