Friday, October 12, 2012

Robin Tanner

The notion of place is important to many artists. Significant places become a stimulus for their creativity and a means of focusing their attention on parts of the environment they form special bonds with. In the work of Robin Tanner who was born in Bristol in 1904, the area of North West Wiltshire became a place of personal significance and reflection. From as early as 1927 many of his etchings are based on an idealistic unspoiled view of the Wiltshire landscape. Since their marriage in 1931 Robin and his wife Heather lived at Old Chapel Field in the village of Kington Langley, Wiltshire.  
The Road Maker, etching 1928 (first edition)
 In 1924 while Robin Tanner taught at Blackheath Road Boys School in Greenwich by day, he became an evening student at Goldsmiths College London under the instruction of Stanley Anderson.  While at Goldsmiths he became friends with many of the day students including Paul Drury took Tanner under his wing.  He invited him home to Lancaster Lodge to meet his father, the artist, Alfred Drury and was instrumental in introducing him to a number of other artists and print dealers such as David Strang and John Nicholson. In 1928 Tanner became a full time student at Goldsmiths. In that same year he also bought the Old Chapel Field property at Wiltshire.
The Hedger, etching 1928 (first edition)

The first two etchings included, “The Road Maker” and “The Hedger”1928 were among Tanners earliest and were intended to be part of a series on the theme of country labours. The “Woodman” was the only other etching in the series to be completed.  Both etchings show the influence of the Goldsmiths students as well as of Palmer and Griggs but in particular of Griggs.  Tanner met Griggs on varnishing day at the Royal academy in 1929.
In many of Tanners later etchings like” Gray’s Elegy” 1980, illustrated (from the memorial portfolio),  a combination of natural and rustic man made forms  frame the view into a distant often moonlit  field  of hedgerows, villages and forests. 
Gray's Elergy, 1980 (from the memorial portfolio)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

John Wills

I occasionally purchase unknown etchings because something about them is very appealing. It draws me in. Initially I am often not sure why I respond to such works, but my reaction is to purchase them initially and find more about them at a later time when I come across more information. Our personal response to images may be triggered by something about an image which touches us personally or our knowledge of other works which are similar in style or content that link the work in question to others that have come before.
Piper, 1936
Such is the case in point with the two John Wills etchings on this post. When I found these etchings I was immediately drawn into the Palmer like world he had created within these small works.  In “the Piper” etching the musician plays his tune to mysterious figure inside one of the small rustic cottages in the valley.   The other etching “The High Hedge” or “Twilight of the World”?  (1936) also contains elements of rustic villages and exotic foliage and an illuminating lantern in the foreground. Both etching have a miniature jewel  like quality that are reminiscent of the primitive quality of some of the work produced by the Ancients during their time in Shoreham.
The High hedge, 1936
I know very little about the artist  but I  know that John Wills studied at the Royal College of Art sometime in the 30’s under the instruction of Robert Austin and Malcolm Osborne.  After leaving college he lived and worked in Gloucestershire.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Revelation to Revolution

In an earlier post I discussed the importance of the artist Paul Drury and made mention of some of his early prints made while he was a student of Goldsmiths College in during the early 20s. The information following is an overview of an important book written by Jolyon Drury on the etching revival during this period and gives the reader a rare insight into the work of Drury and his colleagues.

Revelation to Revolution: The Legacy of Samuel Palmer
The Revival and Evolution of Pastoral Printmaking by Paul Drury and the Goldsmith's School in the 20th Century. By Jolyon Drury
This book describes the revival of pastoral printmaking by the group of etchers who were students at Goldsmiths College in the 1920s including Paul Drury, Graham Sutherland, William Larkins, Edward Bouverie-Hoyton and Alexander Walker. It traces their influences, the evolution of their technique and this group’s later development through the eyes of Paul Drury. It is also a tale of the close and complicated relationship between Drury and his father, the sculptor Alfred Drury RA, and of their artist friends and colleagues representative of their age spanning a little over a century.
The Goldsmiths group’s interest in Samuel Palmer coincided with the first important exhibition of his work at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1926, when these young artists were picked out for working in a similar but more contemporary style merging Palmer’s ideas with the approach of F.L. Griggs from fully two years before. This testimonial greatly assisted the group to early success, with their impressions much sought after in the American market. This account follows Paul Drury and the Goldsmiths group’s careers through their early success, through the set-back of the Depression, through their revival in the 1930s, through the Second World War and through the revolutionary 1960s. English printmaking flourished as result of this turbulent period with Drury guiding the R. E. through major reforms to reunite the generations and styles of printmaking into the cohesive body that it is today.

