Under construction …
HANDEL CROMWELL EVANS
Pontypridd, Wales 1932 – Ramsgate, England 1999. Under construction …
Under construction …
‘THERE ARE CLOSE PARALLELS between the land and the people of Cornwall and of Wales,’ Tom Cross wrote me in 1995. ‘Each has kept its Celtic identity and they share a magic of coast, moor and mountain and the privacy of their wild places.’ At that time, I was curating a retrospective exhibition of Tom’s work for Aberystwyth University School of Art Gallery (30 October – 27 November 1995). It subsequently toured to the University of Birmingham and Penwith Galleries in St Ives.
Painter and art historian Tom Cross trained at Manchester and the Slade Schools of Art. He was Assistant Director of the Welsh Arts Council in Cardiff, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Reading, and Principal of Falmouth School of Art until 1987. In his two seminal books, Painting the Warmth of the Sun: St Ives Artists 1939-1975and The Shining Sands: Artists in Newlyn and St Ives 1880-1930, Cross demonstrated the important contribution to 20th-century British art made by artists working in Cornwall. As well as the landscapes of south-west Cornwall, where Cross lived and worked overlooking an inlet on the Helford River, the Welsh landscape was for him an enduring subject.
I first came to know Tom and his artist-wife Patricia in 1989 when he was appointed External Examiner in Art and in Art History at Aberystwyth University.
Cross Currents: Paintings of Cornwall and Wales 1957-1995 by Tom Cross
To be continued …
PAINTER-PRINTMAKER HARRY MORLEY ARA is best remembered nowadays for the figure paintings in oils and tempera that he exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1915. Morley’s mythological and classical figure compositions helped establish his reputation and attract critical approval: his subjects included the ill-fated satyr Marsyas who dared to challenge Apollo to a music contest (RA 1924. Tate, purchased by Chantrey Bequest); the beautiful Hylas, servant and companion of Heracles, abducted by water nymphs (RA 1923); and the Trojan mortal Paris, called upon by Zeus to proclaim the fairest among Hera, Athena and Aphrodite (RA 1926, Brighton Art Gallery). The Bible also provided Morley with rich narratives – Ruth and Boaz (1921), The Adoration of the Shepherds (RA 1921) and The Finding of Moses (RA 1928) – as did so-called romantic themes such as The Night Passeth, the Day Cometh and The Coming of Spring (both RA 1921), and Vanity (RA 1923). However, while Harry Morley devoted much of his career to the retelling in paint and print the legends of ancient Greece and Rome, his own story has never until now been told.
Following their exhibition-publication collaborations dedicated to the work of Royal Academician printmakers Sydney Lee, Stanley Anderson and Charles Tunnicliffe, Professor Robert Meyrick and Dr Harry Heuser are now engaged in a reappraisal and cataloguing of the graphic works of Harry Morley ARA RE RWS (1881-1943). Their research draws on previously-untapped family archives: an extensive collection of artworks, sketchbooks, correspondences, diaries, ledgers, photographs, and press cuttings.
The Etchings and Engravings
The 1920s and 1930s marked for Harry Morley a period of success and public recognition. It was during this time that he was most active as a printmaker. Meyrick and Heuser’s catalogue raisonné of prints will comprise a critical essay together with fully-illustrated, documented and annotated entries for all 114 of Morley’s little-known etchings and drypoints (made 1919-25) as well as his 45 line engravings (made 1928-42). Until now, no catalogue of Morley prints has been attempted.
When in 1919 Morley first took up etching at the suggestion of his friend and contemporary Malcolm Osborne RA RE, he looked for subjects to the Bible (Tobias and the Angel and Samson Finding the Jawbone of an Ass, both 1920, and Christ at Emmaus 1922) and to Greco-Roman mythology (Vulcan Expelled from Olympus 1921, The Fall of Phaëton 1922, and Lapith Surprised by Centaurs 1923). Morley needled the copper plates swiftly and with assurance. Rarely did these experimental designs progress through different states. As an extension of his drawing practice, the medium was used to express his thoughts and explore compositions. Etching was for him a personal pursuit. As such, the etchings were printed in small editions and rarely exhibited.
