Friday, January 29, 2010

Making marks

Since I last posted about Barnett and Claudia Freedman, I have found out a bit more about Barnett Freedman, and acquired some more of his work. Barnett Freedman is I think underestimated as an artist, precisely because of the thing that makes him most interesting, which is his devotion to lithography as a means of mass distribution of original fine art. He was not really interested in producing signed limited editions of 20 prints for connoisseurs. As he argues in his article “Autolithography or Substitute Works of Art” in The Penrose Annual in 1950: “While limited editions of hand-pulled proofs account for most of their work to date, autolithography specifically planned for machine production is—in the opinion of the present writer—the real sphere for the future activities of artists who are prepared to overcome the difficulties of working in close co-operation with publishers and printing houses.”

Barnett Freedman, Self-portrait at the lithographic stone
Drawing, 1938

Barnett Freedman himself worked very closely with several printers who specialised in printing autolithographs—in particular with Harold Curwen at the Curwen Press, with Thomas Griffits at Vincent Brooks Day and subsequently at Fred Phillips’s Baynard Press, and with the Shenval Press and Chromoworks. He even produced advertising posters for them to demonstrate their skills. While Freedman had very much the mindset of a fine artist, he had the desire to communicate with a mass audience that is more common in the commercial artist. Much of his output was book jackets (mainly for Faber & Faber), posters, or book illustrations (chiefly for George Macy’s Limited Editions Club). Yet his artist peers regarded him not as a jobbing illustrator, but as the finest lithographer of his day, almost certainly the finest Britain had ever seen. Freedman himself refused to make any distinction between commercial and fine art. Pat Gilmour writes in Artists at Curwen (Tate Gallery, 1977): “’What’s commercial art?’ he would ask when the topic was raised. ‘There’s only good art and bad art.’”

Barnett Freedman, Advert for The Curwen Press
Lithograph, 1936

Barnett Freedman, Advert for The Baynard Press
Lithograph, 1938

Barnett Freedman, Advert for Henderson & Spalding at the Sylvan Press
Lithograph, 1939

Barnett Freedman, Advert for Chromoworks
Lithograph. 1950

Freedman took to lithography like a duck to water. What he most valued in the process was the “freedom of expression emanating from the artist’s hand to the printing surface, without any hindrance” (“Autolithography or Substitute Works of Art”).

Barnett Freedman, A fine old city
Lithograph for Lavengro, 1936

There is a wonderful book on Barnett Freedman as a lithographer by Ian Rogerson: Barnett Freedman: The Graphic Work, with an essay on Freedman as master lithographer by Michael Twyman (The Fleece Press, 2006). Rogerson quotes Freedman from his essay “Lithography: A Painter’s Excursion” in Signature 2, 1936: it is “the immense range and strength of tonality that can be obtained, the clarity and precision of delicate and fine work and the delightful ease of manipulation by the artist directly on to the stone, plate, transfer paper or celluloid which gives autolithography as supreme advantage over other autographic methods.”

Barnett Freedman, Fair
Lithograph for Lavengro, 1936

Although he lists above various methods of creating lithographs, Barnett Freedman himself always preferred to work directly on to lithographic stone. As Michael Twyman writes, “The lithographic crayon became his main means of making marks, and he relished the sensuous way in which it allowed him to caress the finely-grained surface of lithographic stone.”

The colophon of War and Peace
with Barnett Freedman's signature and thumbprint

The phrase above, “making marks”, is key to understanding Barnett Freedman’s art. He was above all a mark-maker, as he demonstrated when signing the colophon of the Limited Edition Club’s 6-volume edition of War and Peace, which he had illustrated. He did sign his name, as requested, but he also dipped his thumb in red ink and literally “made his mark”.

Barnett Freedman, War and Peace
Lithograph for War and Peace, 1938

Barnett Freedman, Oak Tree
Lithograph for War and Peace, 1938

The lithographs for War and Peace (1938) are generally reckoned to be Barnett Freedman’s masterwork. They were made at the Baynard Press and printed by Thomas Griffits (though neither Baynard nor Griffits get a credit), and show an immense confidence in the confidence of the lithographic stones to convey the subtlest of messages, whether in the deep perspective of a wild troika ride, or in an extreme close-up portrait.

Barnett Freedman, Troika ride
Lithograph for War and Peace, 1938

Barnett Freedman, Pierre
Lithograph for War and Peace, 1938

One interesting change in Freedman’s practice as an illustrator in War and Peace is that he abandons the traditional relationship of the dimensions of the illustrations to the dimensions of the text block. In his lithographs for Lavengro two years earlier, the illustrations exactly match the text, albeit with a couple of rounded corners. But those for War and Peace, and those for Henry the Fourth Part I in 1939 and Anna Karenina in 1951, are long and thin, with a wide margins to the right, a narrower margin to the left and the image bleeding off the page top and bottom. This produces a very striking assymetrical effect across the spread as a whole. He explains this unusual approach in his note on the lithographs for Henry the Fourth in the insert A Shakespeare Commentary that accompanied the book. He writes: “I have attempted to enrich the book, and enhance the beauty of the typography, not by the accepted method of producing an illustration that ‘goes’ with the type, but by an entirely contrasting one. The shape of the picture is in direct contra-distinction to the type-area, as is the colour and general weight, and the method of carrying the whole design through the page, from top to bottom, serves to retain continuity, and has been, I believe, rarely used.” Freedman also tells us that: “The illustrations are auto-lithographs in six printings, drawn on the stones and printed directly from them under my supervision. No photo-mechanical reproduction has been allowed to interfere with my original work, such as it is.” I particularly love that faux-modest “such as it is”!

Barnett Freedman, The Sack of Moscow
Lithograph for War and Peace, 1938

Barnett Freedman, Farm
Lithograph for War and Peace, 1938

Looking through some old copies of the long-running art revue The Studio, I found in the issue for November 1958 an article on Barnett Freedman by Charles S. Spencer. Freedman had died earlier that year, at the age of just 56. Spencer’s article is largely concerned with Freedman as a painter, as it was tied in with the 1958 retrospective of Freedman’s work organized by the Arts Council (the catalogue of which has an introduction by Stephen Tallents), but he also discusses Freedman’s graphic work. He writes, “The unrivalled potentialities of lithography in book publishing were not recognized until Barnett Freedman’s work. He proved the great superiority of auto-lithography over machine processes.”

Barnett Freedman, Falstaff
Lithograph for Henry the Fourth Part I, 1939

Barnett Freedman, The Battlefield
Lithograph for Henry the Fourth Part I, 1939

Spencer draws attention in particular to Barnett Freedman’s lithographs for two projects: Henry the Fourth and Anna Karenina (both projects printed at the Curwen Press). In the lithographs for Henry the Fourth, Spencer notes that “a richness of characterization is allied to warm, subtle colour.” The lithograph of the scene before the battle is singled out as “a remarkable evocation”.

Barnett Freedman, Anna dreaming
Lithograph for Anna Karenina, 1951

Barnett Freedman, Banquet
Lithograph for Anna Karenina, 1951

The lithographs for Anna Karenina are admired for their “Renoir-like delicacy”, and Spencer remarks on a “romantic, rather impressionistic quality” to Freedman’s lithographs as a whole.

Barnett Freedman, Family
Lithograph for Anna Karenina, 1951

I don’t dispute any of the remarks above, but I do believe Freedman’s art is rather more robust than they suggest. His mastery of the long perspective and the sharp close-up and his sure sense of the formal organization of an image are instruments which he uses to convey a wide range of emotion—tenderness, passion, excitement, sorrow, aggression, fear, anticipation, regret. If we forget their function as commissioned book illustrations and simply look at each image as an image (and Freedman himself encouraged this by binding up sets of proofs of these lithographs as gifts for friends), then Freedman’s remarkable range of artistic expression leaps into focus.

Barnett Freedman, Freemason's Lodge
Lithograph for War and Peace, 1938

There is an archive of Barnett Freedman’s work at Manchester Metropolitan University. The initial guide to this collection by Ian Rogerson and Sue Hoskins is entitled Barnett Freedman: Painter, Draughtsman, Lithographer (Manchester Polytechnic Library, 1990). The title is accurate, but it is surely the last word that defines his importance: lithographer.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Oakey's waterproof flint paper

What on earth kind of print can be on the other side of this? Oakey's Waterproof Flint Paper, made expressly for wet-rubbing-down by Wellington Mills, London?

The answer is a stencilled intepretation of an untitled painting by Joan Miró. It is printed on this extraordinary sandpaper support because that is what Miró himself had used for the original. The artist responsible for the stencil was John Piper. Piper recalls this episode in "Working with Printers", written in 1987 for Orde Levinson's catalogue raisonné, "Quality and Experiment": The Prints of John Piper. Remembering Curwen's support for the avant-garde journal Axis: A Quarterly Review of Contemporary Painting and Sculpture, which was edited by Piper's wife-to-be Myfanwy Evans and published by A. Zwemmer, Piper writes, "He even encouraged me to reproduce a Miró which had been painted on glass paper, on real glass paper, and bound it into Signature." It appeared in Signature 7 in 1937.

Regarding the Paramat blocks used to create the image, Piper writes, "They consisted of a thin sheet of aluminium mounted by a thin sheet of rubber composition which could be cut away with a model maker's knife to leave the area required in relief which could then be inked and printed... It was a poor man's parallel to the French 'pochoir' process, all hand done, involving girls with stencils and which produced beautiful results in pricey art books in Paris." As Piper, notes, this technique was also used at Curwen; in fact Harold Curwen improved the pochoir process, which had been brought to a pitch of near-perfection by Jean Saudé, by replacing metal stencils with transparent plastic ones, so that the "girls with stencils" could see what they were doing when they hand-applied the colour.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The lure of Clegyr-Boia

Further to my post on Edward Bawden, here are some more thoughts about why British art took the direction it did in the mid-twentieth century. Bawden’s untitled abstract copper engraving, featured in the last two posts, was published in issue six of the Curwen Press “quadrimestrial of typography and graphic arts”, Signature, in July 1937. The same issue also had a highly-experimental abstract colour lithograph by John Piper, and an almost surreal colour lithograph of fish underwater by Graham Sutherland. The Piper and Sutherland works were used for the front and back covers of Stephen Laird’s catalogue for the exhibition Twentieth Century British Lithographs: From Pastoral to Pop Art at Keynes College, University of Kent in 2009.

John Piper, Invention in Colour
Lithograph, 1937

This lithograph by Piper (described as a “drawing” in Signature) is a very complex print. Stephen Laird says it “was printed from a ‘mosaic’ of plates made from different materials, including line, paramat (a rubber sheeting which, when inked-up, was normally used to achieve large, flat areas of colour in advertising posters) and halftone (the plate medium normally used for the reproduction of the tonal parts of black and white photographs in books and newspapers). This is an experimental image which plays about with the technical possibilities of commercial lithography, and demonstrates Piper’s early mastery of the methods involved.” Orde Levinson in his catalogue raisonné, “Quality and Experiment”: The Prints of John Piper, describes it simply as “printed from paramat blocks cut by the artist”. It was Piper’s fourth lithograph.

Graham Sutherland, Under Water
Lithograph, 1937

Under Water was one of Graham Sutherland’s first lithographs, “drawn direct on to five grained zinc plates”. It was commissioned by the printers Henderson & Spalding at the Sylvan Press, and was in fact published as an advert for their services, “to show how economically good effects can be made by Colour Craftsmen”. Sutherland’s name is not mentioned, though he has signed the image with a tiny G.S. at the mouth of the shell.
Taken together, these three works by Bawden, Piper, and Sutherland show young British artists of the day exploring the central issues of the international art of their day. But beneath the surface, something different was stirring. Graham Sutherland had in fact already created the work which would divert British Modernism from the track it was on, and send it into the sidings of Neo-Romanticism. That work was an extraordinary, brooding etching with aquatint, created in 1936 and published in Signature 9 in July 1938. It is entitled Clegyr-Boia, and depicts a Welsh landscape. It was this work, with its obvious debt to Samuel Palmer and Edward Calvert, and its anxious overtones of threat and destruction, that set the template for the entire Neo-Romantic movement. That an etching published in a little magazine with a very limited circulation should have such a seismic impact is not as unusual as it may seem. Signature sold just shy of 500 copies, but every one of those went to an art school, or an artist, or a specialist printer or typographer. Art students couldn't afford it, but it was eagerly read in art school libraries or in art bookshops such as Zwemmer's.

