Celebrating Britain’s vibrant history of linocut printing

Dulwich Picture Gallery’s new show spotlights the work of a group of artists from the Grosvenor School of Art during the inter-war period, who transformed everyday scenes such as public transport and sporting events into modernist artworks

Founded by Scottish wood engraver Iain Macnab in 1925, Grosvenor School of Art in London is remembered for its brief but big part in reviving public interest in printmaking in Britain during the interwar period.

Headed up by teacher and artist Claude Flight, the group of artists that came out of the school became known for creating vibrant prints of everyday scenes, which championed the idea that linocuts should be ‘an art of the people for their homes’.

Top: Cyril Power, The Tube Station, c.1932, © The Estate of Cyril Power, Bridgeman Images. Photo: The Wolfsonian–Florida International University. Above: Lill Tschudi, Gymnastic Exercises, 1931. Photo: Bonhams © The Estate of Lill Tschudi, courtesy of Mary Ryan Gallery New York
Leonard Beaumont, Nymphs, Errant, 1934, Photo: Museums Sheffield © The Estate of Leonard Beaumont

A new show at Dulwich Picture Gallery in south east London is marking 90 years since the first exhibition of British linocuts went on display at the Redfern Gallery in London.

The show features 120 prints, drawings and posters that came out of the movement, including works by some of Flight’s leading students such as Cyril Power, Sybil Andrews, Lill Tschudi, William Greengrass and Leonard Beaumont.

Ethel Spowers, Wet Afternoon, 1929-30. Photo: Osborne Samuel, © The Estate of Ethel Spowers
Cyril Power, The Merry-Go-Round, c.1930, © The Estate of Cyril Power, Bridgeman Images. Photo: The Wolfsonian–Florida International University

Arranged thematically, the show demonstrates the influence of avant-garde movements such as Futurism on the artists, and their ability to translate everyday scenes into striking modernist compositions.

One room is dedicated to sporting culture, with prints depicting the athletic prowess and mass spectatorship of events such as Wimbledon, and another to work and play, including Power’s portrayal of the thrills of the funfair in The Merry-Go-Round.

Andrew Power, Wimbledon, 1933; © The Estate of Cyril Power, Bridgeman Images, © The Estate of Sybil Andrews, © TfL from the London Transport Museum Collection
Andrew Power, Lord’s, Oval, 1934, © The Estate of Cyril Power, Bridgeman Images, © The Estate of Sybil Andrews, © TfL from the London Transport Museum Collection

One of the larger sections in the show focuses on transport, and includes original tube posters by Power and Andrews (who worked under the name Andrew-Power) for Frank Pick, Managing Director of London Underground in the 20s and 30s.

Also on display are some of the original tools and studies showing how the school helped to revolutionise the linocut process, as well as rarely seen sketchbooks from the Power estate and family photographs of the artists.

Claude Flight, Speed, 1922, © The Estate of Claude Flight, Bridgeman Images. Photo: © Elijah Taylor (Brick City Projects)
Cyril Power, The Sunshine Roof, c.1934, © The Estate of Cyril Power, Bridgeman Images. Photo: Osborne Samuel Gallery, London

Guest Curator Gordon Samuel, who specialises in Modern British painting, says: “I have been exhibiting the Grosvenor School linocuts for the past 35 years at exhibitions and art fairs at home and abroad, and they never fail to attract an appreciative audience.

“What will strike visitors are the vivid colours and the modernity of the work – [it’s] amazing to think that these were made over 90 years ago and remain just as compelling today as back in the 30s.”

Sybil Andrews, Concert Hall, 1929, © The Estate of Sybil Andrews. Photo: Osborne Samuel Gallery, London
Eveline Syme, Outskirts of Siena, 1930-1; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Cutting Edge: Modernist British Printmaking runs from 19 June – 8 September at Dulwich Picture Gallery. Entry costs £16.50, plus concessions; dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk

GROUP GRAPHIC DESIGNER

Bedford, Bedfordshire