Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Grosvenor School at Bonhams

Last week at Bonhams auction house, Old Bond Street, London, there was a major sale of linocut prints from the 1920's and 30's of the Grosvenor School and work from other avant-garde printmakers from the same period. I first discovered these amazing prints at the Redfern Gallery on Cork street some years ago when I first moved to London, and loved the power of their graphic imagery instantly.
The Grosvenor School of Modern Art was established in 1925 at 33 Warwick Square in London. The aim of the school was for students to explore contemporary themes and work in new or progressive media. The term Grosvenor School is used nowadays to denote the group of artists and printmakers associated with the school who helped establish the colour linocut in Britain. The course tutor (1926-1933) was Claude Flight who was aware of the major art movements in Paris and advocated the use of the colour linocut as a progressive form of image making in Britain. The modernist subject matter of Grosvenor school prints was fairly notorious in the 1930's as they  were so different in look and feel to the more traditional etchings of the time.

The main influence on the group was the work of the Italian Futurist movement. The Italian Futurist movement developed in 1909. They focused on the dynamic, energetic violence of modern city life. Their aim in particular was to emphasise the power, force and motion of machinery combined with the contemporary fascination for speed whilst denouncing the 'static' art of the past. The driving force behind the movement was the poet FT Marinetti.
I absolutely love the process of linocutting, being a linocutter, and collector of linocuts, in a modest way, myself. The prints of the Grosvenor School are dynamic, beautiful and of their time, though sadly, now out of their original remit, of being affordable to the average person. 
Linocutting is a printmaking  process that is gradually coming back into fashion through the work of artists such as, Edward Bawden, (and his son Richard), Gary Hume and Angie Lewin. There are other contemporary linocutters who are using the work of the Grosvenor School printmakers as a more obvious inspiration for their work, such as Gail Brodholt, and Paul Cleden. The recent sale at Bonhams, saw sales of Grosvenor School linoprints reach eye watering prices as demonstrated below. The main artists of the Grosvenor School were:-

Claude Flight:

Street Singers print sold for £79,250

  Cyril Power:

Whence and Whither print sold for £97,250

Tube Station, sold for £61,250

Speed Trial, (which the seller bought for £20 originally), sold for £73, 250

Sybil Andrews:

Speedway, sold for £79, 250

The Winch, sold for £22,500

Sledgehammer, sold for £27, 500

Racing, sold for £46, 850

Other artists considered minor in the Grosvenor School canon (Ethel Spowers, Leonard Beaumont, Ursula Fooks), still achieved respectable prices at the sale also. A further selection of these wonderful, dynamic prints can also be seen at:- Osbourne Samuel Gallery, 23a Bruton St. W1J 6QG, in a show entitled: The Cutting Edge of Modernity: Grosvenor School Linocuts, April 11th - May 11th.