Graham Sutherland, Clegyr-Boia
Etching with aquatint, 1936

The two wellsprings of Neo-Romanticism were Sutherland and Piper, each in their own way in thrall to the delights of wild landscapes and ruined buildings. The Blitz was to bring that wildness and ruin into the heart of the British city, and soon Neo-Romanticism had its fill of disciples, visionaries who overlaid Samuel Palmer’s harvest moon onto the bombers’ moon of the Luftwaffe.

John Piper, Pistyll Cain, North Wales
Lithograph, 1944

John Piper, Tomen-y-Mur and Roman Amphitheatre, North Wales
Lithograph, 1944

John Piper, Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire
Lithograph, 1944

John Piper, Easegill, Lancashire
Lithograph, 1944

John Egerton Christmas Piper (1903-1992) was born in Epsom. He studied at the Royal College of Art, and was an official War Artist in WWII, specialising in the depiction of ruined buildings, which remained a favourite motif throughout his life. The British landscape and its buildings was his primary subject, explored in paintings and in lithographs and screenprints.

John Piper, Hafod
Lithograph, 1947

John Piper, Adam and Eve’s Garden
Lithograph, 1947

John Piper, On the Making of Gardens II
Lithograph, 1949

John Piper, Prometheus II
Lithograph, 1954

John Piper, Elizabethan Love Songs II
Lithograph, 1955

John Piper, Elizabethan Love Songs IV
Lithograph, 1955

John Piper, The Salute
Lithograph, 1965

Apart from Piper, I don’t have a great deal of work by the Neo-Romantics, and none at all by John Minton (my personal favourite of this group), Keith Vaughan, or Robert MacBryde. However, several of the Neo-Romantics were commissioned by the first ever book packager, Adprint, to provide lithographs for the series of illustrated anthologies New Excursions into English Poetry, published by Frederick Muller. Adprint was founded by a Viennese emigré, Wolfgang Foges, and among those working there were two refugees from Nazi Germany, Walter Neurath and Eva Feuchtwang, who were to marry and co-found the art publisher Thames and Hudson. There were in all seven volumes of the highly-collectible New Excursions, under the general editorship of W. J. Turner and Sheila Shannon:

Sea Poems, edited by Myfanwy Piper, illustrated by Mona Moore (1944)
English, Scottish and Welsh Landscape, edited by John Betjeman and Geoffrey Taylor, illustrated by John Piper (1944)
Visionary Poems and Passages or The Poet’s Eye, edited by Geoffrey Grigson, illustrated by John Craxton (1944)
Poems of Death, edited by Phoebe Pool, illustrated by Michael Ayrton (1945)
Soldiers’ Verse, edited by Patric Dickinson, illustrated by William Scott (1945)
Travellers’ Verse, edited by M. G. Lloyd Thomas, illustrated by Edward Bawden (1946)
Poems of Sleep and Dream, edited by Carol Stewart, illustrated by Robert Colquhoun.

Of these artists, four—Piper, Craxton, Ayrton, and Colquhoun—represent Neo-Romanticism at its height. Edward Bawden went his own way, outside the Neo-Romantic movement and rather scornful of its images of “a chance encounter in the slums by moonlight”. The landscape artist Mona Moore (1917-2000) is scarcely remembered today; her rather tentative lithographs for Sea Poems have charm, but no graphic strength. William Scott became one of the most important British artists of the postwar years, oscillating between figuration and abstraction. I don’t think of him as one of the Neo-Romantics, though there is a connection certainly with Piper, as Scott taught at the Bath Academy of Art in Corsham, with which Piper was also involved. As I haven’t seen Soldiers’ Verse, I can’t say what style Scott adopted for this commission, though the jacket (which I have seen reproduced) doesn’t look out of place with the true Neo-Romantic volumes.

