Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Edward Bawden - part 1

This is part 1 of a 4-part post on the works of British Artist Edward Bawden, one of a group of artists associated with a community of artists that existed around Great Bardfield during the middle years of the 20th century.

Great Bardfield is a village in north west Essex, England. The principal artists who lived there between 1930 and 1970 were John Aldridge RA, Edward Bawden CBE RA, George Chapman, Stanley Clifford-Smith, Audrey Cruddas, Walter Hoyle (principally a printmaker, who ran the printing workshops at Cambridge Art School when I was there, and taught me to do linocuts in the style of Bawden and himself), Eric Ravilious, Sheila Robinson, Michael Rothenstein, Kenneth Rowntree and Marianne Straub. Other artists associated with the group include Duffy Ayers, John Bolam (who taught me painting at Cambridge Art School, and later became the Principal of the school), Bernard Cheese, Tirzah Garwood, Joan Glass, David Low and Laurence Scarfe. Great Bardfield Artists were diverse in style but shared a love for figurative art, making the group distinct from the better known St Ives art community in Cornwall, who, after the war, were chiefly dominated by abstractionists.

Edward Bawden (1903 – 1989) can be seen as a key artist in the Bardfield group. His long career spanned most of the twentieth century, and comfortably straddled boundaries and borders between the fine and applied arts, boundaries which are seen as so immovable today. Even before his appointment as an Official War Artist in 1940, Bawden had established a reputation as a designer, illustrator and painter. As well as these areas his output over the years include murals, posters, designs for wallpaper, ceramics, lithographic prints and watercolours.

Edward Bawden was born in Braintree, Essex in 1903, and was perhaps more firmly rooted in Essex than any other artist represented in the North West Essex Collection. Bawden attended the Friends' School in Saffron Walden. At the age of eleven he strained his heart and was excused participation in sports. This may have allowed him to devote more time to drawing, and his portraits and caricatures attracted the attention of his tutors who arranged for him to spend a day a week at the Cambridge School of Art. The school, now part of Anglia Ruskin University, had been founded to comply with the Ruskinian philosophies of improving design for industry, and encouraging amateur aspirations. Bawden fitted perfectly.

Before long, he had gained entry to the Royal College of Art. Here he was taught by Paul Nash (a lasting influence on Bawden and his contemporaries), and the popular E. W. Tristram. It was at the RCA that Bawden first met his 'kindred spirit', Eric Ravilious, the two quickly becoming firm friends, though entirely different in temperament. Shortly after leaving the college, the pair gained a prestigious commission to paint a mural for the refreshment room of Morley College in London. He first rented half of Brick House, the imposing Georgian house in Great Bardfield in the mid-1920s with Ravilious, and after his father purchased the whole house for him on his marriage to Charlotte Epton in 1932, he continued to live there until moving to Saffron Walden in 1970 after Charlotte's death.


Brick House, Great Bardfield in 1960 by Ronald Maddox
 watercolour

Brick House is on the left, on the right is the Old Police House.

I am showing Bawden's work chronologically by date, so there will be a mixture of paintings, commercial work and textiles:


n.d. Night and Day 
textile 57 x 112 cm

Cat 
linocut

n.d Beirut 
watercolour

1926 Fruit and Napkin 
wallpaper for Curwen Press

1927 Bullford Mill near Black Notley Essex 
watercolour

1927 London Back Garden 
engraving 19 x 10.5 cm

1927 Redcliffe Road 
engraving 15 x 9 cm

1927 Southcliffe Beach 
engraving

1928 Wallpaper design for Curwen Press

1928 Mermaid and Whale wallpaper for Curwen Press

1929 Knole Park wallpaper for Curwen Press

1929 Lagoon wallpaper for Curwen Press

1931 The Three Graces drawing

c1932 Walton Castle, Clevedon, Somerset 
poster for Shell Oil 
lithograph 74.6 x 113 cm

1933 Advertisement for Shell Oil

1932-33 Façade wallpaper for Curwen Press

Façade was one of the four 'Plaistow Wallpapers' designs commissioned by Curwen Press in 1932, and so called because the press was located in Plaistow, East London. They were produced in lithograph, after the original linocuts. This design was the most popular of all Bawden's wallpapers, selling a total of 3,899 rolls. While 'Façade' might be thought just a neutral title, is it possible that it could have been in the artist's mind because of the popularity around that time of William Walton's musical suites of that name, based on Edith Sitwell's poems. Frederick Ashton's ballet of Façade was premiered in 1931.


1933 Node wallpaper for Curwen Press

1934 Curwen Press Newsletter No. 8 cover illustration

1935 Advertisement for Shell Oil

1935 Wallpaper design for Curwen Press
1935 Park Lane press advertisement for Westminster Bank Ltd.


c1935 Othello illustration

c1935 The Swiss Family Robinson advertisement for Twinings

1936 Advertisement for Shell Oil

c1936 Imperial Aiways folder Le Touquet

1937 Abstract Design from Signature magazine

1937 Book jacket for Faber

1937 Cattle Market lithograph

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