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".


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