Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Yet more from British ebay

One of the minor pleasures of researching artists is attempting to trace their West London studios. There used to be a large number of these and many still survive but their locations are often far from obvious. Many Georgian and Victorian houses were equipped with basements simply because street-level was higher than ground level. I remember being fairly convinced I had found Robert Gibbings studio because they could all be seen on the first and second floors of what are now family houses and flats. Yet I wondered how on earth he had got his Albion press up there. The answer is he hadn't because Bolton Studios had been built on unused land behind the row of studio houses and so were at ground level and had never been visible from the street. (You pass under an arch to get to them and, of course, it was gated and there was no going in to see exactly where he had printed off those wonderful colour woodcuts of his).

By the time I came to Arabella Rankin, I should have known better and it was only by chance that I realised that West Studios like Bolton Studios were down some steps below pavement level and were private and secluded. It made sense. So, it was fascinating to see this  colour woodcut by her showing The Temple on Edwardes Square (above) just a short walk from her studio. As I have never even seen her work for sale ever, I would have been tempted by this, even thought it isn't Rankin at her best. But I am off to Wales tomorrow and that is that. Of course, it all depends what it goes for. I would guess it comes from the early twenties before she made her glorious prints showing the island of Iona. The use of mottled colour, shape and blank space is all very typical of her. The lack of a keyblock is notable, too, but I am not so impressed by the use of that emphatic double outline. That aside, it could quite easily be workaday modern Japanese. It has their kind of abstraction and restraint, qualities very much to the fore in the great Scottish prints she made.

Less distinguished because it is less original is John Souter Bulloch's etching (above). A Scot like Rankin, I don't know much about him but he had a go at all kinds of stuff from linocuts to bourgeois portraiture. Here he took the bohemian route to success because he had obviously been looking at Augustus John's etchings of Dorelia and added some Gerald Brockhurst (as unlikely a combination as you will find) while having the model adopt a pose that was striking enough to make me look again even if it all had a definite sense of deja vu. It's all in there somewhere, a dash of the French academic tradition, a hint of seriousness and I mean, I think it's pretty good but I'd sooner have his linocut of ducks. Less hefty by half.

So, ebay is looking up. We have had an etching by F.L.M. Griggs, albeit with a hole in it (not that such a defect deterred everybody), Mabel Royd's Christ in the carpenter's shop, Edgar Holloway and now  because we also have the tender and attractive colour woodcut of winsome deer by Barbara Harvey Leighton (top) and one you will have to pay £390 for if you want it because Canadians can be just as expensive as Americans.

Going on to recent sales, I was a bit surprised by Geoffrey Wedgewood's engraving Fishmarket, Naples going as high as £193 even though it is a complex and distinguished print and one I would have liked to own (if I weren't sinking almost everything I have into this cottage in Wales). Just as surprising was Elyse Ashe Lord's daft confection going for as little as £83. So, perhaps there is justice in this world, after all. Unless, of course, you are buying colour woodcuts. And then, I am afraid, there is none.


  1. I really enjoy your entries on printmaking. I was the buyer of the Arabella Rankin and it looks really nice on the office wall alongside some Charles Paine water-colours of Jersey. I am currently blogging about the Blackheath School of Art pre-1940 if it is of interest and hope to cover Meryl Watts, Charles Paine and John Edgar Platt shortly (further elaborating on your excellent posts on these artists) -

  2. Glad you get something out of Modern Printmakers. And I'm pleased the Rankin has gone to a good home. I was also surprised it didn't go the first time around because her work is pretty rare. You should go to the V&A and see her work in the Print Room. It's glorious.

    I shall look at the bear blog now.

  3. Thank you, your blog is really interesting as my background is in Early Netherlandish art and I am a complete beginner in anything beyond the late 1500's. I was surprised the Rankin was available. It is one of the most noticed pictures on the wall. I hope to get to the V&A soon to check out some BSA related material and will add Arabella Rankin to my list. I look forward to reading some more of your entries soon.