‘THERE ARE CLOSE PARALLELS between the land and the people of Cornwall and of Wales,’ Tom Cross wrote me in 1995. ‘Each has kept its Celtic identity and they share a magic of coast, moor and mountain and the privacy of their wild places.’ At that time, I was curating a retrospective exhibition of Tom’s work for Aberystwyth University School of Art Gallery (30 October – 27 November 1995). It subsequently toured to the University of Birmingham and Penwith Galleries in St Ives.
Painter and art historian Tom Cross trained at Manchester and the Slade Schools of Art. He was Assistant Director of the Welsh Arts Council in Cardiff, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Reading, and Principal of Falmouth School of Art until 1987. In his two seminal books, Painting the Warmth of the Sun: St Ives Artists 1939-1975and The Shining Sands: Artists in Newlyn and St Ives 1880-1930, Cross demonstrated the important contribution to 20th-century British art made by artists working in Cornwall. As well as the landscapes of south-west Cornwall, where Cross lived and worked overlooking an inlet on the Helford River, the Welsh landscape was for him an enduring subject.
I first came to know Tom and his artist-wife Patricia in 1989 when he was appointed External Examiner in Art and in Art History at Aberystwyth University.
Cross Currents: Paintings of Cornwall and Wales 1957-1995 by Tom Cross
THE SWEEPING CURVE OF TERRACED HOUSES perched on hilltops. Precipitous steps and narrow back alleys. Reflections scribbled on wet slate roofs and rain-soaked tarmacadam. Lampposts, chimneys, television aerials, pollard trees, pithead winding gear and railway signals piercing the skyline. Slagheaps cloaked in dreary rainclouds. Miners changing shift. Old men at gossip. Women shopping and children at play. This was the Rhondda of George Chapman, one of the most remarkable and original British painters of the twentieth century who made a hugely significant contribution to art in Wales as the painter of the south Wales coal-mining valleys.
When Chapman discovered the Rhondda Valley in 1953 at age 47 he was a disillusioned painter who had all but abandoned the search for a subject and means of personal expression through paint. A successful graphic designer working for Shell and London Transport during the 1930s, he had given up commercial art to study painting just before the outbreak of World War II. In 1948 he relocated from London to northwest Essex where he lived at Great Bardfield and became an active member of its thriving artistic community that included Edward Bawden, Michael Rothenstein, Bernard Cheese and John Aldridge. This would be the most productive and rewarding period in his career. After he moved with his wife Kate and their young family in 1960 to a moated house in Norfolk, and four years later to the Georgian seaside town of Aberaeron on the west Wales coast, he missed the Open House exhibitions as well as the friendship and support of like-minded artists.
Kate Chapman gave up a career in art to support her husband and to raise their three children. Born in Norfolk in 1926, Kate (née Ablett) was introduced to Chapman in 1946 at Norwich School of Art where she was a student. They married the following year. Kate painted in the constricted space between family life and her husband’s work. Though she painted portraits of her children and a small number of landscapes, it was fruit and vegetable arrangements that mostly preoccupied her. These apparently simple compositions of fruit, eggs, vegetables, domestic utensils and ornaments are subtle yet complex. What appears at first glance to be a casual juxtaposition of watermelon and knife repays further examination. Kate’s interest in antiques was long standing. In Aberaeron she owned a antique shop where many of her favourite objects found their way into her compositions – a Llanelli plate, Belize porcelain, slag-ware beaker, slipware dish and Victorian glass dome filled with stuffed exotic birds.
George Chapman’s quest for a meaningful subject matter and an idiosyncratic style led him to emulate works by the painters he admired: Daumier, Cézanne, Sickert and artists of the Euston Road school. His study Mr Bone, Butcher of Bardfield tells of his high regard for Chaim Soutine and Georges Rouault, while The Threshing Machine, The Water Bowser and Gors Fach, Pennant see Chapman try his hand at abstraction following a visit to St Ives.
During the 1950s and 60s, Chapman staged critically acclaimed solo exhibitions of his mining subjects in London and Cambridge. His paintings were celebrated amid a growing awareness of and interest in the British working classes, made manifest in the work of the so-called ‘Kitchen Sink’ painters, the ‘Angry Young Men’ of literature, and films such as Tony Richardson’s A Taste of Honey. The contrast between the village of Great Bardfield – a quintessentially English mix of medieval, half-timber, thatch and Georgian red-brick properties surrounded by open pastureland – could hardly have been more stark, physically as well as socially, than with the drab mining communities of close-built terraces dwarfed by heavy industry and chapels, enclosed cheek by jowl in the steep-sided, cloud-shrouded valleys that he painted. The period of success Chapman enjoyed, however, was all too short-lived as critics increasingly engaged in the debate surrounding Abstraction, after the Tate Gallery’s 1956 exhibition of American Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art following the Whitechapel exhibition This is Tomorrow.
Chapman’s experience working for Frank Pick at London Transport and Jack Beddington at Shell, along with his training at the Slade School of Art and the painting school at the Royal College of Art, are manifest in his paintings. The Steps and A Welsh Village exhibit dynamic compositions, sensuous handling of paint and attest to his well-honed sense of design and pattern. The weather also plays an important role in the visual drama of Chapman’s paintings as dense clouds break, the skies open, and daylight – for it is rarely sunlight – silhouettes slag tips on the skyline and reflects on the wet surfaces.
Chapman depicted the people that inhabit this harsh environment with a genuine affection. Neighbours engaged in Welsh Gossip, colliers After the Shift and pedestrians on A Steep Road are integral to its makeup. The artist quickly realised that the old mines that had first attracted him to the valleys ‘had nothing more to say’ to him. It was then, Chapman told Huw Weldon in 1962, that he began to paint a ‘visual novel of the mining valley concentrated entirely on the life that is going on there and describing everything the people are doing’. He displays a genuine empathy with the miners and a community whose economy was dependent on the resources hundreds of metres below their village. His palette of earth colours – greys, greens, browns and black – evoke the austerity of the coal-mining valleys. The paint he applied in thick impasto, then scraped back and scratched, represents the hard labour of the miner.
