Phyllis Dodd

Phyllis Dodd: ‘Self Portraits.’

Phyllis Dodd was born in 1899 in Chester. Her parents encouraged her early interest in art.  Attending the Queen’s School, Chester at the age of eight she won a Royal Drawing Society prize in 1909, drawing her friend Freda from memory.   Her father Charles Dodd would take her to the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, his death when Phyllis was sixteen was a severe blow. Her mother took in paying guests to send her to Liverpool School of Art, 1917–21, where Will Penn taught her the use of a limited palette; by the 1950s she developed an interest in more positive colour.

In 1921 Phyllis won a Royal Exhibition to the Royal College of Art, 1921–25. This prized and coveted award allowed her £90 a year and expenses towards art materials and travel expenses. Her friends and colleagues at the RCA included Henry Moore (1898-1986), Raymond Coxon (1896-1997), Roland Vivian Pitchforth (1895-1982) and Edna Ginesi (1902-2000). Liverpool colleagues Robert Lyon (1894 – 1978) and Edward Halliday (1902-1984) remained friends for the rest of her life. These northerners formed at clique at the college sharing theatre visits, excursions and eating at a separate table in the canteen.

 A year later Phyllis would be joined by another cohort of ‘the outbreak of talent’ – Eric Ravilious, Edward Bawden, Barnett Freedman, Douglas Percy Bliss and Co. Having studied life drawing at Liverpool School of Art for two-years Phyllis was not pleased to find that at the RCA she was expected to revert to Antique Studies for a day each week. These studies included drawing furniture and architecture in the V & A. She was also not allowed to paint in her first year. The Ladies Life Class was held one day a week from 4-6pm and had only female models. Dodd complained to Principal William Rothenstein and after demonstrating her ability in figure drawing was allowed to attend the Year 3 Men’s Class, it now meant that the male models had to wear posing pouches. Drawing from a nude model had always been contentious, the educational bureaucracy regarding it as an indulgence verging on the immoral. Phyllis knew her anatomy and was skilled in the use of chiaroscuro in model form. Rothenstein soon acknowledged her ability to draw and capture likeness, she won the drawing prize in her final year.

Phyllis Dodd Female nude study, circa 1925

Another RCA colleague was the flamboyant bi-sexual northerner Basil Taylor and Phyllis produced an etched portrait of him. Taylor killed himself in Great Bardfield at Christmas 1936.

Amongst the ‘explosion of talent’ at the RCA in the early 1920’s was the flamboyant, bi-sexual Basil Taylor. This is Phyllis Dodd’s etched portrait of Taylor.

Phyllis, gaining her painting Diploma in two years instead of three was able to take up etching and aquatint in her RCA third year.

Phyllis Dodd: ‘Northgate Terrace, Chester.’ etching 1925. ‘The Blue Bell, Northgate Street, Chester,’ etching 1926.

Having left the RCA Phyllis took up lodgings in Kensington. Teaching at Walthamstow Technical College, 1925–30, she obtained portrait commissions sometimes helped by William Rothenstein. Meanwhile Edward Bawden (number 58, Eric Ravilious and Douglas Percy Bliss (number 38) had taken up lodgings in Redcliffe Road. Phyllis was living at number 52 with two other RCA friends, and it was within this tight little artist colony that Dodd and Percy Bliss came together as a couple.

Phyllis Dodd: ‘Douglas Percy Bliss.’ The portrait was painted in Cecilia Dunbar Kilburn’s studio at 37 Redcliffe Road.

On the 17th of April 1928 the couple were married in Chester Cathedral followed by a honeymoon in Lewes. The two set up home at 65 Sandcroft Road, Lambeth, above a sausage factory, from where the stink came up through the floorboards.  Ravilious came to live with them at weekends when he was teaching at Eastbourne College, an arrangement he maintained until he married Tirzah Garwood in 1930.

Phyllis Dodd: ‘In the Pentlands near Liberton Tower. 1928.

Douglas and Phyllis married 17th April 1928.

Phyllis Dodd: Portrait of Eric Ravilious, 1929. Portrait of Tirzah Garwood, 1929. Portrait of Edward Bawden, 1929.

Phyllis being a perfectionist in all things, domestic life eroded her time for painting. When a student she had painted so concentratedly that she forgot to eat and became ill, as a housewife she said that “when there is dust on the stairs, I cannot settle down to painting.”

In 1932 the Blisses moved to a flat in Blackheath and in that year daughter, Prudence was born. Five years later came sister Rosalind. While Douglas was busy teaching and painting Phyllis developed her portrait painting, one of her finest works ‘Czech Peasant’ was painted in 1932.

Phyllis Dodd: ‘Czech Peasant.’ 1932. ‘Bath in the Nursery,’ 1935.

Her finest child painting was ‘Prudence on Pegasus,’ the family’s restored rocking horse. This work was hung at the Royal Academy in 1939, only for war to break out within a few weeks.

Phyllis Dodd: ‘Prudence on Pegasus.’

Douglas was past the age of conscription but volunteered for the RAF Reserve. During the constant bombing of London in the Blitz a bomb fell next to the Blisses flat, the bomb laid open the cellar containing many of Douglas’ wood engraving blocks. Looters stole Phyllis’ etching acid baths, bottles of acid, steel plate and other engraving equipment.  Phyllis never made another etching. The Blisses were now homeless.