When in 1928 he was persuaded by his younger friend and Osborne’s assistant Robert Sargent Austin RA PRE to turn his hand to line engraving, Morley soon discovered that, according to John Christian, the medium’s precision better ‘suited his strong sense of form and taste for classical themes’. Published in editions of 60 by his agents P. & D. Colnaghi, the line engravings proved to be more commercially successful than the etchings. As an engraver, Morley once again took inspiration from classical myths. Venus and Cupid (1928), The Young Bacchus (1929) and The Infant Mars (1930), as well as depictions of Persephone (1929), Sylvia and Susannah (both 1930), are among his finely-wrought compositions. The engravings reflect the Arts and Crafts influence of his student days as well as his knowledge and appreciation of Italian Quattrocento art.
Together with Stephen Gooden, William Washington, Robert Austin and William Morgan, Morley is credited with re-establishing the art of line engraving in Britain. The clarity of line and restrained simplicity of engraving lent itself to Morley’s idealised figures and elegantly arranged compositions. The artist took his narratives from classical myths, and stylistically borrowed from antique statuary and fifteenth century Italian paintings, yet his engravings – centred on monolithic figures with clearly defined outlines, curvilinear forms and stylised draperies – exhibit a distinctly modern Art Deco sensibility.
In addition to mythological subjects, Morley’s engravings offer insights into Italy and a rural way of life during the late 1920s that was fast disappearing: its townscapes, festivals, pilgrimages and peasant workers. For several years Morley spent each Spring travelling and working in Italy. In 1928, he and his wife Lilias stayed with artist-friend Job Nixon sharing his studio in Anticoli Corrado. The following year, Robert Austin joined the Morleys at Anticoli. In search of interesting subjects the two men accompanied villagers on the annual two-day pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Figura, Sora in the Lazio hills. In a letter dated 28 May 1929 to her daughter Beryl, Lilias described how she had watched by moonlight from her bedroom window as the pilgrimage set out into hills ‘most beautiful with clouds in the valleys all white and ghostly’. Church bells were ringing and ‘rockets and bombs’ were ‘going off at intervals’. She ‘could see in the mists the lights of the torches of other bands of pilgrims more distant’ and hear ‘their singing as they wound their way along the road’.
Without Artistic Pose
In the first of his six articles on the ‘Theory and Practice of Figure Painting in Oils’ for The Artist magazine, published between September 1936 to February 1937, Morley focussed on the challenges of ‘becoming a “modern” painter on the foundation of study of the Old Masters’. Citing Rubens, Rembrandt and Reynolds, Morley took reassurance and validation in the knowledge that many great painters before him had assimilated from the past. Writing on innovation in art, he proposed that since ‘originality is not the first among the artistic virtues […] one should never be afraid of emulating a greater than oneself’.
During visits to Italy between 1905 and 1908, Morley studied paintings by Pinturicchio, Pietro Perugino, Paolo Uccello and Sandro Botticelli. He believed himself to be the first artist of ‘recent years to base his work on the [early] Italian tradition’. Morley was not alone among artists during and following World War I who looked to another time and civilisation. As curator-historian Simon Martin points out ‘the art of Ancient Greece and Rome, as well as its mythology and literature, gave them a language and narrative through which to express their social and artistic concerns for the twentieth century’.
Whereas for Morley abstract art was a ‘dead end’ and modern art was ‘divorced from life and the accumulated experience of the ages was abandoned’, Italian Quattrocento painters showed ‘sincerity’ and ‘sound workmanship’. He believed them to be first-class craftsmen ‘without any special “artistic” pose’. The ‘stylisation of the primitives’ he attributed to a time when forms were ‘generalised and handed down from age to age’. In paint or print, Morley learned like those artists he emulated to create a sense of space without the illusion of spatial recession. In the work of the ‘primitives’ he came to appreciate the value of front lighting ‘to emphasise linear forms’ in decorative work without the ‘complication of cast shadows’. Render fine form in space, he advised readers of The Artist, enhance it with good colour, and ‘we cannot be far wrong’.
As John Christian points out, the artist’s ‘strong sense of monumental form and spatial clarity’ may also reflect his early training as an architect. With its academic coolness and detachment, Morley’s work is distinguished from the narrative purpose and sentiment of the Pre-Raphaelites. Art historian William Gaunt attributed that detachment to the ‘aloofness of idealism’. As Gaunt points out in his March 1925 article for The Studio, Morley took the ‘imperfect tradition’ for his model and made it ‘his business to evolve something original out of the incomplete’. Morley alighted on the Renaissance, resting on ‘an art obviously capable of the highest development – that of the Early Florentines’.
