Saturday, 7 July 2012

Leonard Beaumont at the Graves Gallery

22nd December is another necessary date for your diary simply because that's the day an exhibition of prints and drawings by Leonard Beaumont opens at the Graves Gallery in Sheffield. What with the current show of Eric Slater, it does look as if curators at provincial British art galleries are at long last waking up to the boxes and boxes of modern prints they hold and at last letting people see them. Don't think these are just exceptions; I really should start to name and shame. At Sheffield, as with Eastbourne, it's much the same come-on, only this time it's 'unsung Sheffield hero'. It makes you want to slap them. (See December 2012 for a review of the exhibition).

There was nothing heroic about being an artist in Sheffield in the twenties and if you are underestimated your linocuts don't go into four figures. Anyone that knows prints of the period will know Beaumont as someone who was not a member of the Chorus (top) but displayed independance all along and stands out from the Grosvenor School students for his 'clarity and elegance' as the Sheffield Telegraph had it. (I also need to say that he never studied with Claude Flight at the school but obviously the influence is there - possibly too much so. I think it's one of the weaknesses of his prints).

These were the qualities that led hin into a career in design, first at the Royal Mail and then at Sainsbury's, in the fifties and sixties. He came up the hard but fairly common way for the times: evening classes at the local art school while he was working at the Telegraph. After serving in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve during the first war, he first taught himself etching before moving on to the linocuts, which he is best know for today. Eye-catching and modern as Sainsbury's packaging was during the sixties, they hardly compare with the kind of prints you see here.

That said, Beaumont brings out all the reservations I have about modern linocut. Their repetition leaves them looking very much like design only. To some extent, once you have done one, you have done them all. Fine as they are, the roadmenders (above) may just as well be in the chorus line or yodelling in the Tyrol. As he said himself, he never used a sketchbook or a camera but a combination of memory and imagination. It shows. And as I said elsewhere, the Studio Magazine refused to illustrate Claude Flight and Edith Lawrence's linocuts because they were  design and pointedly showed their designs for furniture and rugs.

And just to be perverse, the Swiss landscape below is one of my favourites. The image is from a current auction-house catalogue and it's a pity it's so pale. For some reason Dominic Winter and have a stash of linocuts and books together in one lot. That makes them a gift to the trade. Still, this is Claude Flight less the overprinting and in some ways Beaumont's linocuts are the better for it. Interesting that we don't get Swaledale.

Please note: There is a second post in December, 2012, that reviews the exhibition. It's also worth saying that I'm an independant writer not a curator.



  1. I'm ashamed to say that dispite doing a foundation course at Sheffield Art College in the 60s I had never heard of Leonard Beaumont until reading about him recently in the Guardian.

    The exhibition cannot fund a catalogue apparently.

    Might you know of any other means I can continue my education?

    Happy New Year.

    Paul Eastwood

  2. By the sixties all these artist were regarded as irrelevant and Beaumont had to wait till 1983 for any recognition.

    The only stuff published about Beaumont is here on this blog. I'm afraid the posts are, to some extent, opinion pieces. But as I was saying to a friend only the other night, there are a dozen artists who were doing what he was doing who are just as good, if not better. Arabella Rankin and Isabel de B Lockyer come to mind.

    The Graves have put on good shows without a catalogue before. Thomas Lowinsky was one but at least they had the Tate's little book for sale. Why go ahead if they can't find funding for a catalogue? What is the point when so many people can't get up to Sheffield?

    I have been amazed by the number of page views this post has had, no doubt down to the Guardain, which I missed.
    Alot has been missed, though, but some of it is here.