Thursday, 16 February 2012
William Giles' 'September Moon'
Up for sale on British ebay this week is William Giles' print September Moon at the astonishing starting bid of £500 (that's US$790). [NB Gerrie Caspers is quite sure this is a reproduction from Malcolm Salaman's Masters of the Colour Print series. This is why the label is attached as a title. The one you see here is not the one that is for sale].
This was his very first colour woodcut, published in 1901. This was soon after Giles had gained his art master's certificate at University College, Reading, where he had also learned the colour woodcut technique from Frank Morley Fletcher, who was head of the Department of Art.
It is also one of the very first of the colour woodcuts produced by a member of the British school. I have already posted some of the very early Cornish prints by Sydney Lee and also Ethel Kirkpatrick and I include Kirkpatrick's The full moon for comparison.
I think we can safely assume that the artists knew one another. Kirkaptrick studied enamel work at the Central when Fletcher was teaching the colour woodcut class there and she must also haven been one of his students - stay posted. But Giles owes something in this first print of his to his teacher. The delicacy of colour and line are to be found in Fletcher's own early prints Meadowsweet and The flood gates. But Giles was almost thirty when the print came out and it is fascinating to see that he was already his own man and that many of his real interests are already there, namely his interest in the effects of light and the making of an impression (without being Impressionist).
You can see, I think, that Kirkpatrick was always more Japanese than Giles and what is of course important about this work as a first print is that he dispensed with the keyblock. It was experimenting by then and went on to abandon colour woodcut altogether for a while and use zinc plates instead. But at this point, Kirkpatrick and Giles had quite alot in common, including a striking similarity in colour scheme. Both tend use a more a restricted palette than Fletcher and in some ways they were both more strict in their approach to print-making than their teacher was.
I suppose I have to include Fletcher's well-known first print Meadowsweet of 1897. This was the first fully independent British colour woodcut and the effectiveness of Fletcher's teaching and personal example are proven in the considerable quality achieved early on by both of his students.