John Craxton, The Poet’s Eye III
Lithograph, 1944

John Craxton, The Poet’s Eye VI
Lithograph, 1944

John Craxton, The Poet’s Eye XII
Lithograph, 1944

The painter and printmaker John Craxton (1922-2009) was born in London. Before WWII he studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris; in London he attended Westminster School of Art, the Central School of Art, and Goldsmith's College (where he was later to teach). His art was influenced by that of Graham Sutherland, with whom he toured Wales in 1943. In John Craxton's lithographs for The Poet's Eye, the influences of Sutherland, Samuel Palmer, and Surrealism seamlessly merge. From 1970 Craxton divided his time between Crete and London. John Craxton was elected to the Royal Academy in 1993, and died in 2009.

Michael Ayrton, Death IV
Lithograph, 1945

Michael Ayrton, Death X
Lithograph, 1945

Michael Ayrton, Death XII
Lithograph, 1945

The painter, sculptor, and novelist Michael Ayrton (1921-1975) was born in London. Ayrton was his middle name (also his mother's surname); he was born Michael A. Gould, and signed his early work Michael Ayrton G. Ayrton was closely associated with John Minton and other Neo-Romantics, although Ayrton's art was darker and more expressionistic than that of most of the group. Ayrton was obsessed with the myth of the Minotaur.

Robert Colquhoun, Sleep and Dream, VI
Lithograph, 1947

Robert Colquhoun, Sleep and Dream X
Lithograph, 1947

Robert Colquhoun, Sleep and Dream XIV
Lithograph, 1947

Robert Colquhoun (1914-1962) was born in Kilmarnock. He studied at the Glasgow School of Art, where he first met his lifelong companion Robert MacBryde. One of the British artists who absorbed via Picasso the lessons of Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism in the 1940s, Robert Colquhoun was closely associated with the Neo-Romantics, particularly John Minton, John Craxton, and Robert MacBryde. Colquhoun and MacBryde ("the two Roberts") shared a home and studio from 1941. The pair collaborated on set designs for the theatre.

Graham Sutherland, Balancing Form (First State)
Lithograph, 1972

As for Graham Sutherland, who was born in London in 1903 and died in 1980, he long outlived the brief flare of Neo-Romanticism. Much of the visionary fervour he had devoted to landscape in his early work was converted to religious subjects in his later life, though he continued to draw his inspiration from organic forms.

Monday, January 25, 2010

An English manner of going about art

There was a serious question behind the quiz in my last post, and it was this—what was it that led a whole generation of British artists who in the 1930s were hovering on the brink of a commitment to abstraction to abandon that route, and retreat into Englishness?
         It was not, I think, a failure of nerve that led artists such as Paul Nash or John Piper to turn their backs on abstraction. It was, rather, a stiffening of resolve in the face of the acutely perceived threat to the entire British way of life, as war with Nazi Germany loomed.
         WWI—the war I still think of as The Great War—was the great fracture point of recent western history. After it, many artists were only too keen to embrace modernism, and to break with the safe rules of the past. In Britain, this was true only up to a point. When asked why he was fighting in WWI, the poet Edward Thomas picked up a handful of English earth and let it trickle through his fingers: “Literally for this,” he said. I think that visual artists in the 1930s had much the same visceral need to record the British landscape and to define and describe an essential sense of Englishness. Eric Ravilious showed us the English as a nation of shopkeepers in High Street in 1938; Edward Ardizzone explored the life of that most traditional English institution, the pub, in The Local in 1939; in 1944 John Piper fell headily in love with English, Scottish, and Welsh Landscape.

Eric Ravilious, Baker and Confectioner
Lithograph, 1938

Edward Ardizonne, Public Bar at the George
Lithograph, 1940

John Piper, Talland Church, Cornwall
Lithograph, 1944

Of course not every British artist reneged on the modernist agenda—some, such as Ben Nicholson, kept the faith. But most British art of the mid-century was content to idle in a backwater, rather than ride the main current of art history. I can’t bring myself to regret this—because it is a deliciously evocative and enjoyable backwater.
         This preamble brings me to the answer to my quiz question, and the true subject of today’s post. If I were faced with that intriguing abstract engraving, with its subtle balance between movement and stillness, and asked to hazard a guess as to its author, I suppose I would think of artists such as Stanley Hayter or Edward Wadsworth. It would have to be a master of the technique, for to engrave such perfect concentric circles with a burin, which is designed to plough a straight furrow, shows immense skill. I would never ever think of the correct name.

