Last week I visited the Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London to see the ‘Modernist British Printmaking’ Exhibition, which showcases pioneers of British lino-cut printmaking in a fine display of prints, drawings and posters created in the 1930’s.
By Claude Flight
First, let me tell you about the venue. Dulwich Picture Gallery is the world’s first public art gallery which was founded in 1811 when Sir Francis Bourgeois RA graciously bequeathed his collection of paintings by old masters, “for the inspection of the public”.
And what a collection. One of my all-time favourite paintings by Rembrandt – The Girl at the Window, is housed there.
Other great artists whose works are also there include Gainsborough, Rubens, Canaletto, Poussin, Murillo and many more.
This gallery puts on the most wonderful exhibitions. I probably visit three or four times a year, they have a lovely cafeteria which doesn’t disappoint and parking on the road outside is free. Why more people don’t know about this gallery or don’t make the trip, I don’t know, but I implore you to make the time to visit. It really is worth it.
Gale by Sybil Andrews
Now back to the print exhibition. In 1925 Iain Macnab, a Scottish wood engraver set up the Grosvenor School of Modern Art, which was a private art school, in his home in Pimlico, London. The school didn’t have a formal curriculum as such which meant that students could study whenever they wanted to. Taught by Macnab and Claude Flight from 1925 – 1930 classes were available both during the day and as evening classes. The school closed in 1940.
The Eight by Cyril Power
Classes available were life drawing, lino cutting, composition & design, history of modern arts and a dance class delivered by Helen Wingrave, Iain MacNab’s wife. Frank Rutter, the British art critic, curator and activist, taught a class entitled “From Cézanne to Picasso”. The school is recognised as being responsible for reviving interest in the area of printmaking, in particular lino-cut prints.
Students at the school included Cyril Power, Sybil Andrews, Leonard Beaumont, Lill Tschundi and William Greengrass.
These Grosvenor artists influenced by Futurism and Cubism became known for their vibrant and iconic prints which just ooze energy and reflect life in Britain between the world wars. Their work also incorporated elements from the art deco period, but they produced their own energetic geometric designs. The works reflect the world at that time of change and explore movement (which is so wonderfully captured by so many of them), transport, speed, sport, industry, labour and leisure.
In Full Flight by Sybil Andrews
There are over 200 original prints on show in this exhibition and whilst not a particularly keen feminist myself, I was surprised and pleased that so women from that era were able to promote their work in a time where women really did not have a voice.
A couple of the prints appear to have faded a little but again I was surprised by just how vibrant they still are all this time later.
I am about to take part in a print exhibition myself and will no doubt draw inspiration from this incredible exhibition which, I hope to visit again before it finishes.
As part of the exhibition, Japanese paper cut artist, Nahoko Kojima created the most beautiful and unique paper sculpture which hangs in the entrance to the gallery. It is suspended on clear fishing line and moves beautifully as you pass by it. Don’t forget to look up and see it.
The exhibition is on until 8th September this year. The gallery is open from 10am – 5pm, Tuesday to Sunday and is closed on Mondays except bank holidays. If you book online you can save £1.50 on your ticket and concessions are available too. https://www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk/