Monday, 1 August 2016

Some colour woodcuts on British ebay


                                                                                    

There has been such a dearth of good colour woodcuts on British ebay for such a long time, I began to wonder whether anything decent would ever appear. Kenneth Broad's pair of nursery printsare now for sale and they are good, but we have seen them more than once before and, what is more,  I remember the way they set the whole show rolling when Clive Christie bought them soon after he had started his old blog 'Art and the Aesthete'. Arthur Rigden Read's virtuoso Stormy seas has never appeared on British ebay. The only image available online until very recently was one lifted from The Studio, a 1920s reproduction that did Read's print little justice.

                                                                           

Stormy seas is not Read at his very best. It owes a lot to Hans Frank's 'Seagulls' of 1924 although in many ways, it's the better print. Read was never averse to pinching good ideas and often made witty use of other artists but he had a weakness for birds and they failed to bring out the best in him. 'May morning' was an early exception; for all its bravura and undoubted skill, Stormy seas is seascape and Read just wasn't any good at landscape and was wise enough to avoid it and concentrate on figure subjects or still life. Am I being too critical? I don't think so, because when Read's prints were good, they were very good indeed, he just wasn't a good enough artist to avoid a hackneyed image like this one. That aside, the sense of the waves and the play of white and green is pretty sensational really and very clever. The print makes a very rare use in British colour woodcut of the technique known in Japan as karazuri or shallow embossing. You can make out what is happening on the detail at the top. And in case, you dod not recognise this image I have used here from its recent appearance, it's because the proof you see here belongs to Gerrie Caspers from The Linosaurus, so many thanks to him for a superior photograph.
                                                                             

Far more of a surprise for me was the appearance of Phillip Needell's The mill at Cley. I'd never seen this before and was not at all aware that Needell could turn out anything as good as this. It is just as conventional as the Read but unlike Read, Needell understood the conventions of landscape art well enough to come up with this pleasing and delicate image. If it owes quite a lot to French artists like Henri Riviere or Lucien Pissarro, the way he has broken the image down into a series of marks is surprisingly modern for him. We could have done with more of that and less of the mill. It is certainly far more satisfying than E.A. Verpilleux's lurid treatment of the same subject. At £200, it was not a bad buy either and I was expecting it to fetch more.
                                                                       
 
Needell and his wife spent a lot of time in France, especially after his retirement. The sketchy understatement, the delicacy of mood and poetry of space recalls personal favourites like Corot and Seurat and it shows how much an artist who lacked thorough training as Needell did, could nevertheless respond to great artists and make something satisfying of his own. I only wish he has done more like this. Or perhaps he did and we still haven't seen them.
                                                                

Hugo Noske has never really been on my radar and has never had a post to himself on Modern Printmakers but why this fruity autumnal image remained unsold the other night, is just beyond me. The colour is rich, the description of dahlias, rudbeckia, helenium and montbretia is apt and frisky and it would look better on a wall than either the Read or Needell.  Not evocative enough, I suppose, no real sense of the collectable about it, that would be it. Solid, yes, but all the same, I think it's rather glorious.

 

11 comments:

  1. I missed the Noske or I'd have considered it.....my radar's been off for months....and his treatment of the Rudbeckias and the Dahlias as well as the tapestry may not be earth-shatteringly original but they are really well done--deftly drawn, cut and printed beautifully.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Exactly, Andrew, Noske was a pro. and you have another chance on Sunday because it went back up on ebay straightaway.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The pair of Kenneth Broad prints are a lovely pair, but the prices are ridiculous....which is why they are not selling. Charging 250 quid each might seem optimistic but my feeling is that it is greed. The Needell was nice and like his works, technically strong. I have a painting of his of almost that same scene...and he paints the way he printed...with precision and technical strength. I looked at the R. Read but I wasn't inspired. I feel the Hans Frank is clearly the precursor to Rigden Read but the thing I was impressed with was the condition of the Rigden Read; the Broads and the Needell. Regarding the Noske, that is one of his better prints...(actually I have it somewhere). That Noske is unusual because he most printed on acidic paper and it means the foxing for most of his works is epic. This one is in exceptional condition. There are so few woodblocks on Ebay these days it is almost an exercise in futility...however I am delighted that nothing is getting past you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Well, I sometimes get lucky, too, but I fear I have only been assiduous in fits and starts. But this was too interesting a group of prints to miss. Building on your comment about the Needell watercolour you have, I tracked down a collection of Boxsius watercolour designs for his prints (not for sale) and very good they are, too. More polished than his usual watercolour production.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Regarding to the Noske print - I found this one last year on a very small flea market nearby (usually not even worth stopping for) and recognized it instantly on a dozen meters distance. It was placed in the shadow of a big old tree which made the rich colours stand out even more on a bright sunny day. This very print was executed on Japan and does not show any foxing at all. If this is unusual for Noske´s prints I do not know. As the cheap frame was in very poor shape it changed hands for a rediculous low price. Lucky me.

    Best regards
    Markus

    ReplyDelete
  6. Congratulations! It's always good to get a bargain. I should have bid on this one, really, but I am in the process of offloading pictures rather than buying them.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I just bought at Auction 4 Kenneth Broad woodcuts and a watercolour and a totally unrelated work. I wanted the Circus at Southwold and the watercolour, also of Southwold since that is where I live. 2 of the woodcuts were the nursery pair, but the 4th was a large one "Across the Harbour, Whitby". I would be happy to share the image since I don't believe I have seen it here. This is, of course, not mere altruism since both it and the nursery prints are for sale!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
  8. Hope I have not breached any etiquette with my previous post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't mind, Robert, so long as readers work through me and don't start using the blog as a forum to buy prints, which Mike Nicholson wanted to do. Readers who would like to sell must accept that this is a blog and I will give my own opinion about the print. Unfortunately, some people then take offence.

      That said, I do have an image of 'Across the harbour, Whitby' sent to me by Broad's grandson. As you quite rightly say, it hasn't appeared here before and so far as I know has never come up online, though it may well be available in an auctioneer's online catalogue. I will check now and do a post on colour woodcuts available for sale, including yours. It seems only fair!

      Delete
  9. Mant thanks and absolutely agree: Your space, your rules!
    Regards,
    Robert.

    ReplyDelete