The couple moved to Derbyshire in1940 to a cottage rented by his brother, Dr. Roger P Bliss. This cottage was at Shottle, Derbyshire, out in the countryside, staying there until January 1943. A second cottage was rented in 1943 at Ireton Wood before moving to their permanent home at Windley, Derbysire, in 1945. Having been called up by the RAF in 1941 and stationed at various stations in England and Scotland, Douglas was finally demobbed in May 1945 and returned to teaching at Hornsey. Having made useful contacts whilst on service near Glasgow, Douglas applied for the job of Director at Glasgow School of Art and was duly appointed in 1946.  Douglas and Phyllis along with Douglas’ mother moved into a large Victorian house at 3 Princes Gardens, Glasgow. Their daughters were left in their Derbyshire boarding school. With no studio at home Douglas and Phyllis made use of a studio at the college, Phyllis’ portrait Delay Goulen being painted there over several Sundays in 1955.

Dodd, Phyllis; ‘Delay Goulen.’ Newport Museum and Art Gallery.

Phyllis Dodd: ‘Douglas Reading Boswell to his Mother.’ ‘The Young Philatelists,’ 1946 Prudence stated: ‘We were both feeling cold and fed up, so it was never quite finished.’ ‘Summer Doorway with African Lilies.’ 1948.

By 1964 both Douglas and Phyllis were more than happy to retire south to their Windley home and get back to making full-time art.  The years at Hillside Cottage were happy, productive times for both Douglas and Phyllis. They had already had a joint exhibition at Derby Museum and Galley in 1947 now another joint venture followed at St Michael’s Gallery, Derby, 1983. 

Douglas Percy Bliss: ‘Phyllis at Windley.’ 1951.

In 1979 the BBC were filming a programme of “The Front Garden” at Hillside, Douglas suffered a stroke shortly after this. He endured a final stroke in March 1984 and passed away six days later, the 11th of March.

Phyllis Dodd: ‘Portrait of Douglas Percy Bliss.’ 1963 the year before Douglas retired.

Phyllis survived her husband by eleven years, a mostly frustrating time as Glaucoma was diagnosed in 1976. In 1986 Phyllis had a minor stroke and went to live with Prudence in Newcastle upon Tyne for the rest of her life, except for holidays spent in Windley. Shingles took her remaining eyesight.

Phyllis had a successful ninetieth-birthday show at the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle, 1989; and a retrospective at the public gallery, Derby, in 1995. She tackled one last canvas in 1985, a portrait of Godfrey Meynell. In 1992 she became totally blind. Phyllis died aged 96 on the 17th of May 1995 missing an exhibition of her work at the Newport Museum and Art gallery, South Wales, which opened in October.

Portrait of Godfrey Meynell

Phyllis’ portraits could well take up a book alone. Here to conclude are just some of them.

F Rogers, 1927. Olga in her flounced dress, 1930. Portrait of a lady seated wearing white. Sheila the model.

Top Row: David M Bonner Provost 1950. Adam Gowan, 1951. Arnold Duncan McNair,1955. Brian Westerdale Downs.

Bottom Row: Sir Ian Bolton 1959. Victoria Catherine (‘Cathy’ or ‘Cath’) Honeyman, née Burnett, a gifted pianist who could have had a professional musical career were it not for domestic obligations, was the wife of Dr T J Honeyman.

Many thanks go to Rosalind and Prudence Bliss who kindly read the script and made many helpful insertions.

Another great help: Gargoyles & Tattie-Bogles, The lives and work of
Douglas Percy Bliss and Phyllis Dodd by Malcolm Yorke. Published by the Fleece Press.

Graham Bennison, October 2022. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist


George Leslie Hunter

George Leslie Hunter & Ceres

George Leslie Hunter (7 August 1877 – 7 December 1931) was a Scottish painter, regarded as one of the four artists of the Scottish Colourists  group of painters.

Following the end of the War in 1919 it was probably Hunter’s friend Matthew Justice who suggested that Hunter should look to Fife for inspiration for his painting. Justice managed the Dundee family furniture business started by his father ‘Thomas Justice & Sons.’

So it was, that Hunter would visit Fife in any season for the next seven years interspersed by trips to France and Italy and time also back in Glasgow. In 1919 Hunter encountered fellow Glasgow artist John Quinton Pringle in Ceres with his friend James Meldrum. Meldrum’s artist son William Meldrum recalled that Hunter would go to great lengths to explain and debate his theories on art. Hunter invited William and his father to tea. They went to his lodgings in the village (probably Latch Cottage), but there was no sign of Hunter. The landlady enlightened them ‘ och, he’ll be awa’ walkin wi’ his dreams!’ It was typical of Hunter that his art carried him away and he forgot all about appointments.

A Fife Landscape. A Village in Fife. Cottages in Fife

Hunter produced many paintings of Lower largo, Drumeldrie and Ceres. Unfortunately the location of a painting is not always easily determined being named ‘Fife Cottage’, ‘Fife Farm,’ etc. However, all the three works above could be Ceres ??

I and my family moved to Ceres in 1987 and it was then that I became aware of the work of Hunter, a firm favourite artist ever since.

All the above five paintings are definitely of Ceres. Hunter would carry small canvas or board and produce rapid painted sketches plein air. His palette would become heavy with incrustations of dried paint and at that point he would dispense with the old palette and start a new one !

This work is just titled ‘Ceres.’

Hunter often shared his ‘digs’ at Latch Cottage with William Meldrum (1865-1942), the Meldrum’s owned land and properties in Ceres. I’ve refrained from displaying Hunter’s major works of Ceres (Latch Cottage, Ceres Kirk, Ceres Mill, The Old Mill) – these are featured in previous blogs, the links are at the end of this blog. The works featured here, I hope, will be new to most and provide some discussion as to the location of the paintings.