Though most closely associated with the Rhondda Valley, Chapman visited communities across the south Wales coalfield in search of interesting subjects that he felt possessed the qualities of a good picture. ‘Out of the squalid, Chapman can squeeze poetry till the pips squeak,’ wrote John Dalton for The Guardian in 1959, ‘for Chapman people are not crowds, swarming like ants, but individuals […] isolated, purposeful, looking as though they will be the last pedestrians in the world’. ‘If it’s drawing you’re after,’ he added, ‘George Chapman is your man’.
After his move to Great Bardfield, Chapman took up printmaking. On Michael Rothenstein’s press he made his first etchings: Essex Farm at Great Bardfield; Pennant in Cardiganshire where his friends kept a cottage named ‘Gors Fach’; Kate pregnant with their first child; and House on Rocks near Aberfan in south Wales. Rothenstein was a printmaker hugely experienced in relief, intaglio and monotype techniques. While he claimed that he did not teach Chapman, the prints suggest that Rothenstein’s creative processes had rubbed off. House on Rocks, for example, is experimental and inventive in its combination of intaglio processes – soft ground, aquatint and burnishing – and is simplified almost to abstraction. Etching clearly fulfilled Chapman’s graphic needs.
A growing confidence led him to develop etched subjects on a larger scale. Chapman bought a large-bed press that was one of three made for the Great Exhibition in 1851. He drew outdoors directly on to the zinc plate tacked to a board and secured with strap around his neck, or propped on the steering wheel of his car. Imaginative explorations of etching processes gradually gave way to more conventional methods for a series of striking architectural compositions using deeply bitten line and coarse grain aquatint. Commissioned in 1960 by Robert Erskine for St George’s Gallery, the ‘Rhondda Suite’ etchings record a particular place and time: The First Building shows a ‘bubble car’ drive past the first gents public lavatory on entering the lower Rhondda Valley at Trehafod, while Pigeon Huts depicts coops near the Lewis-Merthyr Colliery.
After the Shift and Slagheap Railway, painted some time between 1962 and 1965, signal Chapman’s endeavour to devise a painterly language that approximated the optical effects of the human eye. With his gaze fixed on a point in the distance, it took some time before he was aware of other objects around him. In his statement for a 1962 solo exhibition at the Zwemmer Gallery, he explained ‘there would be areas of full reality against areas of near or complete abstraction where the colour, tone and definition would naturally recede’. His ‘sense of space’ also changed as the objects on which he focussed appeared closer and his ‘immediate surroundings’ – a figure or face in the foreground – ‘became almost transparent’. The object of his gaze was ‘really solid’ while ‘the rest becomes nebulous’. J. M. W. Turner famously sought to arrive at such equivalents in paint for the phenomena of peripheral vision.
The vague foreground of Slagheap Railway serves to lead the viewer on a journey up the hillside along tracks that carry drams loaded with slag to a mountaintop resting-place. As reference material for After the Shift, Chapman engaged his friend, the Aberaeron photographer Ron Davies, to visit a colliery with him to capture – in deliberately blurred photographs – the miners as they emerge from underground. They had been working for an eight-hour shift hewing coal. Toiling in hot restricted seams, the miners, faces blackened by coal dust, were forced to use the back of their hands to clean the eyes, nose and mouth. As a result, they emerged from the cage, thought Chapman, looking like clowns. The driving force, he maintained, was creative rather than political. ‘I have no social comment to make in my paintings’, Chapman told Huw Weldon in 1961, ‘my job as an artist is to take things as they are. Providing I do my job properly, the social comment, if such a thing is needed, will come over by itself’.
By the time he staged his third solo show for the Zwemmer Gallery off Charing Cross Road in 1965, Chapman’s energetic application of paint was as important as the subject itself. ‘Gradually Chapman is becoming more painterly, his colour more subtle, and his surfaces dense with matter’, John Dalton observed in The Guardian on 11 March 1965, ‘some of his surfaces already have that scarred battlefield quality we find in Rembrandt’. Though it was received with critical acclaim, the exhibition was not a financial success and few paintings sold. Tormented by self-doubt and compelled to make a living to provide for his family, Chapman gave up painting, took on more part-time teaching in London – a challenge when faced with a commute from West Wales – made landscape studies locally, and set up in business screen printing lampshades in Aberaeron.
In 1980 he returned to the Rhondda to undertake a commission. There he discovered that his beloved coal-mining valleys had changed almost beyond recognition. All that had once been so familiar had virtually disappeared. The carcass, that neither the inhabitants nor time could fundamentally alter – the hills, the rain and the terraced houses following the contours of the mountainside – had lost none of its former appeal to him. He subsequently took on the challenge to paint the new Rhondda, inspired to reflect the changes that had taken place since that first dark, wet afternoon in 1953 which, critic Royston Lambert pointed out ‘transformed his purpose, his vision and his work’. The paintings, meanwhile, continued to focus on the relationship between the people and their environment.
When George Chapman died at his home in Aberaeron in 1993 at age 85, The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Independent newspapers all featured lengthy illustrated obituaries in recognition of his achievements as a painter, printmaker and graphic designer. The BBC broadcast Sir Huw Weldon’s 1961 award-winning Monitor documentary on Chapman.
