Sunday, 29 May 2016

A radical view: modern British prints 1914 to 1964, Osborne Samuel, London, untill 5th June


I am afraid you only have a week to see this exhibition now but if you are in London, it will be well worth seeing, so get yourself down to Bruton St sharpish. Putting Gordon Samuel's claims for the prints they sell aside, this show offers a fair old view of the kind of innovative prints being made in Britain during the mid C20th. But trying to make out, as Samuel does, that it is possible to discern a radical approach to printmaking over this very long period is, frankly, tosh. Just take a look at the diversity of the images here, including Sybil Andrews' boisterous The windmill (1933), top, and Terry Frost's sweet-natured lithograph, Blue moon (1964), below.

There is everything from Grosvenor School do-it-yourself to the kind of tasteful art school sophistication that was churned out by the cartload during the sixties and seventies. More interesting, in some ways, are the early colour woodcuts made by Edward Wadsworth, such as Brown drama (1914 - 1917), below. Wadsworth trained in Munich about 1912 where he must have learned to make colour woodcut. There was absolutely no attempt on his part to suggest the medium and the cutting is so exact, they are often described as engravings. Wadsworth thought so little of them in the end, when he left London for Sussex after the first war, he put the blocks on a bonfire and burnt the whole lot of them.

In between you have a whole range of things like Edward Bawden's schematic Leadenhall market (1967) and Ivon Hitchen's one and only hand-drawn lithograph, Flowers (1938). Whether you can describe The school-room (1938), below, as in any way radical depends on whether you regard a pastiche of Henri Matisse and Eduard Vuillard as ground-breaking rather than attractive. There is also the chance to see Lill Tschudi's Sailors in the flesh rather than reproduced by Modern Printmakers alongside lots of rather bloke-ish lithographs by some not very entertaining, pseudo-modern Brits.
The complete catalogue in available online and well-worth a look, especially if you are not very familiar with British post-war output. Just click on London Original Print Fair and scroll down a bit to the catalogue. But be warned, you need to be deft:

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