A Distant View of Ceres. Cottages, View of Ceres. Red Roofs by a Weir.

Just outside of Ceres is Wellwood and nearby is Ceres MIll (still named on OS Maps) where Hunter produced a whole series of works. I’ve included the lesser known paintings and sketches here. The major works can be accessed from the links at the end of the blog.

The Mill and Mill Dam, Ceres.

Could these be Ceres ? A Cottage Garden. Fife Cottages. A woman in a Straw Hat outside a Cottage.

AND……….around Ceres ?

Cottages Amongst Hills. A Fife Landscape.

In a postcard to Matthew Justice dated 25th November 1920 Hunter tells Justice that he is etching, as the colour has vanished from the landscape. It was around 1919 that he began to experiment with etching and drypoint and in 1920-22 he produced nine etchings featuring cottages and landscapes around Ceres. It is not known how many prints Hunter took from each plate, he may have merely produced them for his own pleasure. I doubt very much whether Hunter reversed the original sketch when transferring to the plate so the following prints are more than likely back to front.


“Ceres Cottages”; These cottages, which still survive, also appear in a number of oil paintings by Hunter, including “Fife Village”, 

Ceres, Fife, with two women in conversation; Hunter is known to have stayed in Ceres in May and November 1920.

Ceres with Three Fishermen. This is a view from the far side of the Ceres Burn, the tallest building is Brand’s Inn, adjoining which is the Weigh House, now part of the Fife Folk Museum.

“A Village in Fife”; A slightly different view to the work above, Ceres with Brand’s Inn and the Weigh House. The same tree and cottage were in an oil signed and dated 1920,

I’ve reversed the last etching and to me it appears to make more sense that way around. Comments welcome.

A Village in Fife. This must be Ceres ??

McNeill Reid promoted an exhibition of works by Peploe, Cadell and Hunter at the Leicester Galleries in 1923. A J McNeill Reid  was one of the most influential art dealers in Europe in the early 20th century, exhibiting and selling artworks by some of the finest artists of his period, including the Impressionists, the Post-Impressionists, the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists. Overall well received Hunter was not satisfied and was unduly sensitive to criticism. It was at this time that he had the first of his recurrent ‘nervous breakdowns.’

He quickly recovered and spent time painting in Fife visited by friends from Glasgow and Dundee. Subsequent exhibitions in Glasgow and Edinburgh were very successful and a joint agreement with Reid’s and Aitken Dott secured Hunter £600 per annum in return for first call on his works.  This freed him from any financial worries for the next few years.

Hunter wrote: ‘……I may proceed to Ceres very soon perhaps this week to get started on the apple blossom. I have written about a room there and have been informed the blossom is just coming out. I will be glad to get out of the city for a little when everyone one meets has the hump. Fife is ever a delightful thought on my mind with its beautiful valleys and villages.’

Fife Farm

A quick trip to the USA was made in 1924 but Hunter proceeded no further than New York.  A postcard read: ‘I am tired of seeing things and people, though it has been a change to rest. Am now anxious to get back to Fife and get some work done. Met Augustus John here.’

In the latter part of 1926 Hunter departed for the South of France, the inspiration for much of his later work. His affection for Ceres, however, is amply displayed by the many works executed in and around the village.

The Mill House (one time Brands Inn). This is a monoprint dated 1920.

I hope you don’t mind….time for the commercial now. My latest lino-cut of Ceres (August 2022). An edition of 50 signed and numbered. 8 ins x 6ins. £20 (£23 in mount).

The other Ceres/Hunter links can be found here: https://httpartistichorizons.org/2018/07/25/back-latch-cottage-ceres-george-leslie-hunter-and-william-meldrum/

Some of the artists that visited Ceres

Bibliography: ‘Three Scottish Colourists’ by TJ Honeyman, Thomas Nelson & Son 1950.

‘George Leslie Hunter’ by Derek Ogston, Baillieknowe Publishing 2002.

‘Hunter Revisited’ by Bill Smith & JIll Mariner, Atelier Books 2012.

Graham Bennison, August 2022. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

Application for North-East Fife Open Studios 2023.

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • The address of your studio
  • Some images of your work which showcase your skill, or a link to your website.
  • Brief details about what you make; where you have exhibited; commissions; etc. (any details which help show you are professional in terms of your approach to work, and that your work has previously been selected for display.)

Name: Graham Bennison.

3 Beechbank, Foodieash, near Cupar, Fife, KY15 4PW.

Studio Address: 3 Beechbank, Foodieash.

My studio is a garden house at the bottom of the garden. Visitors would be welcome to see a lino or wood engraving rolled up and printed on the roller press – even having a go themselves! The majority of work would be displayed in two rooms in the house and weather permitting the back patio.

My latest watercolour painting, Kilmaron Hill Woods (two weeks ago) gives an example of approach to work and planning: –

Photo: Early October 2022. Pencil sketch. Painted sketch. Finished watercolour. Framed.

Some examples Foodieash art work:-

Foodieash oil. Hilton House watercolour. Main St Foodieash oil. Harvest stubble at Foodieash oil.

Fine Prints: Lino-cuts.

Ceres 2022. Toppings Bookshop 2022. Myrecairnie 2021. Ceres Glebe 2021. Falkland 2021.


Dundee. Dundee The Unicorn. West Shore, Pittenweem.