After Work, etching, Paul Drury 1926
To find out more or to place an order for the book please email: (in Australia) (in the UK)  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Welby Sherman

 Welby Sherman, The Baccante 1827
It is thought that this wood engraving The Baccante was cut from an Edward Calvert design by the artist, Welby Sherman. It is one of two engravings made after the subject. This version was released in 1904 in the Carfax Portfolio in an edition of 30 impressions .The other engraving of which there is only one impression (British Museum) was probably cut by Calvert when he was learning wood engraving, possibly under the supervision of  Sherman.
In the listed information on item 14 in Campbell Fine Art Catalogue 11 (2004) the author states that;
“It appears far more likely that Welby Sherman’s engraving was the first engraved version (probably based on a drawing or painting by Calvert),  possibly even produced as Sherman instructed the inexperienced Calvert in Wood engraving techniques… The highly evocative design with its strongly pagan associations is filled with the ecstatic lyricism which characterises Calvert’s finest works. The design of the musician is thought to be derived from Greco-Roman figures and may have originated from a gemstone; however the idyllic pastoral setting appears completely of Calvert’s own invention and is in tune with his passionate images of the ‘Ancients’ who, along with William Blake, had been inspired by the discovery of an untainted countryside around the village of Shoreham during the mid-1820’s”
Campbell (Autumn 2004), p25
There is very little information written about Sherman or the part he played with the Ancients. It is thought that Palmer’s wood engraving, Harvest under a Crescent Moon was probably engraved by Sherman in 1826. It is also known that Sherman stayed at Shoreham for extended periods and was often short of money. He even swindled Palmer’s Brother out of his family inheritance of £500  in a billiard game, and fled abroad.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Edward Bouverie-Hoyton

My interest in Bouverie-Hoyton’s etchings grew from my study of Samuel Palmer and the young artists studying at Goldsmiths College who became interested in his work. Edward Bouverie- Hoyton was in the same etching class as Paul Drury and Graham Sutherland. They remained  friends throughout their lives. His early Goldsmith’s work came under the spell of Palmer but he was also influenced by the etchings of artists such as John Crome and John Sell Cotman of the Norwich School who were masters of the English watercolour medium.

Edward Bouverie-Hoyton, Trevignano 1927

Unlike the early etchings of Sutherland and Drury, Bouverie Hoyton’s etched landscapes often leave large areas of sky as open areas of space. This treatment of the sky gives many of the landscapes a cut out or stage like quality and creates a sense of spatial ambiguity in the etchings.
Edward Bouverie-Hoyton, Virgil's Farm 1927
Edward Bouverie Hoyton, Morganhayes 1927

In the etching Morganhayes (1927), the carefully placed decorative tree breaks up the open sky areas of the etching and in doing so flattens the image. Bouverie-Hoyton is not so interested in producing etched lanscapes where the size and thickness of marks produce a traditional sense of distant space.
Edward Bouverie Hoyton, Plover's Barrow
 In Plovers Barrow the foreground areas are drawn in minute detail and the low view-point allows the middle ground forms to end where the blank expanse of sky begins.
Edward Bouverie-Hoyton, Sleechwood 1935

Edward Bouverie Hoyton was awarded the Prix de Rome in 1926. He went on to become a lecturer at Leeds College (1934), eventually becoming the Principal of the Penzance School of Art (1941-65). Unfortunately there is little information written on the work of Bouverie-Hoyton. I hope in the future that will be readdressed. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Paul Drury

Paul Drury (1903-1987) was one of the major printmakers to graduate from Goldsmiths College in the 1920s. He was part a group of students which included Graham Sutherland, Edward Bouverie-Hoyton, Alexander Walker and William Larkins whose work for a time fell under the spell of the Romantic artist, Samuel Palmer. In Autumn 1824 Larkins came upon a small copy of Palmer’s 1850 etching, The Herdsman’s Cottage and purchased it. The group became later known as The Goldsmiths School or The New Pastoralists. Palmer was not the only influence on the group.  Initially Durer, Whistler, Meryon, Millet, Haden and Rembrandt were cited as influences. The group were also aware of the work of F.L.M Griggs from his images for Highways and By-ways, rural English travel guides as well as his etchings which revealed the grand visions of historic English sites. Drury and Sutherland even visited Grigg’s studio to learn about his printing techniques.
Head of an old man , etching 1924
 At that time at the college to almost completely cover the plate with etched lines, as in the Palmers etching, was almost unheard of. In the Herdsman’s Cottage, even the lines in the sky are filled with linear marks that run horizontally across the top right side of the plate. As early as 1924 both Paul Drury and Graham Sutherland, like Palmer, produced etchings which in most cases covered the plates with a series of intricate lines which were etched in a number of successive stages. This enabled rich black areas to be built up through the  overlay of etched lines. 
September, etching 1928
 In his important book, Revelation to Revolution; The Legacy of Samuel Palmer, Jolyon Drury (2006) p.39, notes that after they had been introduced to the Palmer etching  they… “Took trips down to Shoreham to sketch Palmeresque motifs. They began to understand the essential quality of light and luxuriant foliage of Kent summer lanes and hedges.”
Evening, wood engraving 1924
My initial introduction to Drury was through the British print expert Elizabeth Harvey-Lee’s exhibition of British prints at The Sydney Antiquarian Print Fair in 1989 where she showed his etching, Evening (1924). My first purchase was Head of an old man in a skull cap (1924) which shows a strong influence of Rembrandts etchings. More recently, two later  but lifetime printings of early prints,  September (1928) and Evening (1924) have come into my possession. September is a particularly beautiful Drury etching which for me as an Australian, has a very English quality. It is a  nostalgic image of  rural life set in the crisp autumn light of the English countryside.

