The Origins of Linocut
During the early twentieth century, Die Brücke artists in Germany were experimenting with linocut printmaking, a new form of relief work that didn’t involve the rough nature of woodcutting techniques. This week I wanted to focus on two artists, Canadian-English printmaker Sybil Andrews and English printmaker Cyril Power.
Andrews was born in Suffolk England in 1898, spending her early adult years as a metalworker and a welder. Despite her desire to go to art school, women amongst working class families were joining the workforce at rapidly rising rates on account of the fact that many young men had been enlisted or drafted to fight in World War I. Fun fact- she helped develop the first all metal aeroplane while working for Bristol Welding Company. Eventually, when the war was over, she became an art teacher in Bury St. Edmunds and would later on return to welding during the outbreak of the second World War.
In 1922 she would attend the Heatherly School of Fine art in London where she met Cyril Power, an architect and artist that would become her work partner for nearly twenty years. The pair would end up teaching at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art, where they further developed printmaking techniques such as linocut. The pieces they produced would often reflect the dynamism of the mechanical age mixed with rich influences from movements such as Vorticism and Futurism, ultimately producing pieces that have incredible looseness and movement, which is reflective of the Machine Age’s bustle and roar. Power and Andrews often played off each other’s style, remaining distinctly unique yet overlapping in certain techniques such as repetition of various shapes and limited color palettes, something that is not atypical of relief printmaking. Typically, the subjects of her pieces were often influenced by her experience in the workforce, depicting humans engaging with labor and their work.
Sybil Andrews, Sledge Hammers, 1933/Cyril Power, The Concerto, 1935
During the mid-1940’s, much of the art produced by the Grosvenor School had fallen out of the favor the public sphere, considered by many to be “old fashioned” and stale. However, in the 1970’s while Andrews was still alive, there would be a resurgence in the popularity of her prints and those created by her contemporaries.
Together, the two artist would create cacophonous pieces filled with observation and appreciation for life and humanity.
Featured image is Andrews’ The Mowers, 1937