I could go on for ever, but I hope this will suffice as examples: With 766 friends on my personal Facebook page I do not have to go far to sell my work. I do have an art Facebook page which is a mixture of artwork and art blogs. As I say my main audience is my friends. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

Work is currently displayed in the Bishop Bridge Tearoom, Ceres.

My wood-cut was adopted this summer as the logo for the tea-room.

Other recent commissions:

Foodieash Doocot oil. Greyhounds – linocut. Charleston House (home of the Bloomsbury Group) watercolour. Man with his now deceased dog – I do not actively choose to do pet portraits !

When Elmwood College had an art dept. the college purchased a number of my works. Locally an exhibition of my work took place at Cairnie a few years ago.

Friends have tried to persuade me to join up for a few years, now I am taking the plunge. If you require more info’ please do ask. 01334-656844 07731904559.

Graham Bennison 25th October 2022.

Audrey Cruddas

Audrey Crudda

Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Audrey Cruddas moved to England with her parents when she was an infant.

After leaving school she studied art at St John’s Wood School of Art, Royal Academy Schools, and the Bram Shaw School of Drawing and Painting then began a career as a painter, travelling in Europe and North Africa.

The Wrestlers mixed media 1944. Hags Of War 1944. Artist With a Seagull 1948.

During the Second World War, she worked as a ‘Land Girl’ in the Women’s Land Army. During the war illness forced her to rest for a year and during this time, for her own amusement, she produced designs for A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth.

At the end of the conflict and recovering her health, she began to design costumes for the theatre and was quickly talent spotted by the dancer and actor Sir Robert Helpmann.

Recovering her health, she took her designs to London where they were eventually seen by the director, Michael Benthall, who commissioned her to design his production of The White Devil at the Duchess Theatre in 1947. This was the beginning of Audrey Cruddas’s theatrical career: she went on to design productions of Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon and the Old Vic, West End plays, and operas. Her designs for Caesar and Cleopatra, which starred Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, won the 1952 Donaldson Award for outstanding achievement in the theatre when the production toured in America.

Three designs for King John. The third pic is ‘Two Austrian Soldiers.’

Cruddas soon became one of the leading modern theatre designers of the post war period. Although best known for her theatre work she was an accomplished artist in different mediums – painting, drawing and ceramics.

Other early career highlights were for John Burrell’s 1947 Old Vic production of Taming of the Shrew and Verdi’s, Aida at Convent Garden (1948). Notable later productions include Michael Benthall’s Old Vic productions of Julius Caesar (1955), Cymbeline (1957), and Hamlet (1958), and Peter Potter’s Edinburgh Festival production of ‘The Wallace’ (1960).

The Wallace’ by Sydney Goodsir Smith was performed at the Assembly Hall in the Edinburgh Festival in 1960.

In 1952, Cruddas illustrated a Folio Society edition of William Shakespeare’s, The Tragedy of Antony & Cleopatra (the forward of this edition was written by her friend, Laurence Olivier) and the book was republished again in 1963.

Costume for Harold Kasket as the Duke of Orleans in Shakespeare’s Henry V 1955. Two other costume designs.

In the early 1950s, Cruddas moved to the Essex village of Great Bardfield living at Walton House next door but one to Edward and Charlotte Bawden. Cruddas’ partner Mary (Chez) Cheseldine (1902-1999) took on the management of the village teashop. Chez was a popular member of the community owing to her outgoing personality and sense of humour.

Walton House. A 1955 press photo showing Audrey Cruddas on the right outside Marianne Straub’s Trinity Cottage. Edward Bawden is on the left in front of John Aldridge. Stanley Clifford-Smith in the centre, to his left I think is Laurence Scarfe and then Michael Rothenstein. The woman back left is George Chapman’s wife Katie with her baby next to, on the right, Joan Glass (wife of Clifford-Smith).

At Bardfield Cruddas became involved with the dynamic art community which included: John Aldridge, Bawden, George Chapman, Stanley Clifford-Smith, Joan Glass, Walter Hoyle, Sheila Robinson, Michael Rothenstein, Marianne Straub, among others. During this period, she focused on watercolour paintings. She exhibited at all the Bardfield shows from 1954-1959. Both Cruddas and Cheseldine were close friends of the Clifford-Smith family as well as many of the village artists.

A watercolour by Audrey Cruddas. Could it have been a Great Bardfield view ?

Cruddas lived in Walton House for most of the 1950s and she was an important member of the Great Bardfield art community. During the late 1950’s increasing workloads of designs for the theatre took their toll and with stressful deadlines, Cruddas became increasingly dependent on alcohol. A doctor advised that she should take up playing the flute. She played quite well and every time she fancied a drink she started playing the flute !

In the 1960s, Cruddas and Chez moved to Bank House, Botesdale, Suffolk helped by a private low-interest funded mortgage secured by Joan Glass, wife of Clifford-Smith. The couple had been unable to take on a mortgage because of their gender and marital status. The couple enjoyed many happy years there in the company of Enid, Audrey’s eccentric elderly mother.

Top left: Hippy Family 1971. Which Way Man ? 1971. Top Right: Still Life.

Bottom Row: Bowl of oranges and grapes. The Rose Seller. Girl With a Cat.

Cruddas was diagnosed with breast cancer in the mid 1970’s and died in 1979. She is buried in the graveyard of the Suffolk village of Palgrave, near her home.

During her exhibiting career, her paintings were shown at the Islington Galleries and the Augustin Gallery, Holborn. The Fry Gallery, Saffron Walden featured the ‘Women of Great Bardfield’ exhibition in 1910 displaying the work of the women associated with the Great Bardfield group. Following Audrey’s death Chez sold Bank House and moved to the Suffolk coastal town of Southwold where she lived out her life dying in 1999.

