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A Craft Engrained: Wood Engravings by Gwen Raverat and Artists of Today

4 April to 25 June 2017

Watts Contemporary Gallery

Free

A Craft Engrained showcases work by Gwen Raverat and three of the most eminent wood engravers of today: Hilary Paynter, Howard Phipps and Anne Desmet RA.

Born into an illustrious, free-thinking family, Gwen Raverat (1885-1957) grew up in Cambridge and throughout her life was close to members of the artistic and intellectual elites of the time. She took up wood engraving in the early 20th century when it was a deeply unfashionable art form. Her works were key in reviving the craft of wood engraving and establishing it as an independent expressive art form. In 1920 Raverat was one of ten founder-members of the Society of Wood Engravers (SWE).

By the 1950s, a post war shortage of materials and the development of new printing techniques meant there was less demand for wood engraving. By the early 1970s, screen printing, pop art and photography eclipsed wood engraving, and its particular charms were largely overlooked. In the early 1980s, Hilary Paynter was among a group who worked to revive the then-moribund SWE, re-establishing its annual show and producing a quarterly magazine. The SWE now has over seventy artist members from Britain and overseas.

The three contemporary artists selected for this exhibition — Anne Desmet RA, Hilary Paynter and Howard Phipps — are outstanding exponents of the craft today. Their subject matter, ranging from landscape to architecture, whimsy to socio-political commentary, show that it is an art form very much alive and well.

All artwork is for sale.

Gwen Raverat (1885-1957), granddaughter of Charles Darwin, was a leading figure in the revival of wood engraving in the first half of the 20th Century. She was bought up in Cambridge, a childhood recollected in her memoir Period Piece. One of the first women to attend the Slade School of Art, she moved among the creative circles of the day, numbering members of the Bloomsbury group among her friends. Her style of engraving — more fluid and impressionistic than many of the engravers before her — was hugely influential and took wood engraving beyond the pages of book illustration to a new level.