Saturday 21 January 2023

Four colour woodcuts by Patience Galloway


This week's sale of colour prints at Exeter has reminded me that Patience Galloway is overdue a re-appraisal. I suspect, she is Isabel Patience Galloway (1900 - 1979) from Blackheath, Kent but with family connections in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. I was unaware she had two prints in the sale at all until a reader tipped me off. But, as I said about the Boxsius linocuts, I saw the auction at Bearne's as a sign of the way the market is going and, as I suspected, prices are falling. Galloway is not a woodcut artist of the best sort, but if you don't pay too much, they are worth having. But £90 for two of them is a bargain.

The second print in the sale (above) usually has some fanciful title attached by a dealer or auction-house that declares the man to be a faggot-gatherer. If it sounds like tosh, that is because it is. No doubt this little piece of speculation has been derived from French genre painting. In my opinion the correct title is 'A Yorkshire woodman'. It was exhibited with the Graver Printers in London in 1938 and there is no record of a faggot-gatherer anywhere. With any re-appraisal, the first job is to get the title, date and medium right, so this is a start. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Galloway dispensed with a key-block and instead made use of deep shadow to model her subjects. This can make them look like lino and flat and rather generic. That said, she is strong on atmosphere and as this was the first time a good image of 'The old waggon' has appeared online, it provides an opportunity to have a second look. I think she comes out of it well. Not only are the haystacks, elms and the hayfield done well, the colours are lively and subtle, the waggon memorable. Mechanisation is implicit in the striped hay-meadow and the rugged grandeur iof the vehicle is self-evident despite having become somewhere for children to play.

The consensus of opinion is that some of the subjects are Welsh. Certainly, 'Moel Siabod' (above) is part of the Snowdonia range in north Wales. There are also watercolours, which auctioneers have described as showing lochs or tarns, but are more likely to be Welsh mountain lakes simply by association with Moel Siabod and another Welsh title.

One thing I like about Galloway is her consistency, both in the way she achieves a distinctive, subdued tone and the way she chooses her subjects. There is an unusual interest in mechanics. Both means of transport obviously work, one ancient, one brand-new. But there is a less obvious connection between the woodman and the waggon. As late as the 1930s, woodmen on large farms were also carpenters and were responsible for making and mending farm vehicles. Galloway's woodman may look like a toiling labourer but some of them were skilled. Note also the way she distinguishes between elm and beech and the way she describes the marks left by the reaping machine in 'The old waggon'.

It says in my notes that the yacht in 'On the Solent' (1937) is a Solent Sunbeam, a day racing-yacht designed by Alfred Westmacott and first built in 1923. I have no idea where this came from but as I know precious little about the artist, any information at all is worth having. But here we have a clue. In 1899, Westmacott had taken over a boatyard called Woodnutts (below) on the Isle of Wight not far from Bembridge. This was where our redoubtable sea-going twins, Concord and Cavendish Morton, went to live some years after they have learned to build boats and to make colour woodcuts. (See their post for further details). 

All I can add is two further titles - 'Llewedd' (1938) and 'Pines at sunset'.

Sunday 15 January 2023

Gertrude Brodie's 'View from my Essex window'


I am sure readers will remember the second of two posts about a series of conte crayon and gouache drawings by the Essex artist and teacher, Gertrude Brodie, which I called 'The lamps of Settle'. I am pleased to say yet another drawing by this sensitive artist appeared on the British auction calendar in November, this time an intimate and subtle view of the Essex countryside from the artist's bedroom window.

The picture went up for sale in Scarborough in November, but apparently did not sell. The auction certainly had no sale price up and presumably it didn't reach its reserve. This can be the only explanation because, as you see, the work was drawn to the same high standard as my own The hill over Settle and Castle Hill, Settle (below).


The device of looking from a window was employed by a number of British C20th artists, including Lucien Pissarro, Arthur Rigden Read, Claughton Pellew and John Nash. I hardly need to say that Brodie is classic Modern Printmakers, a skilled, rather literary artist whose talent was ignored when British art became pseudo-modern. Fortunately, provincial auction houses take note of Modern Printmakers and put Brodie into some kind of a context when they offer her work for sale. Admittedly, that doesn't happen very often. Castle Hill, Settle went for £460. Please take note. Because there will be more.

Friday 13 January 2023

The colour woodcut class at Edinburgh College of Art


It has been believed for many years now that Frank Morley Fletcher taught a colour woodcut class during his time as principal of Edinburgh College of Art, a period that ran from 1907 to 1923. I want to try and lay this for to rest once and for all. He did not. And while I am at it neither did Mabel Royds. The reasons are different, but the outcome is the same.