First Italian head 1928
Recently  I purchased a second state of Drury's etching of First Italian Head (1928) depicted above. This delicately etched work features the profile of a man with an upward gaze and a peacful demeanour. In the latter states and the editioned state of this etching the original deliniation of the collar is completely absent and the plate has been reduced in size.

Drury, Jolyon (2006)  Revelation to Revolution: The Lecagy of Samuel Palmer, Author publication, Ashford, Kent

Shoreham legacy

Through my initial introduction to the etchings of Samuel Palmer (1805-1881), I gradually came to appreciate the work of other members of the Ancients as well as the visionary influence that William Blake had on the group. The circle was made up of George Richmond, Edward Calvert, Welby Sherman, Francis Oliver Finch, Henry Walter, Frederick Tatham, Arthur Tatham and John Giles. The artist John Linnell Samuel Palmer’s Father in law was also a familiar figure. 

Edward Calvert, The Return Home, wood engraving 1830

As early as 1824 Palmer visited Shoreham. His family eventually moved there with in 1826. Other members of the group visited for short or extended periods. George Richmond and Edward Calvert visited Palmer in Shoreham on numerous occasions and produced both paintings and engravings of exceptional quality.
On one occassion William Blake visited the young artists.  Binyon states in The followers of Samuel Palmer that,
       Later in life palmer made a small group of etchings which are reminiscent of the work he began in Shoreham in his youth. Blake journeyed down with the Calverts into Kent in the roomy carrier's van of antique shape, drawn by eight or ten horses with hoops and bells, which started at Charing Cross and deposited them at Shoreham on its way to Tunbridge Wells. It was Blakes last visit to the country, in the last years of his life, probably in the autumn of 1826; and we can imagine him happy in this patriachal mode of travel through the pleasant fields of Kent and happily seated in the chimney-corner on arrival, opposite the elder Palmer, the old book seller, who shared his son's retreat with his youthful friends around him.
                                                                                                                                   Binyon (1925) p.14

Eventually Palmer left Shoreham returning to london in 1835.

Binyon, Laurence (1925) The Followers of William Blake, London

Samuel Palmer, Early Ploughman, etching 1861

Monday, January 2, 2012

Introduction to collecting

As an artist and printmaker my introduction to the world of collecting old prints was integrally linked to the study of the work of particular artists who I admired. I came to realise that as well as having the opportunity to observe artists’ work in books or first hand in museums, I could purchase original prints to study and enjoy at home.

Samuel Palmer, The herdsman's Cottage, etching ( 1850)
The first work I purchased in 1988 was the small Samuel Palmer etching, The Herdsman’s Cottage.  I had heard of Palmer through another colleague (Robert Preston) who had studied at Camberwell School of Arts and Craft in London and had seen his work in an exhibition in the 60s. Although small, the Herdsman’s Cottage introduced me to the possibilities of using solely line in my etchings. It showed me a way to build up a rich tonal range through the overlaying of different layers of line hatching. It also demonstrated how much detail could be contained in such a modest sized etching.

The print also exuded a particular emotive quality which I began to emulate in several of the etchings I made during this time.  Some people describe Palmer’s etchings as being part of a romantic pastoral genre. To me they are images which speak of an idyllic and ancient past. They look back at the past with nostalgia and longing and a sense of wonder. 

Samuel Palmer, Morning of Life, etching (1860-61)
I began to find more works made by Palmer and the group of artists known as "The Ancients" with whom he worked during his formative years at the small village of Shoreham (1826-35). Over the years this investigation has broadened. I continue to be challenged by the work of printmakers whose works are both instructive and stimulating.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

About Ancient Prints

This website foscuses on a variety of ancient prints from the viewpoint of a collector and also the philosophy and processes used by the artists who made them. A key aim is to introduce the work of printmakers who may not be well known.

Edmund Blampied, Night Time, Dieppe. drypoint 1926-27.