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Edward Bawden 2009

Detail from Woodpidgeon, Wallpaper by Edward Bawden, 1927

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Edward Bawden

3rd October 2009 - 31st January 2010 at Bedford Gallery

 

Edward Bawden R.A., C.B.E. was one of the most significant graphic designers of the 20th Century. He was a watercolourist, printmaker, muralist, commercial artist, designer, illustrator and teacher. His distinctive style was not influenced by the vagaries of fashion or trends.

 

During the years 1981 to 1989, Edward Bawden donated the contents of his studio to Cecil Higgins Art Gallery. This collection of over 3000 items covers his entire oeuvre, from his early student days at the Cambridge School of Art in 1919, to commissions from the Folio Society in the 1980s, and includes a series of linocuts based on commissioned work, and printed specifically for Cecil Higgins Art Gallery.

 

John Bunyan Tapestry designed by Edward Bawden

Pilgrim's Progress, tapestry designed by Edward Bawden, 1977

 

The association between Bawden and Cecil Higgins Art Gallery began in 1977, when he was commissioned to design a tapestry to celebrate the tercentenary of the publication of Bunyan’s 'The Pilgrim’s Progress', and Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee. Soon after this, Bawden wrote to the curator :

 

My own wish would be for all the jigsaw pieces of my life’s work to be together, not scattered willy-nilly to any institution… you know, I would much prefer to have my work in a good provincial gallery, than distributed amongst the great London Galleries and Museums… I must say I should feel immensely happy if I could be allowed to leave my remains to Bedford.”

 

Edward Bawden was born in 1903, the same year as Graham Sutherland, Ceri Richards, John Piper, Barbara Hepworth and Eric Ravilious. The Royal College of Art, where Paul Nash was one of his tutors, was pivotal in Bawden’s design career. It was at this time that his interest in printmaking began, and here that he met Harold Curwen. The role of Curwen Press, which took the high standards of private presses and applied them to commercial printing, cannot be underestimated in Bawden’s career. Bawden received commissions from Curwen throughout his life (including high profile advertising projects, posters, book covers and wallpapers) enabling him to reach a mass audience.

 

Bawden is famous for his large-scale linocuts, which are masterpieces of design: bold inventive images, focussing on the basic characteristics of a subject, as seen in 'Brighton Pier' (1958), 'The Pagoda, Kew Gardens' (1963) and 'Nine London Monuments' (1966), which nevertheless are incredibly complex in their execution. He was experimental within a traditional medium and could create texture through a mixture of paint-stripper and use of wire brush, supplemented with an almost painterly application of ink on a roller. He might also cut small blocks to generate localised areas of colour within a print.

Edward Bawden, Brighton Pier, linocut, 1958

Detail from Brighton Pier, linocut, 1958 by Edward Bawden

 

Bawden’s commercial design work spanned over 60 years. Commissions included book illustrations, advertisements, posters, wallpapers, ceramics, textiles, furniture and murals. Bawden’s enterprises included wallpaper designs, laboriously hand-printed, using lino rather than woodblocks, and influenced by his hero, William Morris. Although much admired, they were not a commercial success. The design 'Tree and Cow' (1927), was part of Bawden’s first experimentations into wallpaper design and printing; and 'Wood Pigeon (Church and Dove)' (1927), was one of his first designs put into production by Curwen Press.

 

Bawden also set the image for Fortnum & Mason in the periods preceding, and following, the Second World War, when he designed numerous promotional materials: leaflets, order forms, envelopes and catalogues such as 'Good Things to Send Your Friends Overseas' (1937) and 'Entertaining à la Carte' (1959). His graphic designs for these perfectly complement a copywriter’s publicity slogan, with the use of simple, yet incisive lines. Bawden also produced advertising designs for companies such as London Transport, Shell, BP and Twinings.

detail from Fortnum and Mason's 1956 Christmas Catalogue

Detail from Fortnum & Mason's Christmas Catalogue, 1956

 

The exhibition included over 100 works by this highly individual, prolific and influential artist. It offered a unique opportunity to see a full survey of Bawden’s extensive and varied output.

 

Associated Events

Evening openings and film screenings

Thursday 3rd December 2009, 7pm : 'The Titfield Thunderbolt'

Thursday 21st  January 2010, 7pm  : 'Hue & Cry'

 

Archive Afternoons

Friday 6th November and Friday 20th November 2009, 2 - 4pm

This enabled visitors to explore work by Edward Bawden not included in the exhibition, guided by curatorial staff.

 

Evening lecture

Thursday 22nd October 2009, 7pm

Edward Bawden by Peyton Skipwith, Executor of the Estate of Edward Bawden and a former Director of the Fine Art Society

 

Curwen Studio taster days

Saturday 17th October and Saturday 14th November 2009, 11am – 4pm : The Curwen Studio, Chilford Hall, Linton, Cambridge CB21 4LE

 

Many of Edward Bawden’s best known works were printed at the Curwen Press and the Curwen Studio. Visitors to the studio discovered how lithography works and made an original print of their own.

 

Artists’ talks and workshops

Saturday 10th October 2009, 11.30am-3.30pm

Talk and linocut demonstration from printmaker Chris Brown, followed by a chance to make your own linocut print.

Christopher Brown studied at the Royal College of Art where he was introduced to, and eventually assisted, Edward Bawden. Bawden encouraged him to explore linocut as a medium; since then, Christopher has exhibited at the Royal Academy and the V&A.

 

Saturday 7th November 2009, 2pm-4pm

Illustration and typography workshop with designer Jonny Hannah

Jonny Hannah studied illustration at Liverpool Art School and the Royal College of Art. He works as a commercial illustrator for clients including The Daily Telegraph and produces prints, posters and books through his own Cake & Ale Press.

 

Saturday 23rd January 2010, 2pm-4pm

Collage workshop with artist Mark Hearld

Mark Hearld studied illustration at Glasgow School of Art followed by an MA in Natural History Illustration at the Royal College of Art. Working across a number of media, he takes his inspiration from the flora and fauna of Britain and is influenced by Bawden.

 

Events for children and families

Saturday 3rd October 2009, 11am-4pm

The Big Bawden Draw

A Big Draw event inspired by the creativity of this unique artist celebrated the opening of this exhibition.

 

Thursday 29th October 2009, 2 - 3.30pm, 8+ years

Linocut Landscapes

Cut and print your own lino design

 

Wednesday 28th October 2009, 2 - 3.30pm, 8+ years

Poster Power

Poster design and illustration with artist Jonny Hannah

 

Events for adults

The following Lunchtime Talks were given : 

7th October : The Edward Bawden Archive

21st October : Edward Bawden: master of the linocut

11 November : Printmaking at the Curwen Studio – Tom Martin, Studio Manager

2 December : Bawden and his Circle

6 January  : Eric Ravilious

20 January : Edward Bawden – Art vs. Design