Thursday, 25 September 2014

Allen Seaby 'Art & Nature' at Reading Museum


To add to the list of early C20th British colour print artists with new exhibitions and books, we now have the most deserving so far. Following Sydney Lee, Eric Slater and Leonard Beaumont, an exhibition of Seaby's work opens at Reading Museum on 11th October, 2014, and runs until 22nd March, 2015. So, you have ample warning and plenty of time to go.

This is far from being his first solo exhibition at Reading (where he taught for many years) but I am not going to give away details here. The museum hold a good collection of Seaby's colour woodcuts and gouaches and no one should assume that only colour prints will go on show. It will be very interesting to see what they do exhibit. Seaby was an indifferent painter; not only that, his colour woodcuts over a very long career were uneven and not everything was as sublime as Heron, a print made when I think he was at his best around 1905 to 1910. But I don't want to prejudge a show, which most people with a serious interest in colour woodcut will want to see.


As part of this concerted push on Seaby , there is a book, to be published in mid October (the publication is delayed) and written by Martin Andrews with the help of Seaby's grandson, the linocut artist, Robert Gillmor. I've not had my copy yet but Andrews did a meticulous job on Robert Gibbings some years ago and I know that Robert Gillmor has long wanted his grandfather's work to gain the recognition it deserves.  I will be posting a review just as soon as I've read it. In the mean time, if you can't wait, you can buy a copy online from Two Rivers Press at £12.99 plus postage. It has 76 pages, they will send it anywhere and they aren't expensive, but you will need a PayPal account to buy it from their website.

Take my advice and buy your Seabys now. You certainty won't be able to afford him after all this.


  1. The "Heron" is stunning, I like the way the beak goes beyond the frame line. But are you really sure there will be such a hype as in Slater's case?


  2. Well, I was being ironic to some extent and Slater was already more expensive than many of his contemporaries before the book and show. I think it depends on how much publicity it all gets. James Trollope who was behind the Slater phenomenon already had the copyright, launched a website and had good press and TV coverage. He is a journalist after all. The people organising the Seaby reappraisal are curators, artists and writers, so you wouldn't expect them to be as savvy as James.

    And, basically, to get a buzz, there has to be enough work available for people get excited about. It's collecting phenomena all over. Seaby made more colour woodcuts than any other British artist (around 100) but where are they all?

  3. Charles,

    yes, what you are saying makes sense. We'll see what happens. But Seaby's prints do show up every now and then. The Heron was sold for $160 on Ebay a couple of months ago, for example.


  4. Yes, they do turn up, but you would think there might be more available generally.

    Where was 'Heron' sold? The US? That was very cheap.

    1. Yes, on ebay US. Unfortunately the print turned out to be glued to the backing board.

  5. Another interesting posting Charles. I think the dearth of Seaby prints, is because like Mavrogordato, they are lost in the print collections of institutions. Seaby, as you quite rightly point out was an uneven painter, unlike his contemporary, Platt who was an outstanding painter (in both oil and watercolour.) I feel as though Reading Museum is the place that should hold this kind of exhibition. I always find Seaby's case interesting....he was so very famous in his day, but his prices, like his works, vary greatly. When he was at his best, his works evoke all the best of the Japanese printmakers he loved and copied so much. There are however some of his works that are clumsy and heavy handed. I hope you will be visiting and sharing your observations with your readers. i will look forward to it.

  6. I'd like to go, yes, but I am also coming up to retirement age and have my eye on a seaside cottage in west Wales, so I shall have to see how things go.

    I find Seaby frustrating. He seemed to keep churning them out, just like the books. Perhaps one reason why his works are a bit scarce is because he is part of the modern wildlife art market and appeals to people who might not buy prints otherwise. But that doesn't explain why so many of the later historical landscapes from Egypt and Greece don't appear. The conclusion I have come to is that they didn't sell at the time and few were printed. Like everything else, it needs more research!

  7. Mind you, I have seen a proof of Batten's 'King Phineus and the Harpies' that must have been printed off by Seaby for an exhibition after Batten's death and the skill and care he took printing another artist's work is remarkable.