Self Portrait.

Thanks go to Wikipedia for help writing this blog, also to Jenny Rooney – https://www.facebook.com/BetweenTheLinesBardfield …. and to Silas Clifford-Smith in Australia, son of Stanley Clifford-Smith and Joan Glass. https://httpartistichorizons.org/2021/07/10/stanley-clifford-smith/

Graham Bennison, August 2022. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

See also….https://httpartistichorizons.org/2021/09/03/great-bardfield-open-house-art-exhibitions/

Wood Cuts/Wood Engravings

Wood Engravings: Eric Ravilious ‘Sussex Landscape.’ 1931. Tirzah Garwood ‘The Wife.’ 1929.

The term woodcut is often used to cover the woodcut proper and wood engraving which came much later, consequently a useful distinction is lost.

With woodcuts the design is drawn on a block and the parts which are white are cut out, cutting with the grain of the wood, leaving the surface in relief. The surface is then covered with ink and printed.

Wood-cuts are the oldest method of Relief Printing, the Chinese practised printing from wood long before moveable type was used in Europe. Just exactly when wood cuts were first used is not known but in the British Museum a Chinese manuscript bears a woodcut dated AD. 868, the earliest known illustration in a printed book. The illustration shows Buddha discoursing to Subhiti amongst a crowd of figures, all drawn in flowing black line.

Wood Cut: Buddha Discoursing to Subhiti

The first paper was used in China during the Eastern Han period (25–220 BC), During the 8th century, Chinese paper making spread to the Islamic world, replacing papyrus. By the 11th century, papermaking was brought to Europe, where it replaced animal-skin-based parchment and wood panels. Papermaking reached Europe as early as 1085 in Toledo and was firmly established in Xàtiva, Spain by 1150. The arrival of paper in Europe saw the introduction of wood blocks, both illustrations and lettering reproduced on a single printable block of wood.

Wood Cuts: The block book ‘Biblia Pauperum, printed in the Netherlands c1450. A page from William Caxton’s ‘Aesop’ 1484,

One of the earliest English printed books with illustrations is William Caxton’s is Aesop’s fables printed in 1484.

As an art form Albrecht Durer took the wood cut to new heights creating over 300 wood cuts including in 1498, a series entitled ‘The Apocalypse’ which capitalised on the popular belief that the beginning of the 16th century would bring about the end of the world. 

Wood Cut. Albrecht Durer: The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Copper engraving, an intaglio process, took the place of wood cuts in the 16th century but could not be printed at the same time as the type. Wood engraving was developed to imitate the fine line quality of copper engraving and printed in relief. To facilitate the fineness of line a harder wood was requited.  Hence boxwood using the end grain of the wood was used cutting into with a graver rather than the knife used with a wood cut.

The plain surface of the block is used as a black ground then using to graver to cut white lines.  It is like drawing on a blackboard with chalk as opposed to drawing with a pen on paper.

Thomas Bewick 1753 – 1828 perfected the art of wood engraving adopting metal-engraving tools to cut hard boxwood across the grain, producing printing blocks that could be integrated with metal type, but were much more durable than traditional woodcuts.

Wood Engraving. Thomas Bewick: The Chillingham Bull, 1789

The best known of all Bewick’s prints” is said by The Bewick Society to be The Chillingham Bull, executed by Bewick on an exceptionally large block for Marmaduke Tunstall, a gentleman who owned an estate at Wycliffe in the North Riding of Yorkshire.

Being so hard boxwood can produce thousands of prints. Thomas Bewick calculated that one of his cuts was sound after 900,000 prints !

Wood Cut: Graham Bennison ‘The Bishop’s Brig.’ Wood Engraving: Graham Bennison ‘ The Broken Fence, Foodieash.’

I hope these two works can further illustrate the difference between a wood cut and a wood engraving. The first image cut against the grain is chunkier. The second image on a far cheaper wood than boxwood (unfortunately !!) displays finer lines.

The early 20th Century saw wood engraving widely used for book illustration. The printer would make an electrotype from the block (a metal duplicate) and print from that.

Notable wood engravers:

Gwen Raverat: Jeu de boules, Vence, 1922

Paul Nash: Garden Pond. 1922.

John Nash: Shearing Sheep, 1923

AND AGAIN……….one of my favourites

Tirzah Garwood: The Wife B & W. 1929.

“The Wife,” was made before Tirzah was married. In the spring of 1929 Tirzah celebrated her 21st , shortly after developing appendicitis. The summer holiday that year was spent in Brittany with Barbara Church, the sister of Tirzah’s former fiancé Bob Church. Tirzah recalled: ‘I did a picture of myself sitting on one side of a big double bed and called it “The Wife.” It was one of a series I was doing called “Relations” for a calendar for the Curwen Press.’

It was a year later that she married Eric Ravilious.

This blog made with help from:- ‘The Illustration of Books’ David Bland 1962.

‘A History of Wood engraving’ Douglas Percy-Bliss 1964 (first published 1928).

‘Hornet & Wild Rose, the Art of Tirzah Garwood.’ Anne Ullmann. 2020. https://fleecepress.com/hornet-wild-rose

Graham Bennison July 2022. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

Denise Hoyle

Walter and Denise Hoyle. Denise Hoyle at home in Hastings 2021.