It was in 1986 that I first came to know George Chapman and was pleased to have played a small part in the revival of interest in his paintings and prints. We remained close friends. At Mike Goldmark’s request, I curated an exhibition for his Uppingham gallery and wrote the accompanying catalogue. Even today it remains the most comprehensive study of the artist and his work. Many weekends I spent in his studio, sometimes with Katie, looking at paintings, prints and drawings as well as photographs and archival materials, as he recalled his career and shared his perspectives on art and life. I subsequently staged a touring exhibition of Chapman prints and started to compile a catalogue raisonné. Though many of his plates were destroyed in the late 1960s when he used them to repair the hull of his decommissioned lifeboat Yora, those nailed to strengthen the rotten floorboards of his bedroom were rescued and printed by me.
Chapman was then still painting. A new canvas of a miner was on his easel when he died. ‘I got a fantastic shock,’ he had told Huw Weldon in 1961 about his discovery of the Rhondda Valley, ‘I realised that here I could find the material that would perhaps make me a painter at last’. As well as sustain him for the next forty years, that ‘material’ resulted in some of the most significant paintings and etchings ever to concern themselves with Wales and its industrial landscape. ‘It’s a visual history of a locality, that’s what I’m trying to do,’ he told me in February 1987, ‘a simple record of what’s down there. It’s a love affair you know’.
Robert Meyrick, Summer 2017
In a series of exhibitions and publications, Robert Meyrick explores the work of one of the most important artists of the 20th century to document the industrial face of Wales.
Robert Meyrick. George Chapman Goldmark Gallery. (Uppingham, Leicestershire: Goldmark, 1992) 48pp ISBN 1 870507 14 2
Robert Meyrick. George Chapman: The Complete Etchings 1953–1980. Gregynog Festival Exhibition No.3. Aberystwyth: School of Art, 1992) 8pp
Robert Meyrick. ‘George Chapman’. (Obituary) The Independent. 3 November 1993
SEVENTY YEARS AGO, Welsh historian Owen M. Edwards prophesied that one day Wales ‘would wake up to realize’ the ‘greatness’ of Christopher Williams, whose works of art would be regarded as ‘priceless treasures.’ Who is Christopher Williams? Wherein lies his ‘greatness’? And why is it that we have yet to ‘wake up’ to it?
In 2012, the National Library of Wales at Aberystwyth staged Christopher Williams: ‘an artist and nothing else’. It was the largest ever exhibition to showcase Williams’ work. Robert Meyrick conceived, researched and curated the exhibition which drew from previously untapped archives and private collections, providing new insights into the life and career of a man whom David Lloyd George described as ‘one of the most gifted artists Wales has produced.’
‘… the thrill of being on Welsh soil’
Christopher David Williams was born in Maesteg on January 7th, 1873. His mother died two weeks later, and he was christened on her coffin. Within a week, his infant sister died as well. Christopher was raised by a wet nurse and her collier husband in a ‘poor but comfortable’ house at nearby Nantyffyllon. His ‘joyous days among the colliers’ came to an end when his father Evan took him from the woman he had learned to call ‘mam’ to live with him above the family’s grocery store on Commercial Street.
At Llynfi British School in Maesteg, the boy’s talent was soon recognised and encouraged; but his father was determined that Christopher go in for medicine. In 1886, at age 13, Christopher was sent to Monkton House boarding school in Cardiff. Painting lessons ceased. ‘Surrounded by walls,’ with ‘no hills or mountains or trees to look at,’ Christopher yearned for the ‘freedom to roam.’ He nonetheless remained very close to his father who, to him, was also ‘mother, sister, and brother.’
In 1889, at age 16, Christopher transferred to Oswestry High School in Shropshire where he received a liberal education. Once again, he could ramble in the countryside or leap over Offa’s Dyke – simply ‘for the thrill of being on Welsh soil.’
‘… an artist and nothing else’
During autumn 1891, Williams visited a school friend who lived on Merseyside. There, he recalled, ‘providence must have stepped in to effect a great change’ when, at Liverpool’s Walker Art Gallery, he encountered Lord Leighton’s Perseus and Andromeda:
‘I had not looked at that picture more than two minutes before I had made up my mind that I would be an artist and nothing else. Come what may, an artist I would be.’
With his father’s eventual consent, Williams started taking lessons with the watercolour painter Frederick Kerr who taught the elements of art at Neath Technical Institute. In 1893, he won an Entrance Scholarship that entitled him to free tuition at the National Art Training School at South Kensington (now the Royal College of Art).
Being ‘in London in a profession of my own choice,’ Williams marvelled in 1896, ‘A happier life no one could live.’ That year, he was awarded free entry to the Royal Academy Schools where he studied painting under John Singer Sargent and George Clausen.
‘… we would see Art make such progress’
As painter of epic biblical and mythological subjects intended for public enlightenment or uplift, Williams believed that the ‘highest form of art is that which portrays the deep problems and aspirations of human life and sets people thinking.’ Commenting on his preoccupation with classic and allegorical subjects, he declared: ‘I glory in the Ideal.’
While Williams worked on classical themes like the romance of Paulo and Francesca or the biblical figures of Judas and Saul, a need to arrive at a distinctive Welsh identity led antiquarians and archaeologists to research Wales’ past in order to enlighten its present. This so-called Second Celtic Revival, linked to a broader 19th-century preoccupation with Medievalism, stimulated literature and the visual arts. After visiting the 1904 Celtic Congress in Caernarfon, Williams too became ‘steeped in Celtic ideals.’ Intent on becoming a ‘Welsh’ painter, he set out to explore the riches of the Mabinogion: Blodeuwedd, fashioned from flowers; Branwen, wistfully looking out to sea; and the enchantress Ceridwen at her cauldron.
And yet Williams continued painting in the European tradition. ‘If we could have the depth of thought of Watts, the dignity, composition and beauty of Leighton, and the . . . humanity of Millais combined in one man, we would see Art make such progress,’ he contended in 1898. Taught to revere the Old Masters, Williams approached his Welsh subjects without developing a distinctively Welsh idiom.
