Thursday 29 February 2024

The enigmatic E.A. Hope

Modern Printmakers is not short on women artists of the early C20th who have turned out to be hard to discover much about even though Hope herself was well-connected. Worse still, it is almost impossible to find her prints for sale though I did come across one in Australia where she was born. I should say here I was mistaken when I said in the first post I devoted to her that her father had been the governor of Australia. He was governor of the state of Victoria and returned home to become the Queen's chamberlain before returning to Australia in 1900.


Hope first studied at the Slade School of Art before moving to the London School of Art about 1908 and where the potter Bernard Leach and the Australian artist, Jessie Traill were fellow students. The School has been set up by Frank Brangwyn in Stratford Road in 1904. Brangwyn himself had never had any formal training and as sceptical about British art school as British art schools and art critics were about him. Like Claude flight at the Grosvenor School in the 1920s, Brangwyn had an inordinate influence on his students who tended all to end up looking like him rather than themselves. At some stage Hope went so far as to commission a bookplate from Brangwyn who produced this studied pose of a boy-girl figure filling a basket with apples. I could go on but I will resist the temptation to mock Brangwyn and can only add that Hope continued in much the same vein with her images of wicked fauns drinking wine from 1911.

The lush literary style had little in common with the faux naif woodcuts she eventually made but her work was shown at exhibitions organised by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art early in the century and a couple of works went into the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. But they all tend to seem remote from the kind of work that interest readers of Modern Printmakers. Yoshijiro Urushibara was also a student at the London School of Art about then and went on to make the Bruges portfolio with Brangwyn during the war but the small scale colour woodcuts have little in common with either artist apart from the nocturnal subjects they chose for Bruges.

I have now discovered the night scene (above) show the town and monastery of Subiaco south of Rome while a reader tells me the print at the top hangs in Gargunnock House near Stirling. This was not all that far from her ancestral home at Hopetoun House near Edinburgh and presumably the two families knew one another. (My reader tells me all the pictures on the wall at Gargunnock are associated with the house). The impression I get from Alan Guest's records and copies of catalogues I have is that in common with many other artists who began to make colour woodcuts, it all happened after the war. She exhibited Albi with the Graver Printers in 1928, followed by York and Sturminster Newton 1929 and went on exhibiting with them until 1938. 

Some of the prints like Albi, Boston market (1934) and Trotton Bridge (1936) can be seen first post I put up, 'Land of Hope and Glory: the colour woodcuts of E.A. Hope. The problem is only the photo taken by my reader and the one of Subiaco do Hope much justice and all I have been able to do here is offer some more of the story.

Monday 26 February 2024

'Spring' by S.G. Boxsius


A reader has just sent me photographs he has taken of his two proofs of S.G. Boxsius calendar image Spring to show just how much they can differ. As I had expressed doubts about the condition of some of the prints that turn up, I thought I would post the reader's photos here so that anyone who is thinking about buying one has some idea what the print should look like. Draw your own conclusions but I wonder if some of the printing was unstable and the images has faded.


Sunday 25 February 2024

Gertrude Brodie's 'Portrait of a tree in Giggleswick'


I wanted readers to know that another poster-size work by Gertrude Brodie has turned up. Unless the previous two, this one has a direct link with the artist herself because the reader's grandmother became friends with Brodie after she taught her at Settle High School. The drawing was then given to the former pupil following her marriage at the church in the picture and has remained in the family ever since. As ever, I am very grateful to the reader for sending the image to me. As other readers will know, Brodie has staying power and is the kind of artist you do not push in a cupboard but hang on your wall.  Portrait of a tree at Giggleswick (above) would certainly join my own The hill over Settle which is hanging on the wall only a few feet behind me as I write. I should also say it wasn't always there. My mother loved it so much, it hung in her home for many years.

Brodie was onto something with her poster-size drawings. Wherever she went, she used the same format which allowed her to make the best of the narrow Yorkshire streets, stately trees and church towers. So for as I can make out she employed gouache and conte crayon for all the four pieces by her we know of and it is the consistent use of the same size of picture and the same medium that suggests someone who was serious about her work.

To go over the little we know about her biography, she was born at Redbridge, Essex, in 1882 and taught at Settle High School and Giggleswick School. Both schools are in small towns in the old North Riding of Yorkshire. She then returned to Essex where I assume she went on working in the same way and made View from my Essex window (above). I am including this to allow readers to make comparisons. So far as I am concerned, what impresses me is the combination of a decorative style and a successful overall tone. As you see, this differed from picture to picture. Also compare the very different moods. The calm sense of withdrawl in the Essex picture is very different from the vigorous sense of movement at Giggleswick, with the wild growth of its beech trees, sloping uneven streets and uncertain sky. Here is an artist who could do both public and private and who had a strong enough sense of form and firm enough handling of technique to get across how very different the two counties she worked and lived in were.