Denise Hoyle was born in Paris in 1935, her parents were Italian. She grew up in Paris and studied at the L’Académie de la Grande Chaumière.  She was especially interested in natural history, early botanical drawings and the ballet. At the age of fourteen she began work as an errand girl for a milliner couturier in Paris. As a young woman growing up in the 12th arrondissement Denise would spend her days dreaming up imaginary costumes for the Théâtre du Châtelet.

Following a trip to Italy to visit family Denise took a six-month course in typing and shorthand and two jobs followed, first in an office in the La Borse district of Paris and then in the office of a company that imported chemicals from Germany.  During this time Denise took English lessons hoping to visit England at some point.

Aged 19 Denise, keen to improve her English, travelled to London in 1954 to become an au pair for a young boy Fairless, his parents Standish and Dodie Masterman lived in a large white stuccoed house near Regents Park. Dodie was an artist and illustrator and once Vogue model who had a passion for the imagery of the toy theatre. These new employers, friends of Michael Rothenstein, were keen patrons of the arts and they all travelled to Essex to see the first exhibition of “Great Bardfield at Home Artists”.  The Masterman’s were so impressed by the artist’s homes that they suggested Denise should return to visit the village the following weekend. So, it was here, only a few weeks after arriving in England, that she met Walter Hoyle impressed by his watercolours of Sicily. They decided to meet again at Lyons Corner House, Tottenham Court Road and were soon meeting regularly, they married a year later. The newlyweds moved to Great Bardfield in Essex where Denise became a close friend of Swiss textile designer Marianne Straub who moved from Braintree to Great Bardfield in 1953.

Walter already had a home at Great Lodge Farm near Great Bardfield and it was here that the couple began their married life together.

 Great Lodge Farm 1955. Great Lodge Farm pen and ink 1955. Great Lodge Farm watercolour 1956.

The view out of the front window of Walter and Denise’s home overlooked barns and the main farmhouse which had been neglected for many years.

In 1956 a move to Rosemary Cottage in Great Saling followed the birth of son James. Nina was born in 1960 and it was whilst the children were young that Denise began to make imaginative and beautiful collages working at the kitchen table. Denise continued to make collages over several years, later making more detailed work as illustrations for books for her two children. Her natural creativity also extended to pottery and painting

Collaged images for the story of Pinocchio, fifty images were made for this book, Denise then typed out the whole of the story on her typewriter.

Denise enjoyed creating Circus Scenes recalling the circuses she saw in France as a young girl.

Denise received no formal art training and was primarily self-taught producing collage books for her children and in 1960 was commissioned by the post office to design several posters. Apart from the Post Office posters the Collages were made entirely for the enjoyment of Denise and her children.

Two of the Post Office Savings Bank posters 1960.

In 1975 the family moved to a larger house at Bottisham which was nearer to Cambridge where Walter taught at the College of Art. Denise now learnt about ceramics at evening classes, where she made her pottery in the 1970s.

Denise and Walter were both fond of France and in 1983 bought a flat in Dieppe visiting whenever they could. When Walter retired, they bought a house in Hastings to be nearer to France, travelling on the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe. They sold the flat in Dieppe in 1992.

Walter died in 2002, Denise continuing to live in the house at Hastings.

Nina and Denise pictured at the Fry Gallery, Saffron Walden, 2020.

From the Fry Gallery website: The Fry Art Gallery was delighted to welcome Walter Hoyle’s widow, Denise, and their daughter, Nina, to the new exhibition Walter Hoyle – A Versatile Artist. They have kindly loaned pictures to the exhibition together with pots made by Walter and decorated by Denise, familiar to Nina from her childhood. It was a moving occasion for both of them and they were also delighted by the book to accompany the exhibition, for which Denise provided the Foreword.

Denise, a painter for many years, continues to paint, often painting flowers from her garden, and old ceramics, or found feathers and shells.

Paintings: Flowers from the garden.

Link to Great Bardfield Open House Exhibitions. https://httpartistichorizons.org/2021/09/03/great-bardfield-open-house-art-exhibitions/

Link to Marianne Straub blog.

Marianne Straub

Link to Walter Hoyle blog.

Walter Hoyle

This blog has been cobbled from various sources but chiefly Emma Mason’s lovely book ‘Denise Hoyle – an artist at her kitchen table.’ The link to the book and the Emma Mason Gallery is here…https://www.emmamason.co.uk/p/denise-hoyle-artist-kitchen-table-book

Graham Bennison, https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

Enid Marx

Enid Crystal Dorothy Marx, RDI, 20 October 1902 – 18 May 1998.

Enid Marx was born in London to Robert Joseph Marx and Annie Marie Neuberger, the youngest of three children. She was known familiarly throughout her life as “Marco” and was also a distant cousin of Karl Marx. 

Her artistic inclinations were fostered from an early age, especially by her older sister Marguerite who lived in France for a period. Enid found pleasure as a young girl in collecting samples of ribbon from textile shops. She travelled with her family in Europe before the First World War witnessing the Avant-garde arts movements of the early 20th century.

Marx first attended South Hampstead High School, after which her parents transferred her to Rodean School for girls, Brighton from 1916 until 1921. Her artistic studies there included life drawing, printing, and carpentry.

She studied at the Central school of Arts and Crafts for a year studying drawing, pottery and design for printed textiles under  Bernard Adeney.

Marx moved to the painting school at the Royal College of Art (RCA) in 1922. Her classmates there included Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, Barbara Hepworth and Barnett Freedman.