‘… the King commands’
By the early 1900s, Wales was witnessing the emergence of an artistic culture unparalleled in the nation’s history. The National Museum and the National Library were under construction and the constituent colleges of the University of Wales had all been formed.
Welsh patrons, and Welsh expatriates in particular, were eager to provide opportunities for distinguished sons of their homeland while making a display of their own international success. Able to please their egos and enlarge on their importance in the grand manner in which he was trained, Williams became a much sought-after portraitist.
Williams captured the likenesses of Welsh statesmen and academics, men of letters and of the cloth, from the Principals of Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities to David Lloyd George. In 1911, he was ‘taken aback’ when he was informed by an envoy: ‘the King commands you’ to paint the Royal Family at the Investiture of Edward, Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle. It was chiefly through these commissions that he built his artistic reputation and managed to support his family.
‘… Nature in her wilder moods’
Alongside classical and mythological subjects, Williams pursued an intimate engagement with nature. He was drawn to the Welsh coast whose light and atmosphere he captured in spontaneous plein air sketches. Careful to retain their immediacy, he seldom re-worked them in the studio. Some of them were studies for full-scale exhibition pieces; but the majority were never intended for public display. And while his son, painter Ivor Williams, exhibited a number of ‘holiday sketches’ after Williams’ death, most of these experimental works are shown here for the first time.
Williams often visited the dunes of Merthyr Mawr, the foothills of Cader Idris and the shores of the Mawddach. Perched on the limpet-encrusted rocks, painting the craggy coves of Llangrannog and Cilborth beach, he scrutinised rock formations and made a study of breaking waves, passing storms and bursts of sunlight. Like Constable, who professed to ‘a good deal of skying,’ Williams surveyed the firmament – midday and midnight, dusk and dawn, hail or shine.
There was a tremendous storm on the day of Williams’ funeral. ‘It was fitting,’ his son Gwyn remarked, that the ‘rain came pelting down and there was lightening and thunder nearly all the way.’ Father and son had ‘often stood and watched the towering majesty of thunderclouds together. Daddy was always thrilled by Nature in her wilder moods.’
‘… a dream of colour’
As a student, Williams could only imagine ‘how very delightful it must be out in sunny Italy,’ to experience a ‘change of climate, new ways, new scenes, each with its tale, ancient and modern.’ The ‘cold grey scenery’ of north Wales landscape had taken his ‘breath away’; but he was anxious for the ‘warm rich coloured tints of the southern clime.’
When Williams married Emily Appleyard in September 1904, the honeymooners embarked on a yearlong adventure across Italy. It was the artist’s first trip abroad. At Florence, Emily recalled, ‘study began in earnest and the galleries, museums and churches were visited day after day.’ He made copies of Old Masters, painted landscapes, iconic buildings, quiet backwaters and church interiors. In Venice, he delighted in the ‘great old buildings and gorgeous architecture’ and the canal ‘was a dream of colour’ to him.
Thereafter, Williams painted in Switzerland and Holland. In 1914, he went on a three-month tour of Tangier and Spain. Painting as many as three pictures a day, he returned home with about eighty canvases.
His letters from the continent are as evocative and colourful as his oils. He described to his wife the ‘battlemented ramparts’ and ‘cobbled stone streets’ of an ‘old world town in Normandy’ where church bells ring ‘as for centuries past,’ and ‘dogs draw carts and donkeys carry milk and water in panniers.’ On his last holiday abroad, to Cagnes-sur-Mer in 1929, he annotated his pencil sketches with detailed notes on the colours he experienced, from the ‘bright silver gilt’ of snow-capped mountains to the ‘blue sapphire and green’ sea and a sky that was ‘pale pearl blue.’
‘… not for the classes only’
A socialist and member of the Fabian Society, Williams believed that his gifts should be in the service of his people. Studying at the Royal College of Art – the ‘only Welshman there’ – he expressed a hope that Britain would soon ‘see more Welshmen taking a prominent part in Art.’ He was convinced that, once art was ‘cultivated in Wales,’ the Welsh would lead ‘in painting and sculpture’ as they did in music.
Serving on institutional committees and adjudicating exhibitions, Williams later did much to promote an interest in the visual arts in Wales. He and his wife donated paintings to museums, universities and local authorities for the public benefit throughout Wales. He conceived of their gift of paintings to Maesteg Council as ‘the beginning of an Art Collection’ that might lead to the erection of a gallery to hold it.
In his first public address at the Llangollen National Eisteddfod in 1908, Williams criticised the lack of facilities for art students in Wales. He encouraged politicians and wealthy mine owners to help provide ‘art for the masses, not for the classes only.’ He also called for a Welsh National School of Painting ‘so that Wales might progress in art and produce great paintings.’
‘… LARGE CROWD FRIENDS’
Throughout the 1920s, Williams suffered from a heart condition. His eyesight was failing and he was unable to paint for sustained periods. As a Christian Scientist, he refused medical attention. When finally he agreed to meet a specialist, it was too late. Williams was found dead in his chair at his Kensington home on July 19th, 1934. He was 61. Earlier that day, he had received a telegram from his son Gwyn who had just represented his father at a ceremony to mark the presentation of Paolo and Francesca and The Artist’s Father to Maesteg Town Hall. ‘MEETING GREAT SUCCESS,’ the telegram assured him, ‘LARGE CROWDS FRIENDS.’
A simple funeral service took place at Golder’s Green Crematorium. There were readings from the Bible and Science and Health. Flags on Maesteg Town Hall stood half-mast. Some weeks later, at the artist’s request, his ashes were scattered on the Foel, near Llangynwyd, a mountain overlooking his birthplace.
