Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Early 20th Century Wood Engraving

The first half of the twentieth century saw a blossoming in the art of wood engraving. Of course, there have been some stunning works done since then but changing tastes in book illustration, and in fact, in the desire for illustrations at all, have somewhat relegated the art to the realm of the private press. It was in that first half of the last century when, as well as the finely printed and massively expensive books of the Golden Cockerel Press, for example, wood engraving was being used as the illustration method of choice in all manner of mainstream books as well.
So this little exhibition catalogue was probably rather timely. The illustrations below are from the booklet. We have, from top to bottom, Eric Gill (The Aldine Bible, 1936), Blair Hughes-Stanton (Four Poems by Milton, 1933), Agnes Miller-Parker (Through the Woods, 1936), Eric Ravilious (Almanak, 1929) and Clifford Webb (And The Runner, 1937).
Obviously, there's a lot to know and a lot to love about early 20th century wood engraving but here's Callum's idiot summary: for beautiful single lines you can't beat Eric Gill; for eroticism in long slender bodies you can't beat Blair Hughes-Stanton; and for subtlety and delicacy of light and shade in the natural world it's Agnes Miller-Parker all the way. (and so many more of course...)

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