Edward Bawden, Abstract design for "Signature"
Copper engraving, 1937

Edward Bawden? I’ve admired and enjoyed Bawden’s art—watercolours, lithographs, linocuts—most of my life, but I never imagined he had ever worked anywhere near the cutting edge of art. Yet here he is, incising a route-map to modernity. But just like John Piper, Bawden never followed this route to its true destination. Instead, he veered off, to create a unique and beautiful body of work that is nevertheless parochial in its appeal. How many of my readers outside Great Britain are familiar with his work? I suspect rather few. So here is a brief tour of Bawden’s art, as exemplified by my own limited collection. The most crucial limitation is that I do not possess any work by Bawden in the medium he made so brilliantly his own, the coloured linocut.
For more serious research, I recommend Malcolm Yorke, Edward Bawden and His Circle (Antique Collectors’ Club, 2007), Jeremy Greenwood, Edward Bawden: Editioned Prints (The Wood Lea Press, 2005), Brian Webb, Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious: Design (Antique Collectors’ Club, 2005), and Oliver Green and Alan Powers, Away We Go: Advertising London’s Transport: Edward Bawden & Eric Ravilious (Mainstone Press, 2006). Malcolm Yorke’s book in particular is the source of much of the information in this post.
         That two of those titles couple the name of Edward Bawden with that of Eric Ravilious is no accident. The two met as students at the Royal College of Art (where Paul Nash was one of their teachers) and became close friends and collaborators. Both were official war artists in WWII. Ravilious died, Bawden survived, and outlived his friend by 47 years.
         Bawden was born in 1903 in Braintree, Essex. He entered the Department of Industrial Design at the Royal College of Art in 1922. Fellow students at the RCA included Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Barnett Freedman, and Enid Marx. But the most important to Bawden were Eric Ravilious and Douglas Percy Bliss; al three entered the college on the same day. The three friends also shared their first exhibition, at the St George’s Gallery in Bond Street in 1927. Bawden’s 29 works included six copper engravings. Denied entry to the engraving class at the RCA, Bawden too lessons with a commercial engraver, H. K. Wolfenden, at the Sir John Cass Institute. Jeremy Greenwod quotes Bawden as saying, “I became interested in the difficulties of engraving on copper & fascinated by the engraved designs of J. E. Laboureur.”
         In 1925, Bawden and Ravilious took lodgings at Brick House, Great Bardfield, Essex. When Bawden married the painter and potter Charlotte Epton in 1932, his father bought Brick House for them as a wedding present; Eric and Tirzah Ravilious lodged with them, and Edward and Eric worked side by side. Edward Bawden was to live at Brick House until 1970, when, widowed, he moved to nearby Saffron Walden. In the postwar years other artists clustered around him. Although a loose affiliation of neighbours and kindred spirits rather than a coherent artistic movement, they have become known as the Great Bardfield Artists, achieving national renown with their pioneering “open studio” events. Just as with Ravilious, there was an edge of rivalry in Bawden’s relations with these fellow artists, notably with Michael Rothenstein. As Michael Yorke writes, Rothenstein, who had been inspired by a visit to S. W. Hayter’s Atelier 17, “saw himself as more ‘advanced’ than the others, a player in an international arena rather than a rural backwater.” This would certainly have got on Bawden’s nerves.

Edward Bawden, The Produce Shop
Lithograph, 1946

Edward Bawden, Village Show
Lithograph, 1946

Edward Bawden, Chapel
Lithograph, 1946

Edward Bawden, Children Skating
Lithograph, 1946

The four colour lithographs above were done to accompany an article by Denis Saurat on “Edward Bawden’s England” in issue 2 of Alphabet and Image, edited by Robert Harling (who himself was to write an early monograph on Bawden’s work). “Without a doubt,” writes Saurat, “Edward Bawden’s England will remain.” The lithographs take up half the page, with text below, and another lithograph on the reverse. They were printed at the Shenval Press.