Mindful that for his contemporaries the painting of nudes was ‘limited to the bedroom, the bathroom and the bathing-beach’, Morley turned to ‘unfashionable’ classical subjects. Sir William Smith’s ‘ever-useful’ A Smaller Classical Dictionary (London: Dent, 1910) provided him ‘enough description from which to work’ and elaborate upon. A good story notwithstanding, he cautioned readers that a painter is not a ‘historian or an archaeologist, and that his primary purpose is not to tell a story. His main business is with the pictorial aspect of the subject in hand’.
Unpretentious compositions, strong of form and firm of outline, called for an appropriate technique. As well as aesthetic and narrative influences, Morley was also inspired by techniques of the past. Egg tempera – or oils on top of tempera painting – became his preferred medium. Though he did not slavishly follow their recipes or technical specifications, Morley learned much from Christina Jane Powell Herringham’s translation of The Book of the Art of Cennino Cennini: A Contemporary Practical Treatise on Quattrocento Painting (London: George Allen and Unwin 1899) and his friend Maxwell Armfield’s A Manual of Tempera Painting (London: George Allen and Unwin 1930). Morley admired the technical achievements of the past, followed new research on the science of traditional painting techniques, and insisted that ‘craftsmanship does count and always will’.
In her 2005 essay for Joseph Southall 1861-1944 published by the Antique Collectors Club, Abbie Sprague claims that the revival of British interest in tempera painting had begun in 1901 with the formation of the Society of Painters in Tempera. The Society held some of its meetings in Morley’s studio. John D. Batten, the painter-activist Mary Sargant Florence, Francis Ernest Jackson, Maxwell Armfield and Joseph Southall were among the regular attendees. As the medium became better understood, the 1920s saw a ‘Tempera Revival’ in British art. However, it was only after the Royal Academy of Arts’ ground-breaking Italian Art at the Exhibition at Burlington House (1 January – 20 March 1930) that the Academy accepted contemporary tempera paintings in its Summer Exhibition. Morley’s tempera The Young Bacchus was one of thirty-six tempera paintings shown that first year.
Harry Morley: A Biographical Sketch
Leicester, 5 April 1881 – London, 18 September 1943
In 1897 Harry Morley enrolled to study architecture at Leicester School of Art. Three years later he was awarded a scholarship to continue his training under Professor Beresford Pite at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in 1901. He won an RCA scholarship in 1903 which enabled him to visit Italy for the first time. Later that year, with £150 from his father Thomas Morley, a Leicester hosiery manufacturer, he was articled to Beresford Pite whose architectural practice was on the RCA campus. Morley also attended the mural painting department and evening life classes. In 1905 he was awarded an RCA Travelling Scholarship in Architecture as well as the RIBA Owen Jones Studentship and Travelling Scholarship for the Study of Colour Decoration. These awards allowed him to spend long periods in Italy between 1905 and 1908. There he came to admire early Renaissance painters.
Now resolved to become a painter himself, Morley gave up architecture and attended open studios in Paris during 1908: at the Académie Julian, Académie Colarossi and Académie de la Grande Chaumière. He returned to London and began a career as professional artist. On 6 September 1911, Morley married Lilias Swain (Hyde, Cheshire 3 January 1880 – London 30 January 1973) at St Philip’s Church, Earl’s Court Road, Kensington. The couple honeymooned in Florence, Venice and Paris.
Lilias was teaching calligraphy and embroidery at the Royal College when she and Morley became engaged. She had studied design there under William Lethaby. She was trained in lettering and illumination by Professor Edward Johnston and went on to become his first assistant. She studied embroidery under Grace Christie (1872-1953) whom she assisted after her graduation. Lilias shared digs in Chelsea with fellow RCA student Sylvia Pankhurst who, like Lilias, was from Manchester.
A weak heart and lifelong asthma excluded Morley from active service during both wars. The Morleys lived in Earl’s Court and from 1918 in Kensington. In 1923, Thomas Morley purchased for his son, wife and their two daughters a four-storey terraced house on Pembroke Road. Here he established home and studio. The couple had two daughters, Elinor Beryl (7 September 1912 – 26 September 1998) and Julia Morley (2 September 1917 – 16 May 2008), both of whom went on to train at the Royal Academy Schools. Julia Morley won a scholarship to study mural painting at the Slade School of Art and became a professional painter and muralist.
