Saturday, 13 November 2021

Hilary Chapman's 'John Edgar Platt, master of the colour woodcut' for sale.

In 2018, Hilary Chapman bought out John Edgar Platt, master of the colour woodcut as an updated version of a book about Platt's colour woodcuts she had published way back in 1999 and which had long been unavailable. The present book is now available from Pallant House in Chichester at half price and is worth £6.25 of anybody's money. At the last count, there were about 140 copies left - and sensible people are buying two.

The format is larger than the first book so the illustrations are larger and there are far more in colour. Whether the new book did Platt any more justice is another thing. Like the old one (and like the Urushibara I talked about in the previous post) this is a catalogue with an introductory essay. To be honest, I have not re-read them. Chapman is content to give some biography and some information about colour woodcut in the Japanese manner without providing much context. 

To my own mind so many of these little books are lost opportunities to provide insight about the way the artist worked and also perceptive commentary. Praising technical skill simply isn't enough. There is no comparison with work he did in other media, for instance, and you only have to compare The scrum with Platt's design for stained glass at All Saints, Leek, to see how academic he could be. The approach is all too literal and safe. The book also misses two more aspects to The scrum: it obviously represents a Scotland/England game at Murrayfield and the person to the left of the main figure is an ironic portrait of one of Platt's contemporaries. All I will say is that he is an artist. Can you supply the name?

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