About seventy UK newspapers carried notice of his passing – from the Aberdeen Evening Express to the Swindon Evening Advertiser, from the Times to the News of the World. Lloyd George sent a telegram to his widow Emily. He lauded Williams as ‘one of the most gifted artists Wales has produced.’ This reputation, however, was not to survive the artist beyond the grave.
‘… flogging a horse that was already dead’?
At the time of his death in 1934, none of Williams’ ambitious figure compositions had sold. His widow donated them to public institutions in Wales. Until this day, many of them have remained hidden in museum vaults. In his 1957 survey The Artist in Wales, David Bell argued that, by following the ‘grand manner’ of Leighton and Watts, Williams had been ‘flogging a horse that was already dead,’ thus ‘squandering a very real talent.’ At the National Museum, director Cyril Fox deemed Williams’ paintings lacking in ‘sufficient artistic importance to warrant the occupation of space,’ while the Museum’s Keeper of Art, John Steegman, thought them ’empty’ and ‘deplorably bad’ – no matter how greatly they were ‘admired by the uncritical in south Wales.’
In the intervening years, Wales and notions of Welsh identity have changed significantly, beginning with the 1955 designation of Cardiff as capital and culminating in the establishment of the Welsh Assembly Government. Greater cultural awareness has led to a reappraisal and recognition of Wales’ visual culture judged on its own terms and not, as previously, in relation to the dominant English and European traditions.
One hundred years on, longer perhaps than Owen M. Edwards had anticipated, Wales can at last appreciate – and price – the ‘true greatness’ of Christopher Williams’ ‘priceless treasures.’
THOUGH WILLIAM MORGAN WAS AWARDED THE ROME SCHOLARSHIP IN ENGRAVING on the strength of his wood engravings, it is for his copper-plate line engravings of landscapes, animals and mythological subjects made between 1925 and 1931 that he is nowadays best remembered. During his Rome residency he made his first etchings – to which he later added engraved lines. In Rome, Morgan encountered the sober techniques of Renaissance Italian and German line engravers and began himself using the medium exclusively. It was, he considered, ‘a fuller and less conventional medium’ (Morgan qtd in Stokes, 122).
Morgan was born 19 October 1903, the son of a London schoolmaster William Henry Morgan. He was schooled at St Dunstan’s College, Catford where the art master was Slade-trained Alfred Carter. At age 17 in October 1920, Morgan enrolled at Camberwell School of Art to study painting under Albert Rutherston. He later transferred to the Slade School of Art under Professor Henry Tonks.
In 1923, Morgan took up the then popular craft of wood engraving. Self taught, he worked at home in the evenings – inspired by the prints of William Blake. In the autumn that year, Tonks suggested that Morgan enter the Rome Scholarship in Engraving. Morgan was shortlisted along with two students of Goldsmiths’ College, Graham Sutherland and Edward Bouverie Hoyton. The prints of short-listed entrants were displayed at the Royal Academy of Arts. Morgan won the Scholarship worth £250 a year. (Hoyton won the Rome Scholarship in Engraving in March 1925).
The scholarship allowed Morgan to travel extensively in Italy – in Tuscany, Umbria, Aquila and the Abruzzi. Returning to England in 1928, Morgan, Skeaping and Hepworth exhibited together at the Beaux Arts Gallery, Bruton Place, New Bond Street, London. The Gallery continued to represent Morgan and publish his prints. Back in the UK, Morgan settled in Cornwall where he made intaglio prints drawn from his time in Italy.
In his 1928 article on Morgan’s engravings for Artwork magazine, Hugh Stokes described the manifold opportunities that existed for collectors of present-day etchings, and the excitement of a ‘quest for new genius’. Though he felt that Morgan’s art was ‘derivative and imitative’, he was evolving a ‘distinct personality’. He considered the etched lines of Anticoli and Saracinesco to be ‘stiff and determined’ and ‘hard and unrelenting’. The ‘gloomy cross-hatching’, he pointed out, was also to be seen in the prints of Edward Bouverie Hoyton and in the ‘drawings of the whole school’.
Morgan’s final prints were executed in Scotland. Escaping the effects of the Depression in the south of England, he moved in the early 1930s to Craigblea, Ardtornich near Morvern in rural Argyllshire. He made his last print in 1938 by which time he was suffering from problems with his eyesight. In Dolman’s Dictionary, Morgan stated that his recreational interests were boating, fishing, bowling, and cycling.
Morgan eventually relocated to live near his daughter in Switzerland.
The largest collection of William E. C. Morgan’s prints is held by Georgetown University, the gifts in part of Annette Wuthrich-Morgan and Mr and Mrs Daniel W. Strishock. In addition to 49 of his 53 known prints, the collection includes original drawings, trial proofs and Morgan’s printmaking tools.
Catalogue of Engravings
William Evan Charles Morgan 1903-1979 A work in progress by Robert Meyrick
1 [Gathering of Fisher Folk by the Sea] c.1923 wood engraving, 153 x 208 mm, edition not known published: exhibited: reproduced: collection: Aberystwyth University
2 The Cottage in Surrey 1924 wood engraving, 96 x 128 mm, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, September 1928, 2 guineas exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (40) collection: Aberystwyth University; Georgetown University
3 The Woodman 1924 wood engraving, 109 x 45 mm, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, September 1928, 1 guinea collection: Aberystwyth University; Georgetown University
4 The Visit of the Shepherds 1924 wood engraving, 108 x 115 mm, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, September 1928, 2 guineas exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (41) collection: Georgetown University
5 The Expulsion 1924 wood engraving, 140 x 165 mm, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, September 1928, 3 guineas exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery (as Paradise Lost), June 1928 (35) collection: Georgetown University (x 2)
Morgan’s successful submission for the Rome Scholarship in Engraving. Also recorded as Paradise Lost.