The Morley family holidayed in Italy in the Spring and during August each year in addition to sketching holidays to countryside or coastal regions of England and Wales. They were often joining – or joined by – artist friends. John Christian points out that his watercolours, which looked back to Philip Wilson Steer and the English landscape tradition with a ‘strong sense of place, technical assurance and characteristic integrity’, were noted for their ‘freedom and spontaneity’. As Lilias Morley recalled, ‘when working in watercolour he worked very rapidly and with great concentration, completely oblivious to anything going on around him. If a first attempt did not please him he tore it up and immediately painted another one of the same subject’.
Despite the worldwide economic recession following the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Morley continued to paint and engrave throughout the 1930s. From September 1932, he taught painting and life drawing two days a week at St. Martin’s School of Art and took on portrait commissions to supplement his income. Morley’s friend and Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools, Sir Walter Westley Russell RA employed him as visiting teacher.
Late in 1940 Morley’s home and studio were bomb damaged and left uninhabitable. He and Lilias relocated to live with his newly married daughter Beryl and her husband Captain John Castle. They shared a small cottage in Wool, Dorset near the Army Fighting Vehicle School at Bovington Camp where Castle trained soldiers to drive tanks.
The Ministry of Information provided Morley with a permit to make drawings of the Camp. Other commissions followed including one to record the destruction at Southampton docks. Morley also completed a number of short commissions for the War Artists’ Advisory Committee and recorded undergoing repairs to damaged vessels at Falmouth. These paintings are now in the Imperial War Museum. At Wool, Morley had his first heart attack. The couple returned to Kensington in 1943. Weakened by a series of heart attacks and bouts of asthma, he died in September that year.
Lilias remained at 4 Pembroke Road until her death in January 1973. Morley’s studio remained largely undisturbed during this time. When Lydia Russell died in 1944, Sir Walter Westley Russel, Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools (1927-42), lodged with Lilias Morley in rooms at the top of the house. He died there in April 1949. Carel Weight RA, Professor of Painting at the Royal College of Art, rented Morley’s studio to the rear of the property accessed from Pembroke Walk.
The ethos and camaraderie of artist groups appealed to Harry Morley. He was an active member of the following societies and institutions:
Member of the Society of Graphic Art
Member of the Art Workers’ Guild
Member of the Society of Mural Decorators and Painters in Tempera
Member of the Royal Society of British Artists (RBA)
Associate Member of the Royal Watercolour Society (ARWS)
Associate Member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (ARE)
Faculty of Engraving at the British School at Rome
Fellow of the Royal Watercolour Society (RWS)
Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (RE)
Master of the Art Workers’ Guild
Associate of the Royal Academy of Arts (ARA)
Member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters (RP)
Vice-President of the Royal Watercolour Society (VPRWS)
Edmund B. d’Auvergne
The Nightside of Paris (Werner Laurie, 1909)
A Book of Modern Palestine (London: Thomas Nelson, 1910-13?)
Edward Verrall Lucas
A Wanderer in Florence (London: Methuen, 1912)
Alfred H. Hyatt
The Charm of Paris (London: Chatto and Windus, 1913)
Alfred H. Hyatt
The Charm of Edinburgh (London: Chatto and Windus, 1913)
Cambridge from Within (London: Chatto and Windus, 1913)
Edward Verrall Lucas
A Wanderer in Venice (London: Methuen, 1914)
Cities of Sicily (London: Methuen, 1926)
Edward Verrall Lucas
A Wanderer in Rome (London: Methuen, 1926)
THE 2008 DEATH OF EDGAR HOLLOWAY MARKED the passing of the last surviving artist who flourished as a printmaker during the ‘Etching Boom’ of the 1920s and 1930s. A miner’s son and child prodigy, Holloway was a teenager when he first enjoyed success in the early 1930s. A self-taught printmaker, he was etching and printing the plates on his own press at fifteen, selling 10-shilling impressions from a bicycle that he peddled throughout his native south Yorkshire. His father enrolled him on a correspondence drawing course, arranged letters of introduction into the art world and moved the family from Doncaster to London. By the age of twenty, Holloway staged two solo exhibitions in central London, his work had been purchased by the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, and his sitters for portraits included T. S. Eliot, Stephen Spender and Herbert Read.
Holloway’s anecdotes of key figures of the art world during the inter-war years – among them, curators Campbell Dodgson, Martin Hardie, and Malcolm Salaman, and printmakers John Copley, Paul Drury, Ernest Lumsden, and Joseph Webb – provided fascinating and invaluable insights into a unique period in the history of British printmaking.
