Monday 26 July 2021

Jessie Garrow at McTears


Edward Burne Jones was appalled when he realised that his young friend and follower, Aubrey Beardsley, wanted to be a graphic artist and not a painter like himself. It was so outside Burne Jones take on things, he was unable to comprehend the profound change that was taking place in modern art and the friendship between the young Beardsley and himself proved to be short-lived. Beardsley on the other hand set a standard no serious British illustrator could ignore and some of the most telling work done by young artists like Isabel de B. Lockyer and Jessie Garrow in the twenties was not in colour but in black and white and owed Beardsley a considerable debt.

This means that whatever I say about the watercolour that comes up for sale at McTears on 11th August in Garrow's home town of Glasgow is qualified. Garrow was an able colourist but she had an elegant and descriptive sense of line, which is just as apparent in her illustrations for Wee Willie Winkie as it is in her semi-monochrome colour woodcut, The wave. You will note how far Garrow pared her colours down to cream, dark brown and touches of mauve in this watercolour. The subject may be winsome but the overall control is not. Whether any readers are dedicated enough to buy this work remains to be seen. It is rare, it is interesting, it is Jessie Garrow and, as you all know, Modern Printmakers approves.

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Katharine Jowett for sale by auction at Dominic Winter


A reader tipped me me off today about a group of seven colour linocuts by the British artist, Katherine Jowett, coming up for sale at Dominic Winter Auctioneers in Gloucestershire  this coming Friday. It includes Lanterns in the wind (above) the most original of all her prints and the complementary Street scene (below). Unfortunately, in order to buy these two striking prints, you will need to buy all seven. They come with a estimate of £400 - £600, considerably less than they will go for. In common with much of her printed work they are all either tipped onto light card and laid down on it.

Not a great deal is known about Jowett and, in particular, how she came to make colour linocuts. This has meant there has been some conjecture about her reasons for going to China. The facts as I know them go like this. She left Britain in 1904 to become a teacher at a Methodist school in China. Six years later she married Hardy Jowett who was himself a missionary and the couple subsequently had two children.

By 1931, she had made  a sufficient number of colour linocuts to exhibit alongside Bertha Lum. Not only was Lum resident in Pekin at the time, the Scottish colour print artist and writer, Anna Hotchkis, was also there. It is always possible that this was how Jowett was introduced to lino. She used an oil based ink and heavy card and had little in common with her linocut contemporaries in Britain.

Hardy died in 1936, leaving her alone with the two children and a deteriorating political situation. The following year, Pekin fell to the invading Japanese Army. This did nor deter the young American dealer and collector, Robert Muller, from visiting her in 1940 and buying work. He made it only just in time. Following the United Kingdom's declaration of war on Japan in December, 1941, she was interned and remained in camps until September, 1945, when she returned to Britain.

The hammer price of the prints was £800.

Sunday 18 July 2021

To my friends Lucy & Ted: the woodcuts of Elsie Garrett Rice


The woodcut (above) belongs to a reader who was fortunate enough to acquire the proof inscribed to the artist Marion Gill and her brother, Edwin. It is called Boston from the river or Boston Stump. Either way, readers will recognise the clarity of the style of S.G. Boxsius. It shows the tower of the church of St. Botolph and the harbour on the tidal reach of the river Witham.  Straightforward enough but you will know from the previous post that Edith Hope included the same tower in her view of Boston market-place. It is a famous landmark. When children were getting restless on the train on their way to Skeggie, they were urged to look out for Boston Stump - and here it is, a monument to a moment, as D.G. Rosetti put it.

