Saturday, May 17, 2014

Gerald Brockhurst (1890-1978)

When I first came across the etchings of Gerald Brockhurst  I was surprised that he was British born. I had guessed he was from Germany or a Scandinavian country because of the way his etchings were so precise and focused. I initially responded to the intensity he achieved in many of his etched portraits where the central part of the face contains an extraordinary sense of focus and detail. At that time the only other artist who rivalled Brockhurst’s sense of detail was the US born John Taylor Arms.( 1887-1953) In regard to Brockhurst, Taylor Arms notes that,” a greater control of tools of his craft he cannot covet and a more acute and accurate pair of eyes in not within human capabilities.” (Fletcher,1984:13) 

Amanda No1 ( Marguérite) etching 1920
In the text to the Brockhurst catalogue Raisonne titled “Complex Simplicity”,  the author William Dolan fletcher explains how the perfection and beauty of the artist’s etchings,    
“bespeak Brockhurst’s mastery in laying a superb ground, his unmatched skill in biting the plate, and his precision in using a burin perfectly honed to his demand. Of him it must be said, there are no imitators! He is unique possessing keen eyesight, an uncanny sense of proportion, and decorative line, with total control of the medium at all times”. (Fletcher,1984:13)

The Author suggests that Brockhust was a very private and independent person who from the age of ten fashioned and directed everything about him, from his art, his tools, his skill, his discipline. “All was personal and private and for those who knew him best he could be friend and stranger” (Fletcher,1984:11)
Xenia (Marguérite)etching 1923
 Most of Brockhurst’s etched portraits are predominantly of two women, his first wife Anais Folin  and her sister Marguérite Folin. Three of the etchings from the collection illustrated in this post are of Anais or Marguérite while the last etching of the “Amberley Boy No2”

The Amberley Boy No2, etching 1928

Cambell Fine Art web catalogue suggests that,
“The Amberley Boy, No.2 has always been one of the most sought after of this gifted etcher’s works. This beautifully handled etched portrait of a coy young peasant lad repeats a subject which Gerald Leslie Brockhurst had attempted in 1920 and which exists in only 3 proof impressions. The earlier etching had been abandoned at an early stage after the artist recorded the plate as “spoiled” (it was destroyed in the printing press). Fortunately, no such mishap occurred to this second plate which proved to be one of the most successful of all of G.L.Brockhurst’s portraits of children.                                                                                        (

Young Womanhood (Anais) etching 1931
In "Young Womanhood" the  female figure as well as the landscape behind her are exquisitely beautiful. The eye notices the differences between  the stark emptiness of the sky against the rich tapestry of marks representing the figure and landscape.  This etching as well as "Adolescence" and "Black Silk Dress" are thought to be three of Brockhurst's greatest works. In Complex Simplicity, William Dolan Fletcher states that they... "Stand as epics in the history of printmaking".

Friday, May 9, 2014

Paul Drury, four more etchings

In recent months I have been excited to add four more Paul Drury etchings to the collection. The first, a recent purchase is followed by three exquisite etchings which were a generous gift from an overseas colleague and friend.

The first etching titled “On Box Hill” 1933 is annotated on the etching as a third state. After reflecting on this and consulting Robin Garton’s catalogue raisonné it seems that it may be an impression from the final (9th) state which was printed in a small edition of about twenty impressions. In the year the etching was made Drury produced two other etchings, “Woodland Path”, and “March Morning” (a plate dedicated to F.L.Griggs)

In Jolyon Drury’s, “Revelation to Revolution- The Legacy of Samuel Palmer” (2006), the author explains how “On Box Hill” and “Woodland Path” are Drury’s response to Sutherland’s “Wood Interior [etching 1928] with his trees becoming more sinuous, prototypes for work twenty years on.”  The author describes that in comparison to “Wood Interior” Drury’s prints are “sunny not dark.”
In both of Drury’s etchings of Box Hill, there is a lightness of touch which describes the complexity of the dappled shadows formed from the effect of the strong sunlight bouncing through the trees. The plants seem to bask in the sunlight. The artist uses sinuous etched lines in the shrubs and trees and in foreground section of “On Box Hill” to describe the growth and lushness of the landscape he was experiencing. 

On Box Hill 1933
The two etchings illustrated below titled “Mickleham Yews III” and “Forms in a Wood” were both made in 1950-1 and are part of a series that Drury began in the late 1940’s. The early etchings of the series were made on zinc plates while “Mickleham Yews III” and ”Forms in a Wood” were on copper. Both etchings are printed in a warm black ink which helps to bring warmth to these mysterious images. These etchings relate well to each other. Both seem to enclose the viewer and tempt them to enter the complex layers of foliage into a central patch of sunlight while also warning them of the possible danger they may experience if they act.
Mickleham Yews III, 1950
 In the “Mickleham Yews III” a large leaf sits like a jewel basking in the sunlight in the central section but to get to the leaf one needs to pass the trunk of a tree with its hostile teeth bared. Beyond the leaf the path continues around a large tree into another area of sunlight in the distance. In “Revelation to Revolution-The Legacy of Samuel Palmer” Jolyon Drury suggests that this plate, “ is a true bridge from his pre-war pastoral work, now exploring bold forms such as the inverted leaf out of proportion and startlingly illuminated by the otherwise sombre pathway.”  (Drury, 2006: 155)

Forms in a Wood 1950-51

“Forms in a Wood”, a soft ground etching which followed is spatially more ambiguous. Its overlapping forms create a mysterious world inhabited by organic forms twisting through the forest floor and canopy.  Instead of the crocodile like form barring the way in “Mickleham Yews III”  the traveller entering “Forms in the Wood" must pass through a different obstacle. 

  Printmaker and writer Michael Blaker remarks on this in his commentary accompanying Robin Garton’s Memorial portfolio (1996)
“In ‘Forms in the Wood’ we can see the most delicate biting as the sun strikes through and a daring strength in the contrasting darks of the foreground leaves. There is a strange element of lyrical surrealism about the mysterious plate, and the gentle quality seems offset by the sinister piece of barbed wire looming up and round like a threatening snake” (Drury, 2006: 157)

French Cemetery 1938
 The last plate I’m included in this post is the beautiful and poignant etching Drury made in 1938 titled “French Cemetery” made many years before the “Mickleham” series.  Its complex structure incorporates the use of delicate hard ground line in conjunction with subtle deftly controlled passages of aquatint.  This ranges from the lightest of greys to darker areas of intense shadows. To my eye some of the delicate areas of aquatint were achieved through spit biting while other areas with harder edges were shaped through an acid resistant block out. 

In his commentary accompanying Robin Garton’s Memorial portfolio (1996) Michael Blaker perceptively notes that French Cemetery is one of the most,
“out –of- character images of Drury’s work. Not that it lacks (of course) expertise, observation and powerful originality- and Drury’s work is always full of interest- but it can be so disturbed… the anguish in the Cemetery is not merely to do with the subject. It is positively fierce. The stone head of the dead Frenchman on the marble scroll is like a Munich era premonition of the fall of France.” (Drury, 2006: 114)