During the 1920s there had been an unprecedented demand for contemporary etchings, though Holloway began a little too late to gain financially from the available opportunities. In search of marketable subjects, he made expeditions into the countryside armed with copper plates and a needle. Back in his studio he followed Ernest Lumsden’s seminal 1924 book The Art of Etching, printing editions of popular landmarks and prospects like his 1930 drypoints Lincoln Cathedral, Fountains Abbey, and The Mansion House, Doncaster. In 1931, Lumsden purchased several etchings and invited Holloway to become a member of the Society of Artist Printers in Edinburgh. The young artist’s work also attracted the attention of influential etchers such as Muirhead Bone, Francis Dodd and James McBey.
By 1931 Holloway was in London making a modest living undertaking portrait commissions and selling watercolours and prints of such popular subjects as Eastcote (1932) and Essex Street Water Gate (1934). In 1935 he met the Scottish painter-printmaker William Wilson. They became close friends, travelling together in the UK and Europe. For six months they lived and worked in Essex, bought an etching press and spent their days drawing, painting and printing. Bosses Farm and Latton Priory, both etched in 1936, convey mood and atmosphere through dramatic light, extremes of weather and the expressive use of mark making. By now, Holloway had abandoned his summary linear approach to build up the image in a densely etched, painterly application of line.
Exempted from military service, Holloway held teaching posts in Shropshire and London, drawing views of the blitzed capital. In 1941 he converted to Roman Catholicism and became interested in the writings of Eric Gill. He visited Capel-y-ffin in the Black Mountains where Gill had lived in the 1920s. There, Holloway met Daisy Monica Hawkins, Gill’s model for Drawings from Life (1940). Holloway began a series of portraits of Daisy Monica. Six weeks later they married.
To support a growing young family, Holloway returned to Doncaster and worked as a sign writer. In 1949 he accepted an invitation from Philip Hagreen to join the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic, a community of Catholic artists founded at Ditchling by Gill and Hilary Pepler in 1918. Gill’s views on the status of the artist within the community and the role of art shaped Holloway’s attitude towards craftsmanship. For the next twenty-two years, he was a graphic designer, undertaking commissions for lettering, cartography and dust jackets for Britain’s leading publishers. In 1957, not foreseeing that he would ever again take up etching, he sold all but eleven of his copper plates to a scrap-metal dealer.
Though Holloway returned to watercolour painting in 1969, his passion for etching was undiminished. Demonstrating an ease and facility born of maturity, his lyrical landscapes of the South Downs, Wales, Spain and France became larger and more expressionistic. Liberated from detailed observation, he became open to experimentation with etching processes. Between 1972 and 1975, he was commissioned to make watercolours and etchings of the industrial heritage of Troy, in Upstate New York.
Daisy Monica died in September 1979. During long periods at home nursing his wife, Holloway took up line engraving working under the influence of his friend Philip Hagreen.
Holloway will best be remembered as an etcher of portraits, for nowhere is his keen observation and technical virtuosity more evident. During a lifetime of study and self-analysis, he made more etched self portraits than any other British printmaker. With a consistency and conviction comparable to that of Rembrandt, he drew himself in various guises, using bodily gesture and facial expression to suggest different aspects of his personality or state of mind, and over time responded to the aging process. They form a pictorial autobiography. His first self portrait was a drypoint of 1931, aged 16, and his most recent The Fedora, his thirty-third, was etched in 2002, at age 88.
In later years Holloway was fortunate to witness a new enthusiasm for his work as he rose on the tide of interest in prints of the ‘Etching Revival’. In addition, his association with, and portraits of eminent writers and artists, his marriage to Daisy Monica, and his membership of the Ditchling Guild all played a part in drawing the attention of scholars to the artist and his work. His drawings and prints continued to find their way into public collections from the British Museum to New York Public Library.
From 1979 he staged a succession of solo exhibitions in Britain and America. As new commissions followed, the revived interest in his early etching fueled his desire to make prints. The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford mounted a retrospective exhibition of prints in 1991. That year, almost sixty years after his first unsuccessful application at age eighteen, Holloway was finally elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers. National touring exhibitions followed in 1994, 1999, 2001 and 2004. In 1996, Scolar Press published Robert Meyrick’s A Catalogue Raisonné of Etchings and Engravings by Edgar Holloway.
