Tuesday, December 30, 2014

An obscure English woodcut artist: Felix Henry Eames

I offer the robust woodcut A Breton Déjeuner by F. H. Eames to my readers with all my best wishes for a happy and healthy 2015. May your tables overflow with food, wine, and the laughter of friends.

Felix Henry Eames, A Breton Déjeuner
Woodcut, 1930

I really like this highly-accomplished work, which was contributed to The London Mercury in 1930. Around this time Eames was also contributing woodcuts or wood engravings to another London literary and artistic revue, The Town Crier. So I was surprised when researching him to find almost nothing about F. H. Eames, either in standard reference books or on the internet. I did manage to expand the initials to two given names, Felix Henry. I also discovered that he was born in Matlock, Derbyshire, in 1892, and that he died in 1971. And that is about the sum total of my knowledge.

From the Breton subject-matter of A Breton Déjeuner and the Post-Impressionist aesthetic of the piece I would suspect that Felix Henry Eames was one of those artists still drawn to Pont-Aven in the 1920s and 30s, in the footsteps of Gauguin and the School of Pont-Aven of the 1880s and 90s. For instance in the 1930s the painter William Scott, his wife the sculptor and painter Mary Lucas, and their friend Geoffrey Nelson ran the Pont-Aven School of Painting there, to attract just such artistic pilgrims.

9 comments:

Diego Jourdan Pereira said...

Love it!

Jane Librizzi said...

Don't know whether I would have noticed, without your detective work, but this does look like a combination of French/ British influences. The people don't look Breton to my eyes nor does the wallpaper. Eames must have had a good visual imagination to make this cohere.

Gerrie said...

Neil, both the scene of the print and your chosen words are very appropriate:

Conloqui et conridere et vicissim benevole obsequi, simul leger libros dulciloquos, simul nugari et simul honestari.

Conversations and jokes together, mutual rendering of good services, the reading together of sweetly phrased books, the sharing of nonsense and mutual attentions.

St. Augustine, 354-450 AD: founding father of our modern academic world.

Best Wishes for 2015

Neil said...

Thanks very much, Diego.

Neil said...

Jane, I think those extravagant moustaches are authentically Breton! As for the wallpaper - the French do love patterned wallpaper, often in the old days papering over doors and cupboards as well as walls, so it doesn't seem out of place to me. On the other hand I remember going into a Breton cottage in I think 1968 and being very taken by the complete simplicity of the interior - an earth floor and simple limewashed walls.

Neil said...

What a wonderful quote, Gerrie. I like this from Albert Camus: "We must be happy with our friends, in harmony with the world."

Gerrie said...

I think combining Augustines and Camus we can tackle 2015.

Jane Librizzi said...

Neil, wall-papering over cupboards and doors? That's an interesting custom - cheaper than remodeling. Most of the painters I'm familiar with (Charles Cottet, etc.) portray more austere Breton interiors. You have seen more in this image than most of us. `

Neil said...

Jane, you may laugh, but I have stayed in many a hotel room in Brittany and Normandy - and also visited homes - completely covered in fancy wallpaper. I even have a folk memory of a room with wallpaper over the ceiling, entombing one in pattern. Actually, if you think of Vuillard's interiors, there is no escape from the wallpaper. I've since worked out that the time I went into the very simple Breton cottage was 1965, when I was 10. It was our first family holiday abroad. We had stopped our car for some reason, and the lady came rushing out of her house insisting we must come in for some refreshment, which was cider (my first taste of alcohol). She was so generous and welcoming, yet obviously very poor. A lesson in simple generosity of spirit that we can add to the maxims of St Augustine and Camus...