In order to gain a teaching post at any state school in Britain, you needed a teacher's diploma. Royds had one from Chester, her husband, E.S. Lumsden, William Giles and Allen Seaby all had one from University College, Reading, S.G. Boxsius had one from Islington, Chica McNabb and Ian Fleming had theirs from Glasgow and Helen Stevenson from Edinburgh. The whole point of the state art school was to train teachers. It has been a famous and long-lived complaint that students went to art school to become artists and were subsequently told that was not why they were there. Fletcher never set foot as a student in any state art school. The myth may have come about because he taught a class at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. But those schools were not run but the state. Rather they were the responsibility of new statutory authorities set up by the government and had the own independent boards of education. This meant that these vocational schools could employ working practitioners like May Morris and Edward Johnston. More likely, though, misconceptions about Fletcher are merely based on assumption.

If there appears to be a discrepancy, it centres round this fact. Many headmasters of art school came straight from what was effectively post-graduate study at the Royal College of Art in London. To Walter Crane, its first principal, the R.C.A. was 'a teacher mill'. (Nor did the chief agitator last long in the post.) It was taken for granted that a graduate would get a job as headmaster once they came out. John Platt (above, painted by Fletcher at Robin Fedden's house in France in 1922) went to Leek and Thomas Todd Blaylock went to Bournemouth. So, why was Fletcher eligible for the post at Edinburgh? Like Crane, he had no qualifications. I can only assume the post of principal involved no classroom teaching. But there were ways round the system apparently. Walter Phillips only taught in private school in Britain but did gain employment at the Technical Institute in Winnipeg.

So, why didn't Royds teach colour woodcut at Edinburgh? ('Edinburgh Castle' above is her only print showing the city). Because she was employed on the fine art course and colour woodcut was taught on the applied arts course where Platt was head of department for a few years. The only Scottish colour woodcut artist I know of who trained under Platt, was Stevenson. I have never come across anyone else, though I assume others may have studied the technique.

Going back to the Royal College, the most famous modern artist to have come out of the British system is David Hockney. He began at Bradford, then went on to the R.C.A. and Hockney, for all his Celtic exuberance, retains an academic feel to this day. Another popular and accessible artist is Eric Ravilious who trained at Eastbourne and only got into the R.C.A. by chance when a successful candidate dropped out. Unbelievably, there were no entrance exams as there were for the Beaux Arts in France. Instead, each school was allowed two places per year and if you didn't get in, that was it. Even then, Ravilious was assigned to the applied arts department not fine art.

In its defence, one of the great strengths of the British system was its draughtsmanship based on drawing from the model, although this was by and large imported from France by artists who has studied at the academies in Paris. This takes us back to Fletcher who not only studied in Paris, but went on to take a life class at the Central School.

Fletcher's legacy depends on this handbook published in 1916 (above) and which ran to three editions. Possibly in defence of Fletcher, Arthur Rigden Read said that everything he knew came from that man. This is unlikely to be entirely true, because he must have learned something from Urushibara, too. But it does suggest he learned to make colour woodcuts using Fletcher's book. How many others did? I know for certain that Steven Hutchins did in the 1980s. So, as you see, there was a class in Edinburgh after all and it went by the name of 'Woodblock printing'.

Monday 9 January 2023

Font size


Not surprisingly, there has been comment about the change in font size on the blog and I want to reassure readers that the change of size within some of the individual posts is not an eccentricity, but a failure on my own part to control the new system adequately.

I remain open to suggestions from readers, but I may not be able to reproduce the flawless script of this alabaster plaque from the 1570s at the Priory Church of St Michael at Breedon-on-the-Hill, Leicestershire. Nor will I be entertaining you in Tudor Latin.

For the historians and place-name enthusiasts amongst you, Breedon partly derives from the British word 'briga'. The most recent scholarship by Alan James, who now lives at Kirkcudbright, is definitive. He says it means 'a fortified place'. The church is built within a defensive compound of something like the second or first century BC. 


Saturday 7 January 2023

S.G. Boxsius for sale by auction


Coming up on 18th January at Bearnes in Exeter are two fairly early colour linocuts by S.G. Boxsius. The main attraction will be his early technicolour masterpiece, Rain, St. Michael's Mount, depicting the famous island at the end of its causeway underneath some of the most improbable cloud and light effects in colour print history. The colours are intensely weird, the detail sublime. Be warned, though. The premium is 36%, including tax.