‘I went into the Painting School, it was really unacceptable to be in any other, and drawing was so important to me. Sir Frank Short wouldn’t have me in his wood engraving class: he said I drew so badly and wasn’t worth teaching. But Eric Ravilious sneaked me in after hours and taught me what he had learned that day!’

She later recalled: ‘The Sussex Downs were another love we had in common. Sussex was Rav’s home county. I was a Londoner but had spent many years of my childhood amongst the Downs, with which I feel I had an affinity.’

Wood engravings: Back Garden and Abstract Pattern 1925. These are two of the wood engravings completed after Marx’s exclusion from Frank Short’s classes! The Downs Above Plumpton, pen, wash and watercolour, 1924. Male Nude, 1924.

Douglas Percy Bliss headed the college magazine Gallimaufry with woodcuts by Eric Ravilious and Marx and caricatures by Edward Bawden. This was followed by another version of the college magazine – ‘Mandrake’.

As a student, Marx was influenced by Paul Nash, then a tutor at the RCA, who introduced her to publishers and encouraged her avant-garde leanings. Her woodcuts published in  Gallimaufry, must have seriously irritated Sir Frank.  At her final assessment in 1925 Marx was failed by Claude Ricketts, she left the school that year. Marx insisted on drawing in an abstract manner refusing to draw ‘the washed-out William Morris stuff required of her.’ Her work was judged to be “vulgar”, reflecting her interest in popular forms and rejection of the traditional definition of fine arts. Nearly sixty years later, in 1982, the College awarded her an honorary degree.

In 1925, after leaving the RCA before Marx went to work for the textile designers Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher at their studio in Hampstead. Marx learnt how to mix vegetable dyes as well as the steaming, ironing and working of printed fabrics. She became a member of the Society of Wood Engravers in 1925.

In 1927 she started her own workshop over a cowshed on Hampstead Hill where she designed and produced block-printed textiles, often making use of naturally derived dyes instead of new chemical methods. Her work was sold through the Little Gallery, off Sloane Street, and later at Cecilia Dunbar Kilburn’s Dunbar Hay gallery.

Marx experienced tragedy in her life when in 1928 her sister Daisy was taken ill returning to London from Paris dying aged only thirty-seven.  Soon after this Marx moved her home and studio to Ordnance Road, St John’s Wood.

In 1929 Marx designed her first commercial book cover, for a monograph on the engravings of Albrecht Dürer. She created patterned papers for the Curwen Press and received commissions from publishers Chatto and Windus.

Since childhood Marx had loved popular art, a passion shared with her friend and lifelong companion, Margaret Lambert, a historian of 20th-century European politics, whom Marx had met in the early 1930s. From the late 1930s Marx and Lambert began collecting popular ephemera, such as scrapbooks, valentines, paper peepshows, children’s books, Staffordshire dog figurines and toys. They used their collection as the basis for a book entitled When Victoria Began to Reign, published by Faber and Faber in 1937. Lambert and Marx co-authored English Popular and Traditional Art in England (1946), which they expanded into English Popular Art (1951).

Marx taught a Wednesday design and engraving class at the Ruskin School of Art at Oxford, with colleagues Barnett Freedman, Eric Ravilious and Paul Nash, until 1936.

In 1937 she was selected by the London Passenger Transport Board to design the moquette seat fabrics for use on the seats of London buses and tube trains. The new seat fabrics were part of a customer-experience cantered redesign, spearheaded by Christian Barman and Frank Pick, focusing on interior fabrics and surfaces. Marx was advised that the material had to ‘look fresh at all times, even after bricklayers had sat on it’, as well as not being too dazzling as it was destined for moving vehicles. The first three fabrics she designed – called ‘Belsize’, ‘Bushey’ and ‘Brent’ – combined her characteristic use of pattern with a modern feel in keeping with LT’s wider approach to design.

Marx later recalled in a lecture to other textile designers that ‘We all thought at first that the best way of disguising dirt was to use colours which would more or less tone in with the dirt’ but that ‘the best method of ensuring the seats would look clean after a period of use was to use strongly contrasting tones and rather brilliant colour’.

Designs for London Passenger Transport Board, moquette seat fabrics.

Ravilious visited Marx at her St John’s studio making a large-scale pencil sketch of her working environment with colour notations. Enid’s harvest decorated mugs provided the stimulus which led to Ravilious’ Persephone (Also known as Harvest Festival) design for Wedgwood.

During the Second World War, she began writing and illustrating her own small format children’s books, including Bulgy the Barrage Balloon (1941) and The Pigeon Ace.

During World War II, she was commissioned by The Pilgrim Trust to paint 14 watercolours of buildings under threat from bombing for its “Recording Britain” project.

Four of Enid’s Recording Britain paintings: Houses in Marlborough Hill, St. John’s Wood. The Knights of St Johns Tavern, Queen’s Terrace, St John’s Wood. No.1, Cornwall Terrace, Regent’s Park. Almshouses, St John’s Wood. All 1940.

Recording Britain was an artistic documentary project sponsored by the British government in the late 1930s as the country faced the potentially devastating impact of a second world war. The resulting collection of more than 1,500 watercolours and drawings, by both well-known and amateur artists, is a rich visual record of buildings, landscapes, and livelihoods perceived to be under threat.

In 1943, the furniture designer Gordon Russell invited her to become a member of the Board of Trade Utility furniture Design Advisory Panel, which was tasked with implementing wartime austerity standards in the field of interior and furniture design. She became responsible for its range of textiles, eventually creating over 30 commissioned designs. The textile patterns were primarily geometric, although Marx also introduced some floral motifs after seeking feedback from her charwoman.