Much as I like Hope's image, I prefer this one. It is Rice at her best - colourful, intelligent, observant. Beyond that, this particular proof is a record of the importance of friendship in her life. We can probably safely assume Hope had visited Boston alongside Rice but by the time it was inscribed in 1931, the Gills were both in Cape Town where Edwin Gill had been appointed director of the South Africa Museum in 1924 and the following year Rice's daughter Rosemary and son-in-law, Charles Hawthorne, moved to Cape Town too. (Their son was the British character actor, Nigel Hawthorne, who was three at the time of the move). She had begun exhibiting with the Colour Woodcut Society after the war and with the Graver Printers from 1929 onwards. Nevertheless Festival, above, (as well as some of her other prints) suggests the kind of colour woodcuts made before the war. Like Allen Seaby and Frank Morley Fletcher, her sister Amy, her husband,  and herself were all involved in education where art played an important role.

In 1893, Amy and her husband, J.H. Badley, were two of the four joint-founders of the co-educational and non-denominational school, Bedales. There was a strong emphasis on the arts - the singer Lily Allen, the artists Ivon Hitchens and Stephen Bone, and Sir John Rothenstein, director of the Tate, were all ex-pupils. Unfortunately, the biographies I have read are contradictory. Rice herself married Charles Rice who I believe was headmaster of King Alfred School in north London. This was founded in 1898 and was again run along secular and co-ed. lines. Likewise, there was a strong bias to the arts. (The influential British blues musician, Alexis Korner, and Paul Kossoff, sublime guitarist with the band Free, were former pupils.) Like Gill and Hope, Rice trained at the Slade School of Art and according to one account she and her husband eventually left London and became teachers at Bedales. You will not be surprised when I tell you that Rice was also a feminist and when she organised an exhibtion of the work of members of the Colour Woodcut Society at Bedales in 1928,  many of the artists, including Ethel Kirkpatrick, Frances Blair, E.C.A. Brown and Mary MacDowall, went on to feature in Modern Printmakers, although Dorothy Langlay, is yet to have her turn.

The other story says that Charles Rice trained to be a doctor during the war and bought a practice in Coventry. Garrett Rice was already in Petersfield (where Hope also lived) by 1928 and in 1931, Charles Rice retired, sold the practice and the couple separated. Their daughter moved to Cape Town the following year and by 1934 Rice was exhibiting South African subjects with the Graver Printers. She lived in S.A. for the rest of he life. Aside from making prints, she became a botanical illustrator and books containing her work like Wild flowers of the Cape of Good Hope are still available. I wish this was the case with her colour woodcuts.  I have a record of only thirteen and I have decided to post what I think are the strongest. The image I have of Misty morning (1933) is too pale to put up and others like Old sheep bridge, Norfolk, The snow storm (both 1929) and The bonfire (1928) remain untraced but must be somewhere. Fortunately, there is enough variety here for readers to gain an idea of what Rice could do. I would not say 'No' to any of them. If the style of The bather is self-conscious, the bathing cap and robe are nicely-chosen. It is also a rare female nude by a colour woodcut artist. Who the subject was we all naturally would like to to know. I have given a list of possible names and I leave you to make up your mind.

Saturday 3 July 2021

Land of Hope & Glory: the colour woodcuts of E.A. Hope


The only reason the colour woodcuts of E.A. Hope have not been featured on Modern Printmakers before is because so few can be seen anywhere - until now, that is. I have a record of eleven colour woodcuts and six of them are here, enough to give readers a good idea of what she could do.

She was born in the Sydney suburb of Ryde in 1870 but the family's true home was Hopetoun House, an extensive Palladian mansion at South Queensferry on the Firth of Forth. Her father was  the Hon. Louis Hope, son of the Earl of Hopetoun who was serving as Governor of Australia. Hope moved to London where her mother lived in Chelsea. Hope herself lived in Fulham is an area that remains full of artists' studios. (Robert Gibbings was in the next street and John Hall Thorpe not far away either). She studied at the Slade but this doesn't make her  Stanley Spencer or Gwen John. She may only have been there for a term or two. She could have afforded more but that isn't the point. At the Slade she must have got to know Elsie Garrett Rice and Lucy Gill who went on to make colour woodcuts after the first war. Hope and Garrett Rice both made colour woodcuts at Boston in Lincolnshire (below) and one reader is not only lucky enough to own both  prints, Boston church by the river (1929) by Garrett Rice is inscribed to Gill and her brother, Edwin. (To be included in a second post).