Boxsius began exhibiting work at the Royal Academy in 1913, soon after he graduated from the Royal College of Art, but no prints appeared until Rain, St. Michael's Mount was exhibited at the Royal Society of Arts in 1928. It was then sent to the Graver Printers in 1930. Why this happened, I do not know. William Giles was probably his teacher during his first period of study at the R.C.A. between 1898 and 1899. Giles thought well enough of Boxsius to ask for an article about linocut for 'The colour print journal'. The feeling was mutual. Aside from the coastline of Cornwall, the main inspiration for Rain, St. Michael' Mount was Giles' ravishing Rainbow, Isle of Jura (above) made after a visit he and his wife made to Jura in 1922. Typically, Boxsius turned the whole thing on its head and took Giles' very large print and reduced its size considerably. (He went on to do the same thing with Georges Seurat's Bathers, Asnieres acquired by the Tate Gallery from the French collector and dealer, Felix Feneon in 1926.)

The second print in the sale is Ruins at Walberswick (above) which I have written about already. I tend to think it shows the influence of Elizabeth Keith's East Gate, Seoul. It also became a model for an early Eric Slater print. Anything by Boxsius is worth having. What you will have to pay is another thing. But we can all take this as an indicator of how prices are going. Judging by the Slater fetching £500, it does not necessarily mean they are rising

Friday 6 January 2023

Frances Blair: woodcuts, linocuts and a check-list


It is now ten years since I posted on the Scottish artist, Frances Merritt Blair (1881 - 1954) and in that time no new images of her colour prints have appeared online (so far as I know). This obviously means that her work is rare and may help to explain why The brown sail (above) went for a relatively low price when it came up for auction in this country in the autumn.

I decided the best way forward was to publish a check-list of all the recorded colour prints made by this very attractive and able artist and to add any further details I have picked up about her career since I last wrote about her.


It will not be much. She exhibited prints in Scotland, England, the U.S. and Australia between 1925 and 1946. Part of the time at least, she was working in Cornwall, with Helen Stevenson acting as contact from her home on Comiston Drive in Edinburgh. In February, 1926, Blair exhibited alongside Stevenson and Iain MacNab at the Society of California Printmakers and where Cornish cream shop (above), a depiction of Harris' dairy in Penzance in Cornwall, was bought by the Los Angeles Museum. In the November she became a member of the Society of Scottish Artists in their applied art section. There was also New colour woodcuts at the Grosvenor Gallery in Sydney in 1929 alongside two other stylish artists, namely Margaret Preston and Norbertine von Bresslern Roth.

Blair was working in Cornwall in the mid-twenties only and went back to live in Edinburgh where Jim Barnes has discovered various addresses for her. But that is about all the biography we have.

Cornish cream shop has been described as a linocut, but I cannot tell from the image what it is. No-one researching Blair has come up with any further references to lino. Nevertheless, it is still worth giving a basic rundown of what was happening in Scotland and England in regard to colour print. The early history of colour linocut for either country has not so far been published until now. So, here it is.

In 1921, Claude Flight made two colour linocuts, L'Arc de Triomphe and Trinity College and St. John's Chapel. The same year, there was an exhibition of child art (including linocuts) from the children's art class held at the School of Applied Arts in Vienna where the colour linocut artist, Hugo Henneberg, was a teacher. That same year, Dryad Crafts in Leicester published a pamphlet by Allen Seaby called Handprinting in colour. Probably Anna Hotchkis' Autumn in Galloway was made about the same time. The subject is Little Boreland at Gatehouse of Fleet. Hotchkis was a regular visitor to Kircudbright between 1915 and 1922 when she left Scotland to teach in China.

Following the child art exhibition, Flight radically changed style and made Trawler down the wave and Swing-boats (both 1921) using a vigorous, modern manner. In 1924, the Graver Printers in London showed colour linocuts for the first time, including de B. Lockyer's Near Vevey and Evening afterglow, Bordighera. The latter title is evidently influenced by William Giles who then asked S.G. Boxsius for an article about linocut for The Colour Print Journal in 1925 or thereabouts. This was never published, because the journal folded, but the same year Dryad brought out Seaby's Colour printing in linoleum and woodblocks.

Meanwhile, Glasgow became the first British school of art to put linocut on the syllabus when Chica McNabb included the medium in her course on relief print methods. This only ran between 1926 and 1927 when McNabb married and gave up work. That year, her brother, Iain, asked Flight to take a weekly class at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art in London. In 1927, Flight also published Lino-Cut. This was based on a series of articles he had written to promote the use of lino among artists rather than for use in schools and is the most important book written about linocut during the period.

The whole issue surrounding the use of wood and lino was beset with the kind of invective, snobbery and doctrinaire purism that the 1920s were so good at. It is in equal parts hilarious and infuriating.

Whatever the medium was Blair used, the approach is interesting. Look at the way she handles both the boats, the sail and the way she groups the houses across the bay. This way of looking at her subject was even more pronounced in her view of Harris' dairy in Penzance. The two prints are more mature than their faux naif style suggests. 