In November 2008, The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph and The Independent newspapers carried full and half page illustrated obituaries of Holloway. In 2009, there followed an exhibition of his watercolours at Monnow Valley Arts, while at Abergavenny Museum ‘A World Untouched’ explored the work of Eric Gill, David Jones and Holloway at Capel-y-ffin. The RE mounted a small memorial exhibition at the Bankside Gallery. Aberystwyth University, which along with the Ashmolean holds the UK’s largest public collection of Holloway’s work, celebrated a life’s work in the context of his Etching Revival contemporaries: Graham Sutherland, Bouverie Hoyton, Paul Drury, Webb, F. L. Griggs, and Gerald Brockhurst.
Such exhibitions represent the culmination of a resurgence of interest in Holloway’s work as an etcher and watercolourist. While his work stands apart from much contemporary art, he acknowledged and reinforced a sound art historical tradition, as evidenced in 2009 when the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam purchased Self Portrait No.7 for Holloway had taken his inspiration from Rembrandt.
Holloway was fortunate to witness the art world turn full circle and observe his prints attract the public acclaim they deserved.
Aberystwyth 2009 & 2018
Robert Meyrick. Obituaries and Printmaking Today.
Robert Meyrick. Supplement to The Etchings and Engravings of Edgar Holloway. (Aberystwyth University School of Art Museum and Galleries Press, 2004). 24pp. ISBN 1 899095 21 7
Robert Meyrick. Edgar Holloway and Friends: an Artist’s Collection of Prints from the Thirties. (Aberystwyth University School of Art Museum and Galleries in association Wolseley Fine Arts, London, 1999). 36pp. ISBN 1 899095 16 0
Robert Meyrick. The Etchings and Engravings of Edgar Holloway RBA RE. (London: Scolar, 1996. 114pp. Published in two editions: Standard ISBN 1 85928 304 7 & Special ISBN 1 85928 306 3
Robert Meyrick. Edgar Holloway at 80. (London: Wolseley Fine Art, 1994). 40pp. ISBN 1 899095 00 4
Robert Meyrick. On Reflection.
Robert Meyrick. Edgar Holloway at 80 : A Retrospective.
National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, 14 April – 28 May 1994
Hove Museum and Art Gallery, 25 June – 24 July 1994
Abbott Hall Art Gallery and Museum, Kendall, 1 August – 3 September 1994
Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, September – 8 October 1994
The Gallery in Cork Street, London, 18 October – 11 November 1994
Robert Meyrick. Edgar Holloway and Friends.
Towner Art Gallery and Museum, Eastbourne, 6 November 1999 – 9 January 2000
National Museum and Art Gallery of Wales, Cardiff, 29 January – 12 March 2000
Museum of Modern Art, Wales, Machynlleth, 27 March – 29 April 2000
Abbot Hall Art Gallery and Museum, Kendal, 9 May – 18 June 2000
Gracefield Arts Centre, Dumfries, 1 – 30 September 2000
Wolseley Fine Arts, London, 4 – 28 October 2000
Wakefield Art Gallery, 11 November 2000 – 7 January 2001
Royal Albert Memorial Art Gallery, Exeter 20 January 2000 – 2 March 2001
Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh, 31 March – 19 April 2001
Perth Museum and Art Gallery, 17 May – 16 June 2001
Bankside Gallery, London, July 2001
AT AN EARLY AGE, JOSEPH WEBB was acclaimed a ‘master etcher’; his ecclesiastical-looking structures Rat Barn, widely considered to be his masterpiece, and the iconic Dream Barn, were etched when he was just twenty years old. By 1932, the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum had each acquired five of his prints. Soon he was exhibiting in London, Chicago, New York and the Paris Salon. In 1933, aged 25, he staged his first solo exhibition at P. & D. Colnaghi in Old Bond Street, the most prestigious of the London print dealers and publishers. Its Director Harold Wright was a keen advocate of Webb’s work and, not long afterwards, they collaborated to compile a catalogue raisonné of his prints. Yet despite this early promise and his absolute faith in his worth as an artist, Webb was unable to sustain his reputation and career. After 1933 he made prints only sporadically, finally giving up etching in 1947. Subsequently, he helped his common-law wife manage a café in Reading and, during the last six years of his life, ran a boarding house in South Kensington; few who encountered him would have realised that he was an artist.
To be continued …