6 The Philosophers 1924 wood engraving, 152 x 206 mm collection: Georgetown University
Morgan’s successful submission for the Rome Scholarship in Engraving.
7 The Ghost of Abel 1925 wood engraving, 179 x 136 mm, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, September 1928, 3 guineas reproduced: The New Woodcut, Studio, London 1930 p.5 exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (37) collection: British Museum (1928-7-31-1); Georgetown University
Morgan’s successful submission for the Rome Scholarship in Engraving.
8 The Crucifix 1925 wood engraving
9 The Crucifixion 1925 wood engraving, 135 x 172 mm with an arched top, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, September 1928, 2½ guineas exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (36) collection: Georgetown University
10 [Mountain Madonna] c.1925 line engraving, 88 x 63 mm, edition 3 collection: Georgetown University
11 [Mountain Pilgrimage] c.1925 line engraving, 180 x 157 mm collection: Georgetown University
12 Despair 1926 woodcut, 142 x 95 mm, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, September 1928, 2 guineas exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (38) collection: Aberystwyth University; British Museum (1928-7-31-2); Georgetown University
13 Outside the Walls of Jerusalem 1926 woodcut, 125 x 83 mm, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, September 1928, 2 guineas exhibited: Beaux Art Gallery, June 1928 (39) collection: Aberystwyth University; British Museum (1928-7-31-3); Georgetown University
14 The Citadel 1926 line engraving, 170 x 291 mm exhibited: the drawing, Beaux Art Gallery, June 1928 (49) collection: Georgetown University
15 Siena 1926 line engraving, 201 x 255 mm collection: Georgetown University
16 Orvieto 1926 line engraving, 191 x 299 mm, edition 63 (or 50?) published: Beaux Arts Gallery, March 1928, 4 guineas reproduced: Artwork No.14 1928 p.124 collection: Aberystwyth University; British Museum (1960-4-9-385); Georgetown University; Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (1963.30.13406)
Beyond an orchard, the Umbrian hill town of Orvieto is seen from its fortress walls.
17 Orvieto Roofs (A) 1926 line engraving with part of the contour etched, 155 x 188 mm, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, March 1928, 3 guineas exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (26) + drawing (46) reproduced: Studio Vol.XCV 1928, p.333 collection: Georgetown University (x2); British Museum (1932-5-14-4)
The pan-tiled rooftops of medieval houses. Narrow streets weave through the walled town. Distant landscape.
18 Anticoli 1927 line etching and line engraving, 192 x 309 mm, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, March 1928, 4 guineas exhibited: Beaux Art Gallery, June 1928 (28) + drawing (44) collection: Georgetown University
A panorama of the Sabine Hills in the Abruzzi. Saracinesco is a commune (municipality) in the Province of Rome in the Italian region Lazio, located some 40km northeast of Rome.
19 Bells of Alba 1927 line engraving, 150 x 99 mm, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, Spring 1928, 2½ guineas exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (30) + drawing (50) reproduced: Studio Vol.XCV 1928, p.334; reproduced: Artwork Vol.?? 1928 p.123 collection: British Museum (1930-1-14-88); Contemporary Art Society; Georgetown University (x 2)
Three church bells suspended from a low wooden frame, foreground figure and landscape background.
20 The Deserted Farm 1926 line engraving, 240 x 350 mm collection: Georgetown University
21 Antonio 1926 line engraving with a little drypoint, 260 x 214 mm, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, March 1928, 4 guineas exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (25) + drawing (43) reproduced: Studio Vol.XCV 1928, p.332 collection: Aberystwyth University; Georgetown University (x 2); British Museum (1931-1-11-89)
An Italian villager with flute sits before landscape.
22 Saracinesco 1927 etching and line engraving, 203 x 303 mm, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, March 1928, 4 guineas exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (29) reproduced: Artwork Vol.?? 1928 p.123 collection: Georgetown University
An open panorama of the Sabine Hills with valleys and mountains of the Abruzzi. Anticoli Corrado is a commune in the Province of Rome in the Italian region Latium, located about 40 km northeast of Rome.
23 The Source 1927 line engraving, 283 x 140mm, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, March 1928, 4 guineas editioned on Van Gelder laid paper exhibited Royal Academy of Art 1928 (1157); Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (24) + drawing (42); Chicago Society of Etchers International Exhibition, Art Institute of Chicago 1928 (Logan Medal) reproduced: Studio Vol.XCV 1928, p.331; The Art Digest August 1928, p.14 collection: British Museum (1927-10-10-51); Georgetown University (+ 2 early states)
A naked huntress, spear in hand, stands beside a stream. Elaborate in its detail and pattern, and devoid of aerial perspective, The Source is engraved in the manner of Albrecht Dürer and Marcantonio Raimondi.
24 Italian Cottage 1928 drypoint, 182 x 149 mm, edition 78 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928, 5 guineas exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (33) + drawing (52) reproduced: Artwork Vol.?? 1928 p.123 collection: Georgetown University (x 2)
25 Italian Hill Farm 1928 drypoint, 163 x 214 mm, edition 78 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928, 5 guineas exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (34) + drawing (53) reproduced: Artwork Vol.?? 1928 p.124 collection: Georgetown University; Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (1931.18)
26 Italian Hill Town 1928 line engraving, 150 x 186 mm, edition 78 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928, 5 guineas exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (31) + drawing (47) collection: British Museum (1960-4-9-386); University of Chicago (1967.116.185); Georgetown University (x 2); University of Michigan (1949/1.138)
Also known as Italian Hill Village.