The check-list below has all the information available to me and includes contributions relating to English sources by Alan Guest from the 1980s while Jim Barnes recently supplied the same number of records for Scotland. For further information about the history of colour linocut, see the posts about Hugo Henneberg and Chica MacNabb.

Mousehole colour woodcut. Royal Scottish Academy 1925, Los Angeles 1926.

Cornish cream shop colour linocut, 1925. Los Angeles and Royal Glasgow Institute 1926. Illustrated The Studio, 1927, p 435.

The little bridge colour woodcut. Royal Scottish Academy and Graver Printers 1925.  

At the Trossachs Graver Printers, Royal Glasgow Institute and Los Angeles, 1926

The brown sail colour woodcut. Graver Printers 1927 and Royal Scottish Academy 1935.

The woods o' Dee colour woodcut. Royal Scottish Academy and Royal Glasgow Institute 1927, Graver Printers 1928.

Lairig Pass Royal Glasgow Institute 1927. 

Blue Waters of Lorne colour woodcut. Royal Glasgow Institute 1929, Graver Printers 1930, Royal Scottish Academy, 1935.

Old mill of Gairn Aberdeen Artists Society 1929.

Flamboyant trees colour woodcut. Graver Printers 1931.

Hen farm Colour Woodcut Society 1931.

Horse range gorze, New Zealand. Colour Woodcut Society 1931.

Up a hill in Devon colour woodcut. Royal Scottish Academy, Graver Printers, Colour Woodcut Society 1931, Royal Glasgow Institute 1932.

A lane in Devon colour woodcut. Royal Scottish Academy 1932.

East Lothian Aberdeen Artists Society 1932.

White sand, Morar colour woodcut  Royal Glasgow Institute 1932.

Evening, Morar  Colour woodcut. Royal Glasgow Institute 1934, Graver Printers 1935.

A Sussex mill  Graver Printers 1935.



Tuesday 3 January 2023

The colour linocuts of Berta Coucke


I suspect your first reaction to Flemish artist, Berta Coucke, and her colour linocut Les deux chateaux (above) that at last here is one of those Grosvenor School artists who is talented and likeable. As usual with many of the women who studied at the Grosvenor, there is no evidence that she did apart from the obvious Grosvenor techniques she employed and that some of her work toured with the Fourth exhibition of British linocut in 1933.

Claude Flight had left the Grosvenor three years previously, but the technique of basing images on drawings, trying out various blocs of colour, using a roller and overprinting the whole paper more or less, suggests she did train with him. The style of the prints also suggests she knew the work of Lill Tschudi.

The skinny, would-be modern figures (above) are typical of the style Flight himself was using in the late twenties. More intriguing is the manner of Les deux chateaux. This is also comparable to Flight's work of about 1932 and 1933 when he returned to more conventional landscape after he visited Tschudi in Switzerland. But as always with Grosvenor, the individuality of the artist is obscured by the prescriptive approach of the teacher. But then, they were all there for too short a time to develop and the class was held only once a week.

I know nothing more about her but I can tell you the preparatory drawing at the bottom turned up on ebay so it is worth bearing in mind that pages from her sketch-book are about. The fortune-teller (above) has the chic of French graphic art of the 1920s. But there is also a hint of the teacher-student relationship. By all accounts, Flight was an enthusiastic and engaging teacher who treated everyone like artists, but it was nevertheless impossible for them to avoid the forcefulness of his approach.

These are quite canny prints and it is a shame there are not more of them about. The final image of the dancers (above) suggests an artist who was half-way to genuine abstraction and who gift for design and colour. My guess from all this is that Couke's real interest was in fashion. Before the war, the students on the fashion course at the Wiener Werkstaette had been asked to use colour linocuts in their portfiolios and the dancers above gives you an idea why.

Thanks are due to Paramour Fine Art for Les deux chateaux and to Larkhall Fine Art for The fortune-teller. It is £600. The dancers are in the Fine Art Museum of San Francisco

Monday 2 January 2023

Eric Slater at auction

I was surprised to see Eric Slater's colour woodcut The Avenue sold for only £500 in the autumn. As readers will know, I am not a big fan of Slater, but this print is one of his better landscapes and it does not appear to be faded. Possibly Slater has had his day, but it also strikes me people may be holding back. It was the same story with the Rigden Reads that sold in Gloucestershire in October. Many were not in all that good condition, although that has not put people off in the past. The highest price was £900 for his most illustrious print and like Slater, Read was getting a thousand easily at one stage.

According to James Trollope, The Avenue dates from circa 1936, which puts it towards the end of his career making colour woodcuts. The last one appeared in 1938 and by the time he made The Avenue, the images were more subtle and sophisticated than previously. As there is no colour image of the print in 'Slater's Sussex' and nothing of a reasonable size online, I thought this was well worth putting up. Perhaps now is the time to buy.