Thursday, 28 June 2012

Harold Collinson 'on either side the river lie long fields of barley and of rye'

The Vale of Trent around Nottingham is remarkable for a series of cliffs and fossil cliffs that stretch along the river and sometimes stand some way back from it. As soon as I saw this colour woodcut by Harold Collinson (1886 - 1955) I knew where I was; it was one of those moments of immediate recognition and affection for a landscape I have known all my life. I've walked miles along this river, looking across the pastures, at long lines of hills beyond them.

For many years, Collinson was etching master at Nottingham of School of Art and is mainly known (if at all) for views of old Nottingham. But they have as much a sense of place as this colour print called Haying. But this I like a lot more. And I like it for all the wrong reasons. Apart from the attraction of the locality, I love the outlandish way he has attempted to describe those sudden showers the Trent valley is prone to. It goes without saying that his green sky is also towards the top of the list.

It would be easy to miss the fact that the hills are closer than they might appear because of the awkward way that Collinson has shown the shadow on the lower slopes. For me, this what makes the picture so immediately telling. Here is an artist who knows a countryside so well, he knows what is unique and what he needs to describe. It goes beyond technique. It talks.

It's quite odd to place the viewer in so much shadow as well but then that it what makes it so throughly art deco. I would be surprised to find out that he didn't know the work of those other localists, Sylvan Boxsius and Eric Slater. And the quote above is from the Lincolnshire poet,  Alfred, Lord Tennyson: ''I am half-sick of shadows!'' cried the lady of Shallot'.


  1. wonderful print!


  2. that's beautiful. it immediately reminded me of this by arthur wesley dow.

    i guess that's like a weeping willow tree? my first thought was that it was rain! but the ground does look pretty dry.

  3. Glad you like it, Klaus. I had completely forgotten he made colour rpints till I came across his name hidden on the front page of a catalogue.

  4. Interesting comparision, Lily, because Dow was another artist who liked his own backyard.

  5. New to me this printmaker, it immediately reminded me of your recent also one print posting of "Vale-of-Pewsey" by Edward Loxton-Knight.

  6. I think Collinson will be new to almost everyone. But, yes, he has alot in common with Loxton Knight who may well have studied etching with him. Collinson depicts the countryside with an understanding Knight doesn't have.

  7. Doubtless I am going to get clobbered for being a contrarian...but I don't really like it.

    It has none of the balance of Boxsius or Slater...or their sense of colour. It seems that Collinson has a bit of a heavy Edwardian hand...still a tad strict and uptight.

    I understand what he was trying to capture, but Boxsius and Slater did it in a much more refined way using bolts of light to evoke weather or changeability rather than that rather didactic and literal attempt at rain. The other thing that makes it seem a bit clunky are the clouds.

    Boxsius and Slater did clouds that fill the image, they were fundamental ways to move the eye around the print. They were not simply negative space or even blank space for that matter. This is the other weakness of this print.

    Finally, it seems a bit the way Phillip Needell's woodblocks also were. It was clearly an aesthetic choice, and not done accidentally, but I don't look at it and think...I must HAVE it. Speaking of Boxsius, did you see the stunning little woodcut (unsigned but purchased from his estate) that went up on Ebay. It was stunning.


  8. Prints by Boxsius come up on ebay and I never seem to see them, I don't know why that is. Probaly because I look so half-heartedly.

    Boxsius was working on a more sophisticated level than Collinson. Boxsius was faux-naif, Collinson's picture-making is merely naive. All the same they did exhibit alongside one another (and Slater, too) in the early thirties. Both men are didactic but Boxsius' use of the paper and cloud-forms to suggest light is exemplary. He learnesd to use reflected light by engraving images on metal.

    But I agree, the falling rain is too daft for words.

  9. Well the Boxsius was hidden it is true, but it looked stunning. Purchased from his estate and directly from his widow. Unsigned but so perfectly of the period. In fact my initial response when I saw it was "Oh it's Mabel Royds", but it could just as easily have been Stevenson. I think it's clear we both rate Boxsius higher, in fact I have never seen a print by Boxsius I wasn't immediately struck by. I think that flat style that Collinson used was popular in England at the time. Hall Thorpe used it, as well as Needell and Slater at varying times. Sometimes it works...sometimes it doesn't. However, I have to say thank you because I had never heard of the man before, nor seen his works. It was an interesting addition into my mental roll call. Your recent postings have been illuminating, and your evaluations wonderful. Thank you Charles.


  10. I don't know when Daisy Boxsius died but presumably it was quite a few years after his death. What you say may help to explain why there seems to be quite a few unsigned proofs around. I assume they came from the same studio sale. You don't tell us the fate of the Boxsius print.

    These recent posts of mine are no more than testimony to a lack of time. I just have to keep them short and sweet nowadays and use whatever researches or chance finds I have to hand. They are enthusiasts pieces and I'm gratified that you like them. But they won't make me rich.

  11. Apparently, during the estate sale held by Daisy Boxsius, 200 prints were sold in total. It doesn't seem to be a lot but it DOES make sense therefore that there is an unusually large number that are unsigned. I am usually against buying unsigned prints, but this was so beautifully British and could only have been created by a master in the 20's. It is also stunningly executed I couldn't really let it the fate of the Boxsius, is that it is currently en route from Texas to Taiwan.

    Father Time can be a cruel master but your economy of language suits the pieces and the works...It's always a pleasure to read your blog.

  12. We can make exceptions so far as unsigned proofs go. In the case of Lizzie Brown, Mabel Royds and Sylvan Boxsius, certainly.

    He was more prolific than I used to think and was probably only making linocuts from about 1930. I am working on a check list and have so far 31 (not, I hasten to add, in my ownership). Let me have a description when you have time and I can let you have a potential title.

    My feeling is that the four seasons set was late. I've not come across any being obviously exhibited in the thirties so far (although they tended to change titles) Hence the number of unsigned proofs doing the rounds. My own proof of Autumn (as you probaly know) has an atmospheric printing crease right the way across it.

    I'm glad to know the Boxsius is on its way to a good home. It will be amongst friends - lots of them.

  13. I have sent you the photos, although they may have been dumped into your junk mail or spam...take a look. I have sent you the front and back. I am very sure this one is a woodblock. I would be delighted to know your opinion. It is of a castle, but I am not sure which one it is. The original owner seemed to think it was Dover Castle, but I am not so sure. I am more familiar with the wrecks and ruins...they are more reflective of my life. I tend to agree with you about the seasons prints, there is a kind of exaltation that his works didn't always have, and I don't mean that as a slight. It also helps that it is the first piece of art I see when I wake up every morning.

    My newest acquisition is a landscape and has the same feel as the Royds Edinburgh Castle, and your own Helen Stevenson with the castle dominating one side and then sort of dropping away with a path and pedestrians. There is such a similarity with them, you may have a topic for a posting. There is a commonality there. Didn't Platt do a similiar one? Anyway take a look. Feel free to post and speculate. I respect your opinion enormously.

    I recently came into possession of a pair of Seaby prints (nothing ornithological thankfully) and I am astonished by their detail. It's almost hard to believe they were created by carving negative images into wood...they are truly exquisite. As you know I am not a huge fan of Seaby, but when he did landscapes and architectural works, I was always hopelessly in love.

    I am enjoying your blog and encyclopedic knowledge.

  14. Many thanks for the photos. I shall wait for your own scans before I make a move. Presumably, the sller knew that it was a print by Boxsius.

    I think he must have known Royds image of Edinburgh. In fact, I would go as far as to say he might have used it as a model. We already know he worked from photographs. I am still trying to track down early Colour Woodcut Society catalogues. By no means easy.