27 Nymphs Bathing 1928 line engraving, 200 x 282 mm, edition 83 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, July 1928, 6 guineas printed by David Strang exhibited: Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (32) + drawing (55); Royal Academy of Art 1930 (1081) reproduced: Studio Vol.XCVI 1928, p.422; Etchings of Today, Studio, London 1929, pl.30 collection: Georgetown University; British Museum (1932-5-14-5); Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (1963.30.13408)
28 The Water Carriers 1928 line engraving, 213 x 100 mm, edition 60 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, January 1929, 4 guineas reproduced: Print Collectors’ Quarterly Vol.16 exhibited: the drawing Woman Carrying Water, Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928 (51) collection: Aberystwyth University; Georgetown University; British Museum (1934-5-21-2)
29 Perseus 1929 line engraving, 223 x 217 mm, edition 70 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, April 1929, 5 guineas exhibited: Royal Academy of Art, 1929 (1093) collection: Aberystywth University; Georgetown University (+ 1st state); British Museum (1931-11-14-30); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (1963.30.13407)
30 Young Love Birds 1929 line engraving, 137 x 133 mm, edition 50 publication price: 2½ guineas collection: Aberystwyth University; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; British Museum (1960-4-9-388); Georgetown University
31 Harnessed Antelope 1929 line engraving, 125 x 149 mm, edition 50 (or 63?) publication price: 2 guineas exhibited: Royal Academy of Art, 1932 (1110) collection: Aberystwyth University; British Museum (1960-4-9-387); Georgetown University
32 Portrait of the Artist 1930 line engraving, 249 x 189 mm, edition 40 publication price: 3 guineas exhibited: Royal Academy of Art 1931 (1266) collection: Aberystwyth University; British Museum (1933-4-8-67); Georgetown University
Self-portrait holding an accordion and smoking a clay pipe. Aberystwyth University purchased a self-portrait drawing from the Beaux Arts Gallery in 1928 (3 guineas); Georgetown University holds a sepia ink study for Portrait of the Artist.
33 Tulips 1930 line engraving, 251 x 174 mm, edition 50 collection: Georgetown University
34 The Brook 1930 line engraving, 190 x 165 mm, edition 50 published: Beaux Arts Gallery, July 1930, 4 guineas exhibited: Royal Academy of Art, 1931 (1281) reproduced: Studio Vol.C 1930, p.117 collection: Aberystwyth University; Smithsonian American Art Museum (1935.13.230); British Council; British Museum (1933-4-8-68); Georgetown University
35 Star of Bethlehem 1930 wood engraving, 111 x 101 mm collection: Georgetown University
Mailed as a Christmas card.
36 The Waterfall 1931 line engraving, 133 x 181 mm, edition 50 exhibited: Royal Academy of Art, 1932 (1111) collection: Georgetown University; Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (1963.30.13409)
37 Vivandiere – The Suffolk Filly 1931 etching with drypoint, 250 x 353 mm editioned on J Whatman laid paper exhibited: Royal Academy of Art, 1933 (1284) collection: British Museum (1940-6-1-47); Georgetown University
Bred on the Rutland farm of Owen Hugh Smith [Cat. 38], Vivandiere was Champion Mare at Royal Agricultural Society Show, Manchester in 1930. She is a thoroughbred chestnut Suffolk Punch, an English breed of heavy draft horse prized for its power, stamina, longevity and docility. Shorter and more sturdily built than the feather-hoofed Shire horse, the Suffolk Punch was originally bred to plough the clay soils of East Anglia. Subsequently, they were used to pull brewers’ drays, omnibuses and, in wartime, for pulling heavy artillery. The Suffolk Punch was still popular in the 1930s, but post-war mechanization resulted in a sharp decline of its numbers. A ‘vivandiere’ is woman who accompanies troops to sell them food, supplies and alcohol.
38 Portrait of Owen Hugh Smith 1931 line engraving, 310 x 228 mm
The son of Hugh Colin Smith, Governor of the Bank of England and Lieutenant of the City of London, Owen Hugh Smith JP (1869-1958) lived at Langham Old Hall in Oakham, Rutland. He acquired the Hall in 1922 and commissioned architect Harry Goodhart-Rendel [Cat. 49] to design a west wing and improve the original two-storey stone building, which dates back to 1665. On the adjoining farm, Smith bred pedigree Red Poll Cattle and Suffolk Punches [Cat. 37].
39 Portrait of Alfred Ralph Wagg 1931 line engraving, 305 x 246 mm
Alfred Ralph Wagg (1877–1969) of the merchant banking company. See: Oxford Biography Index.
40 The Forge, Ardtornish 1932 drypoint, 247 x 300 mm, edition 30 collection: Smithsonian American Art Museum (1935.13.231); British Museum (1960-4-9-389); Georgetown University
A blacksmith working at his forge in Ardtornish, the village on the Sound of Mull that Morgan made his home.
41 Visit of the Shepherds II 1932 wood engraving, 168 x 235 mm collection: Georgetown University
Mailed as a Christmas card.
42 And Lo, the Angel of the Lord Came unto Them 1933 wood engraving, 169 x 235 mm collection: Georgetown University
Mailed as a Christmas card.
43 Cloudburst Chaos in a Highland Burn March 1935 etching, 248 x 383 mm exhibited: Royal Academy of Art, 1935 (1270) collection: Georgetown University
44 Kinlochaline Castle April 1935 etching, 291 x 395 mm, edition 63 collection: British Museum (1960-4-9-642)
Escaping Depression-era London, Morgan relocated to Ardtornish in Argyll on the west coast of Scotland in the early 1930s. In the grounds of the Ardtornish estate at Morvern stands the ruins of Kinlochaline Castle, onetime seat of the Lords of the Isles. The 12th-century fortress is strategically located on a rocky summit at the head of Loch Aline on the Sound of Mull. The distinctive four-storey tall rectangular keep dates from the 15th-century. The castle was burned in 1644 during the wars of Montrose, suffered damage from Cromwell’s troops in the 1650s, attacked by the Earl of Argyll in 1679, and eventually abandoned about 1690.
