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'Scene Through Wood: A Century Of Wood Engraving' by Anne Desmet RA

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Mon 18th May 2020
Blog Categories: Inspiration & Books Reviews | Exhibition Reviews | Society of Wood Engravers | Wood Engraving Printmaking | All / Filter

Book:'Scene Through Wood: A Century Of Wood Engraving' by Anne Desmet RA
256 pages ; Exhibition Catalogue
This Edition Published By:Ashmolean Museum 2020

It is unfortunate that this exhibition had to be postponed due to the Coronavirus, and during May I updated this post as I've had a chance to start reading it (home schooling 7&9 year olds etc. and I've had little time).

I was looking forward to seeing this exhibition for two reasons. Firstly, in the SWE's centenary year it would have been great to see this 'one in a generation' exhibition that Anne Desmet referred to in an Instagram post (18th May 2020). Secondly, having lived in Oxford for a year for my industrial placement (1994-5), I grew to love Oxford and would like to have gone back with the family. I do hope the current COVID-19 pandemic will calm down sufficiently for the exhibition to be shown soon.

I was fortunate to be able to get a copy of the catalogue in advance, and whilst I haven't had time to fully read it yet, I have very much enjoyed what I have read & looked at, and will include my highlights.

Exhibition catalogue
Scene Through Wood: A Century Of Wood Engraving - Exhibition catalogue

The catalogue is very well written and printed & presented. It starts with introductions written by Simon Brett and Anne Desmet, and continues with biographies and examples of many artists work organised in subject type categories - Storytelling, Natural World, Abstraction and Detail etc. which makes sense.

All prints are very well reproduced, with detailed descriptions / details about each print. This is more than just size, it contains a wealth of information, of use to both engravers and collectors alike. This is of particular interest to me as I'm interested in the materials used too. A good example would be Anne Desmet's description of her print 'Progress/Progression?' (1989-90) which states:

 9 wood engravings (lemonwood) on Basingwerk Parchment paper, (+ size, catalogue, purchase info, copyright, photographer etc.). 
- p238 of 'Scene Through Wood: A Century Of Wood Engraving' by Anne Desmet RA

From this we know not only that it is a wood engraving, but how many blocks were used, and of particular interest, that Lemonwood was used. For other engravings, we find that for example Paul Kershaw used 2 blocks (p241), one of boxwood and the other of Tulip wood. This is particularly interesting to me as I have 2 boards of tulip wood but have never found it works well with my engraving tools (too crumbly) but he has used it successfully - how I wonder - was his timber more substantial, did he use different tools?

On others, such as Edwina Ellis we see she not only uses Boxwood, but Brazilian Boxwood (p236, 237), but on other engravings she used Acetal-resin (p235).

Quite understandably no more details other than 'wood engraving' are available - some blocks were engraved many years ago and those details have been lost for example, and that is fair enough, what is available is interesting enough.

The paper used, where known, is very interesting to, as is the colour - photos of some engravings that state white paper show ? off white paper presumably due to paper aging or photographic process (e.g. Geoffrey Wales p232), other engravings state off white or cream paper for example.

The biographical notes about engravers includes relevant information about them as people and their work. It is interesting to see some less well known engravers such as Cynthia Burnley (p226) in as well (and for me it is an more abstract which interests me).

Given the difficulty in reproducing the fine detail of wood in photographic etc. form in books (Albert Garrett complained about that in his book) the engravings look to be very well reproduced.

If you have any interest in Wood Engraving, whether or not you are able to get to the exhibition when it is rescheduled, this would be an excellent publication to have.

Tags: wood engraving,woodengraving,wood engravers,woodengravers,engraving,engraver,printmaking,print making,printmaker,print maker,relief,block,print,printing

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