Saturday, 24 August 2019

Cutting Edge: Modernist British Printmaking

Sybil Andrews - Straphangers, 1929

"The linocut is different to the other printing mediums, it has no tradition of technique behind it, so that the student can go forward without thinking of what Bewick and Rembrandt did before, he can make his own tradition, and coming at a time like the present when new ideas and ideals are shaping themselves out of apparent chaos, he can do his share in building up a new and more vital art of tomorrow". Claude Flight 1934

William Edward Greengrass - Jazz Musicians, 1933

To Dulwich Picture Gallery once more, to see Cutting Edge: Modernist British Printmaking, an excellent retrospective of the work of a group of dynamic printmakers based at the Grosvenor School who emerged between the inter war period and were dedicated to promoting and elevating the humble art of linocutting. We have explored their work in this blog before here, and here, but this has been the most comprehensive exhibition of their work as a group that I have encountered, and there were many examples of their wonderful linocuts included at Dulwich which I had never seen before. The exhibition is grouped into thematic subjects, and starts with the sway of contemporary art movements such as Cubism, Italian Futurism and Vorticisim, which proved to be highly influential in terms of stylistic traits for these printmakers in the machine age. The works below of Bomberg, Nash, Nevinson and Wadsworth are full of dynamic, lively (albeit more dour wartime subject matter and compositions).

The Grosvenor School of Modern Art was founded in 1925 at Warwick Square in Pimlico but wasn't structured like the other more formal art schools. Artist Claude Flight was an influential tutor at the school who dreamt of making art affordable to all households, to enlighten art appreciation in the masses, and to spur them to create art of their own with linocut lending libraries and exhibitions in cinemas as well established galleries. Sadly Flight's vision would never come to fruition as the 2 guinea asking price of the prints was about the average weekly wage at the time, and therefore out of reach financially to the majority of the workers they were aimed at.

 Cyril Power - The Merry-Go-Round, c.1930

Flight taught his method of linocutting using multiple lino blocks to represent each colour of the finished print. Although these prints are now recognised as fairly complex and skilled, at the time the medium of linocutting was thought only suitable as a medium to introduce children to the art of printmaking. The flexibility and versatility of the linocut medium lends itself readily to the sense of speed, dynamism and action depicted in the jazz age of the prints of the Grosvenor School. The themes of leisure, music, work, travel and sport undertaken by the Grosvenor linocutters easily display this sense of movement in their depictions of the vitality of city life. Other key members of the Grosvenor group and paid staff at the school were Cyril Power and Sybil Andrews. The achievements of certain artists of the Grosvenor School easily rival the inventions and innovations of those of Picasso and Edward Bawden in the evolution of the linocut as a serious artistic printmaking medium.


Paul Nash - Void of War, 1918

Christopher Nevinson - Returning to the Trenches, 1916

David Bomberg - Russian Ballet, ca. 1914-19

Edward Wadsworth - Mytholmroyd, 1916

E McKnight Kauffer - Flight, 1917

 Installation View of E McKnight Kauffer Daily Herald poster

Cyril Power - Air Raid, c.1935

Cyril Power - The Vortex, c.1931

Urban Living

Ethel Spowers - Special Edition, 1934

Ethel Spowers - Wet Afternoon, 1929-30

 Sybil Andrews - Hyde Park, 1931

Lil Tschudi - Street Decorations, 1937

Sybil Andrews - Coffee Bar, 1952

A Pastoral Life

 Dorrit Black - Corners of the Garden, ca.1934
Installation view

 Sybil Andrews - The Windmill, 1933

Edith Lawrence - Canal Middleburg, c.1932

Eveline Syme - Outskirts of Siena, 193-31

Ethel Spowers - The Plough, 1928

William Edward Greengrass - Abbotsbury, 1934

At Work, At Play

Claude Flight - Boys Bathing, ca.1935

Cyril Power - 'Appy 'Ampstead, ca. 1933

 Cyril Power - The Exam Room, ca. 1934

 Claude Flight - Women Washing, ca.1925

 Dorrit Black - Music, 1927-28

 Leonard Beaumont - Nymphs Errant, 1934

  Lil Tschudi - Trio, 1931

  Lil Tschudi - In the Circus, 1932

 Lil Tschudi - Fixing the Wires, 1932

 Sybil Andrews - Sledgehammers, 1933

Sybil Andrews - Flower Girls, 1934

The Sporting Life

Cyril Power - Speed Trial, c.1932

Installation view

Claude Flight - Brooklands, 1929

Sybil Andrews - Speedway, 1934

Sybil Andrews - Racing, 1934

 William Edward Greengrass - The First Five, 1933
Installation view

Sybil Andrews - Skaters, 1953

 Lil Tschudi - Ice Hockey, 1933

Sybil Andrews - Football, 1937

Sybil Andrews - Bringing in the Boat, 1933

On The Move

Sybil Andrews - Rush Hour, 1930
Cyril Power sketchbook

Linocutting tools

Grosvenor School related publications on linocutting

Cyril Power - The Sunshine Roof, c.1934
Cyril Power - Lifts, c.1930

Cyril Power - The Tube Staircase, c.1929

Cyril Power - Whence and Wither?, c.1930

Cyril Power - Whence and Wither? preparatory drawings

Cyril Power - The Escalator, c.1930

Cyril Power - The Tube Station, c.1932

Cyril Power - The Tube Station colour separations installation view

Cyril Power - TubeTrain, c.1930

Andrew Power Posters

The last section of the exhibition dealing with sporting subject matter executed under the collaborative duo name of (Sybil) Andrew-Power (Cyril) seemed particularly relevant with the recent sporting events of the cricket world cup and Wimbledon tennis tournament having taken place in the capital. Even though the artworks commissioned for London Transport were executed under the pseudonym of Andrew Power one can just about detect the individual characteristic style of each artist. This is another engaging exhibition of quality artworks staged by Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Cutting Edge: Modernist British Printmaking
until 8th September
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Gallery Road