45 Black Cock I – Standing 1938 wood engraving, 115 x 152 mm collection: Georgetown University
46 Black Cock II – Strutting 1938 wood engraving, 115 x 153 mm collection: Georgetown University
47 Hind and Calf, Ardtornish 1938 etching, 120 x 211 mm reproduced: The Print Collectors’ Chronicle Vol.1, No.4, USA Sept. 1939 collection: Georgetown University
Red deer on the 60-square-mile Ardtornish Estate which stands among the hills, glens and lochs of the Morvern peninsular in the south-west corner of the Scottish Highlands.
48 Stag Calf 1938 line engraving, 128 x 97 mm
49 Bookplate: Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel line engraving, 93 x 67 mm collection: Georgetown University
An English architect, writer and musician, Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel CBE (1887-1959) was educated at Eton and studied music at Trinity College, Cambridge. He established his own architectural practice, undertook numerous ecclesiastical commissions, and served as Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford University 1933-1936. In 1926 he designed a new west wing for Langham Old Hall on behalf of Owen Hugh Smith [Cat. 38]. Goodhart-Rendel’s many publications include Nicholas Hawksmoor (1924), Fine Art (1934) and English Architecture Since the Regency (1953). His maternal grandfather was Stuart, 1st Baron Rendel of Hatchlands (1834-1913), Liberal MP for Montgomeryshire and founder member of the University College of Wales at Aberystwyth. On his death in 1959, Goodhart-Rendel left Hatchlands, his family’s 18th-century mansion in Surrey, to the National Trust.
50 Bookplate: Sir John Stirling Maxwell etching, 101 x 74 mm collection: Georgetown University
A politician and philanthropist, Sir John Maxwell Stirling-Maxwell Bt (1866-1956) was, like Goodhart-Rendel [Cat. 49], educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. He was Conservative MP for Glasgow and at various times Chairman of the Forestry Commission, Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland, and the Ancient Monuments Board (Scotland). A Trustee of the National Galleries of Scotland and author of Shrines and Homes of Scotland (1937), he was a founder member of the National Trust for Scotland, serving as its President 1943-1956. In 1966, his daughter Anne gifted Pollok House and Estate, the Maxwell ancestral home for almost 700 years, to the City of Glasgow. Now managed by the National Trust for Scotland, Pollok House displays Maxwell’s art collection. It holds the finest private collection of Spanish paintings in the UK with works by El Greco, Goya and Murillo. Maxwell was also involved in finding a suitable home for the Burrell Collection. In Pollok Park, Glasgow Corporation erected a museum to house the art treasures amassed by Sir William Burrell. Stirling Maxwell’s important collection of early 20th-century British etchings and engravings – including a group of engravings by W. E. C. Morgan – was dispersed at auction at Bonham’s Edinburgh in June 2015.
51 Bookplate: Royal Institute of British Architects line engraving, 101 x 74 mm collection: Georgetown University
52 Bookplate: Victoria Wemyss line engraving, 110 x 73 mm collection: Georgetown University
53 Bookplate: Roger Wrightson line engraving, 112 x 60 mm collection: Georgetown University
Dolman, Bernard (ed.). Dictionary of Contemporary British Artists1929. London: Antique Collectors’ Club, 1981.
Haller, Joseph. A The Prints of William E. C. Morgan 1903-1979. Typescript exhibition catalogue. Washington DC: Georgetown University, 1994.
Gaunt, William. Etchings of Today. London: Studio, Special Spring Number, 1929.
Salaman, Malcolm. The New Woodcut. London: Studio, Special Spring Number, 1930.
Salaman, Malcolm. ‘The Engravings of William E. C. Morgan’. London: Studio Vol. XCV 1928, pp.328-334.
Stokes, Hugh. ‘The Engravings of William Morgan’. London: Artwork No. 14 Summer 1928, pp.121-125.
Aberystwyth University, Receipts 302 and 243.
W. E. C. Morgan, F. W. Cooper, W. G. Trust, John Betjeman (Intro.). The Thatcher’s Craft. London: Rural Industries Bureau, 1961.
W. E. C. Morgan, A. Zanni, C. A. H/ Tucker. Decorative Ironwork: Some Aspects of Design and Technique. London: Rural Industries Bureau, 1962.
Sculpture, Engravings and Drawings by Barbara Hepworth, William E. C. Morgan, John Skeaping. Beaux Arts Gallery, London. 8-30 June 1928.
Sculpture, Drawings and Drypoints by John Skeaping and Barbara Hepworth, and Engravings and Drawings by William E. C. Morgan. Alex Reid and Lefevre, Glasgow. September 1928.
Johnson and Greuztner cite the following exhibits: Beaux Arts Gallery (41); Connell and Sons (4); Fine Art Society (11); Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (7); Royal Academy of Art (11). In addition to prints, Morgan exhibited the following at the Royal Academy of Arts: Landscape with Rocks 1933 (968); and Fall on Trees wash, chalk and ink 1935 (1235).
Additional drawings exhibited at the Beaux Arts Gallery, June 1928: Self Portrait (48); Drawings for a Woodcut (54); Wild Arum Leaves and Hart’s-Tongue Fern (56); Olive Trees (57); Olive Trees No.2 (58); Beech Tree (59); Young Beech (60); Odds and Ends outside a Farm (61); Cornish Coast (62).
Museum of Fine Arts of San Francisco, Achenbach Foundation for the Graphic Arts (5)
Georgetown University, Washington DC (49)
University of Chicago, Smart Museum of Art (1)
Government Art Collection UK (1, Salcombe Harbour, oil on canvas, presented in 1970 by the Rural Development Commission)
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC (2, gift of the Chicago Society of Etchers)
Aberystwyth University School of Art Museum and Galleries (17)