Brodie died in 1967 and deserves to be better known. But then I could say that about so many. 

Saturday 24 February 2024

Colour prints on ebay this week.


I may as well begin with a stand-out linocut by Norbertine Bresslern Roth. Wolves is such an exquisite print when you see it in front of you, it would be hard to resist if you had £1,200 to spend on a work of art. Right now I don't but that doesn't matter because I was fortunate enough to pick it up at my local auction. I still remember the sharp intake of breath as I told Alan Guest over the phone what it was like and when he saw it later that morning, he simply said, 'You're right.' I say all thus because, as with all good prints, you need to see Wolves yourself to appreciate what a good work of art it is. It is not merely an imaginative design; it has the surface magic that all good prints ought to have.


This could not be said for William Neave Parker's colour linocut Lynx (1927). Don't get me wrong. I like everything Neave Parker ever did but he had no formal training and was not a maker of fine prints. Lynx is a well designed and neatly printed work but it comes from a book he published when linocut was just getting going in Britain and once you see Neave Parker's linocuts in front of you, the do not have the glamour that a print should have, so if you have £205 to spare, you would be better spending it elsewhere. Forty and fifty, maybe; two hundred knicker, no.

As for poor Allen Seaby, frankly, they have been scraping the barrel for years. There is nothing wrong with either Twins (above) or Dormice (below) but Seaby had already been at it too long and all he was basically doing was substituting other animals for birds when birds was what he liked and what he did best. They said this in the 1930s and it is still true now. And while I am at it, Twins is the correct title not Goats or The white kid or anything else dealers dream up.

Flight for Seaby had the same soft magic as pulling a proof. In his mind, lifting a proof from the block was no different from lifting a wing and no amount of interest in natural history or animal husbandry in general can make up for the less of his major subject. The awareness of the fleeting moment is where he has most in common with great printmakers like Hokusai or Hiroshige and that, I am afraid, is all there is to it. Stripping back off a tree or crawling through azaleas doesn't really do it though neither of these prints are pricey and I have considered buying Little blighters more than once. 

You cannot go wrong with the bookplates of Alfred Peter. They are consistently good, consistently inexpensive though this one is over-priced at £23 considering the stains on the paper. It's a pity but it wouldn't put me off. Also some are signed and this one isn't and if you have nice signed examples, this one, for all its interest, would not make sense. Interesting though to see how much modern work was being done by 1912.

Last but far from least in S.G. Boxsius' calendar image Spring. I was tempted to add 'notorious' to the description, partly because it seems nigh on impossible to find a good image of this intriguing piece of work. None of this series (as you will know) were ever signed and I assume all of them were printed by students under Boxsius' supervision. Obviously what Boxsius wanted to depict was the peculiar light of an English spring and unless the photos are any good, they will not do the print much justice. But none of the available photos are any good and if you are tempted to pay out £295, remember this: the image here is the best one I have on file and not the one for sale. The one on ebay has nothing of the colour of this one, which is certainly well over-priced. But it has been a round for a long time and no-one will buy it now, I should think.

Thursday 22 February 2024

'Wind' by S.G. Boxsius


It has been a good year for S.G. Boxius. To my surprise, not one but two unrecorded linocuts have turned up (The black bull and Unloading gravel) and we have been able to ascertain the correct title for The broken plough. The latter print has been familiar for many years as a small, poor image but now there is a much better one which I will include in another post. But nothing was more exciting than this excellent image of 'Wind'.

It is  one of his calendar images from the series that includes Autumn, Winter, Early morning and Evening afterglow. The latter has a tittle straight from William Giles and attests to the mutual admiration between the two artists. But Wind is more a Giles image than the others. Its is the kind of long view of a distant monument or hill-top farmhouse surrounded by cypress trees that he liked. But what it also reminds me of is Paul Nash during the 1930s. Both Nash and Giles had imaginations that were attracted by the occult although Nash eventually towards surrealism. 

I was tipped off by a reader only a few days ago who had come across four proofs of 'Wind' for sale at a Swedish auction in October, 2023. He tells me that despite a very low reserve the lot did not sell and the linocuts have not reappeared. What took me by surprise was not only the number of proofs in good condition, but the presence of working proofs by Ethel Kirkpatrick, including a fine image of Edinburgh Castle, which was discussed many years ago when it came up on Art and the Aesthete I seem to remember. 

I would assume a Swedish collector was in touch with one of them and my conclusion is it may all be to do with William Giles who was a friend of both Boxsius and the Swedish-American artist, Bror Nordfeldt, and had visited Sweden in about 1903. But that is only a hunch. Suffice to say, here is another missing link in the tale of S.G. Boxsius and not before time.