This group of friends and her contact with Australia help to make Hope worth looking at. Like so many. she switched from etching to colour woodcut and, as with so many, the reason can be found in the work that Frank Brangwyn and Yoshijiro Urushibara did together. (Hope had Brangwyn design a bookplate for her as Edith Hope.) In 1915, Walter Sparrow-Shaw brought out A book of bridges illustrated with what appeared to be woodcuts by Brangwyn. Urushibara took the least exclamatory of these and with an inwardness and skill that was beyond his collaborator, transformed the small image into the magnificent Ruins of a Roman bridge of 1919. Along with Brangwyn's series of grandiloquent windmills, this bridge set a trend like no other. It meant that no colour woodcut artist seeing a nice old bridge could resist having a go and Hope was more successful than most. Trotton Bridge (1925) easily outperforms Phillip Needell's Pont d'Avignon (1925) and Eric Hesketh Hubbard's canal bridge.

I am  pretty certain this print gave S.G. Boxsius the idea for his early colour woodcut, Houghton Bridge, Sussex. I say this partly because around this time the Austrailian artist, Ethel Spowers, came over from Paris and made two colour woodcuts of bridges, including her 1926 print The Green Bridge showing the Kissing Bridge at Walberswick, quite obviously the basis for Boxsius' masterly At Walberswick from five years later. The people who try to write about the colour linocuts that Spowers made after studying with Claude Flight three years later, have missed all this and consequently the relationships between the artists making colour woodcut and colour linocut (and some times it was the dame people) have not been properly researched. (You read that here first.) Only look at the differences between The red tower (top) and the two prints below. First the history. The town is Albenga on the Italian Riviera (the print is sometimes simply called Albenga). Isabel de  B Lockyer often worked on the same coast and towers by the sea are often found in her work. By the time Hope made The red tower, the supporting outlines of the keyblock in the other two prints has been lost in the blue atmosphere. Its is not the conventional view of the town either. Hope instead looks inland from the sea to the light of dawn on the range of mountains beyond - and to anyone who knows the coastal towns of Italy, nothing could be more true of them. Here is a print that is linocut in all but name, a subtle blend of de B. Lockyer, Hokusai and perhaps memories of Australia that is unusual.

What holds all this work together isn't the motifs of towers and bridges so much as her sense of tone. This changes very much and is partly related to the different techniques she used. Albi (above) has a firm woodcut feel about it and emphasises the texture of the stone and rooftops. You can see immediately how far she had moved away from drawing and etching in The red tower and by how much Hope went on learning as other printmakers began making new images. She was also typical of the artists who began making colour woodcut after the wat in the way she never appeared to use brushes. Like Gill and Garrett Rice, the surface is mottled. She also makes patterns in the way a colour woodcut artist wouldn't. Th string of lights in her Italian town is prominent but the way the crowd in Boston Market or the team on Trotton Bridge introduce a similar rogue line is deftly done.

Significantly, Durham (above) was exhibited at a joint show of woodcuts and linocuts only thirteen miles away at Sunderland. This was December, 1931 when the first and second exhibitions of British linocut were blazing a trail through provincial municipal galleries. Her print York was also there, though this remains untraced (though I depend on readers to find one and let me know). I considered including work by all the others I mention here to put Hope in some kind of context, but as this is the only article to have appeared about Hope since Clive Christie wrote about her well over ten years ago on Art and the aesthete, I decided to avoid confusion.

The final  image is Market, Espalion.  The rickety style of drawing suggests she knew the work of French graphic artists like J.-E. Laboureur.  Hope had left Fulham for Kensington by the end of the war then eventually moved to a house called Byways at Steep near Petersfield in Hampshire and only a mile from Bedales where Garrett Rice had been a teacher. Work by Rice is even harder to come by but going by Boston Stump, she could pull it off. But that is for another post, another day.