Edward Bawden, St Mary the Virgin
Lithograph, 1949

Edward Bawden, The Cabinet-Maker
Lithograph, 1949

Edward Bawden, The Bell
Lithograph, 1949

Edward Bawden, The Market Gardener
Lithograph, 1949

The following year, Bawden published Life in an English Village, 16 lithographs with a text by Noel Carrington, in the King Penguin series edited by Nikolaus Pevsner. In Malcolm Yorke’s words, this commission had the advantage for Bawden that “he didn’t even have to stir from Great Bardfield”. As with the images for “Edward Bawden’s England”, the lithographs were printed back-to-back. For this project I have, besides a copy of the book, two interesting sets of proofs. The first comprises proof copies of all 16 lithographs, printed one side of the sheet only, and used by the publisher to make a mock-up layout of the finished book. The second is a signature with the first 8 lithographs, printed back to back, with a few correction marks and an ink stamp on the front, “Passed for Press”. The lithographs were printed at the Curwen Press.

Edward Bawden, The Delinquent Travellers
Lithograph, 1946

Edward Bawden, Medina
Lithograph, 1946

Edward Bawden, China
Lithograph, 1946

Edward Bawden, The desert
Lithograph, 1946

His experiences as a war artist had, paradoxically, ensured that this archetypal Englishman was in fact one of the most widely travelled Englishman of his day—a man familiar with the Marsh Arabs of Iraq, at home across the Middle East. It was this that led to a number of “exotic” commissions, far from the introverted life of the English village. In 1946, Bawden seemed the obvious choice, for instance, to illustrate a choice of Travellers’ Verse in the series New Excursions into English Poetry published by Frederick Muller. Each volume of this series was illustrated with original lithographs by artists such as John Piper (see the plate from English, Scottish, and Welsh Landscape above), John Craxton, Michael Ayrton, and William Scott. The jacket blurb noted that, as a War Artist, Bawden “has never stopped travelling for the last five years in France, in Abyssinia, in Iraq, in Persia and in Italy.” His lithographs for this project were printed by Curwen.

Edward Bawden, The Kaaba at Mecca
Lihtograph, 1949

Edward Bawden, The Battle of Qadisya
Lithograph, 1949

Another project to draw on Bawden’s war work was The Arabs, commissioned by Noel Carrington for Puffin Picture Books, and autolithographed at the Curwen Press. Malcolm Yorke writes of the two double-page spreads, “Both are examples of Bawden’s mastery of the high viewpoint and panoramic sweep combined with tiny details and the deliberate contract of realistic drawing and abstract colour.”

Edward Bawden, Ninth caliph of the Abasside line
Lithograph, 1958

Edward Bawden, She flung him bodily over her shoulder
Lithograph, 1958

Edward Bawden, Great flaming torches... in crevices in the rocks
Lithograph, 1958

Edward Bawden, A good genie appeared in the shape of a shepherd
Lithograph, 1958

My final example of Edward Bawden’s work is a set of colour lithographs made for an edition of Beckford’s Vathek published by The Folio Society in 1958. These are bold and bright, with a graphic strength that draws on Bawden’s linocut work, but I don’t feel the text really suited his temperament, or that the lithographs stand up to those made by Marion Dorn 30 years earlier.

Edward Bawden, The Vicar
Lithograph, 1949

Edward Bawden died at the age of 86 on 21st November 1989, “after a morning spent doing a linocut”. There are two major archives of Edward Bawden’s work: at the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery in Bedford, and at the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden, which is devoted to the work of the Great Bardfield Artists. Malcolm Yorke’s book concludes with the following quote from J. R. Taylor’s review in The Times of Edward Bawden’s last exhibition, in 1989. I shall close this post the same way, for Taylor too touches on the central question of the “Englishness” of Bawden’s art: “Perhaps because this is an English manner of going about art, we suppose that lightness of effect is incompatible with essential seriousness. If Bawden were French, now, we would have more notion of how to appreciate his unique combination of intelligence and fun, true emotion and light lyric grace. Bawden remains unclassifiable, and therefore impossible to estimate. Which is probably just the way he wants it.”