In 1944, Marx was elected to the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry, reflecting her ability in practical industrial design and the respect of her peers. Marx was commissioned to design more moquettes for LT, with ‘Shield’ perhaps her best known and liveliest design. It was used on refurbished 1938 Tube stock trains in the late 1940s, using the same colours as ‘Chevron’ but breaking away from the straight lines of her previous LT patterns.

The ‘Chevron’ design is a geometric pattern consisting of a light green grid overlaid by diagonal red stripes and checks in the form of a ‘chevron’, on a dark green background.  Designed by Enid Marx in 1938, this moquette was used to re-upholster seats on 1938 Surface Stock trains. On vehicles for the Piccadilly and Central lines it was teamed with red leather arm rests.

Marx was awarded the distinguished status of Royal Designer for Industry by the British Royal Society of Arts in 1944. Marx was one of the designers chosen to exhibit in the Royal Pavilion at the Festival of Britain in 1951.

After the war Marx designed covers for Penguin Books. She finished an engraving series called Marco’s Animal Alphabet in 1979, although it was not published until after her death.

Marx considered several teaching positions after the war at the Central School of Arts and Crafts and the RCA, before eventually getting hired in 1947 at Gravesend School of Art, teaching creative design for fabric printing. In 1949 she took an interior decoration lecturer position at the London County Council City Literary Institute in Covent Garden. Between 1951 and 1955 Marx taught design at Maidstone College of Art in Kent and between 1955 and 1957 she taught embroidery (design) at Bromley College of Art. Marx was appointed head of Textiles, Dress and Ceramics at Croydon College of Art in 1960 and in 1965, she retired from her full-time position to become a guest lecturer in textile history.

She was commissioned by LT to design posters in 1957 that exhibited her skills as a printmaker.

Marx designed the frame around the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II on the British Wilding series of penny, halfpenny, and three-halfpenny stamps, and the 1976 Christmas stamp issue featuring medieval embroidery.

Top row: one of Marx’s designs for the Wilding Series

of low-value stamps. The red stamps in the bottom row are a design by Michael Farrar-Bell.  

During the late 1950s and 1960s, Marx lived with her partner Margaret Lambert in St Andrews, Scotland.  In 1956 Lambert was appointed as Lecturer in Modern (European) History at St Andrews University having first been considered for a post at Cambridge where she had advised on an extra-mural course. Lambert died in 1995.  The couple amassed a large collection of English folk art and much of their collection is now held at Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park in Warwickshire.

A painting of a still life on a table, comprising a Staffordshire dog (in Compton Verney’s collection) and tulips in a vase.

Marx died in London on 18 May 1998, aged 95. In April 2022, English Heritage unveiled a blue plaque in Marx’s honour on her former home and studio at 39 Thornhill Road, Barnsbury, Islington, London.

Marx’s home at 39 Thornhill Road, Islington contains her purpose-built studio in the back garden, which remains in much the same condition as she left it nearly 25 years ago.

She shared the house with her partner, Margaret Lambert and friends Grace Lambert and Eleanor Bruening, who still lives at the house today.

My own favourite Enid Marx’s works centre around her superb lino-cuts.

This book is available but listed by Amazon at £95, is a bit beyond my pocket right now. With no easily available publication available this blog has been cobbled from many sources, Wikipedia was a good start followed by a multitude of bits and pieces !

Graham Bennison May 2022 https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

Life In An English Village

Life In an English Village.  It was in 1925 that Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious first cycled into Great Bardfield. Working in London they would catch a train to Great Dunmow and then hire bicycles. The pair frequently lodged at Brick House. In 1932 Edward married Charlotte and his father bought the whole house for them as a wedding present at a cost of £500. Eric and his wife Tirzah were invited to share the house with them. Eric and Tirzah stayed until 1934 when they moved to nearby Castle Hedingham.

Brick House

In 1949 Bawden submitted an idea for a book to King Penguin Publishers – ‘Life in an English Village’ with a text by Noel Carrington, brother of tragic artist Dora Carrington. Bawden produced 16 lithographs together with 6  pen and ink drawings.

1 The Reverend Kenneth Edmund Cartwright working on his sermon in the old vicarage. 2 St Mary the Virgin. The Parish Church drawn from behind the baptismal font looking up towards the altar and the rare stone rood screen. 3 The Methodist Chapel now a private house at the top of Bridge St. 4 The Junior School. Miss Duffield, the Headteacher is seated on the left.

5 The Child Welfare Clinic. The clinic was held in the Town Hall. 6 Peeling Potatoes. Mrs Buttle, home help to the Bawdens peeling potatoes. 7 Sunday evening. 8 Farmer Mr and Mrs Tom Ives and Maud Hitchcock at home in Bell Lane.

9 The Cabinet-Make. Ernest Davey and Ted Suckling’s workshop on Crown Street. 10 The Bell. Artist John Aldridge enjoying a pint with corn-dolly maker and gardener Fred Mizen. The landlord is Mr Jarrold, they are watched by the local bobby Sergeant Baker. 11 A Village Store. Piper’s store on Bridge Street, it finally closed in 1969. 12 The Baker. Gurney;s Bakery on the High Street, the bread oven can still be seen in what is now Gray’s Estate agents. Artist Stanley Clifford-Smith made this his home after originally living in Buck House.

13 The Butcher. Mr Bone the Butchers was next to the Vine pub, now Olive Tree House. Mr Bone has his back to us. 14 The Tailor. Mr Suckling the tailor. 15 The Saddler’s Shop. Walter Goldstone’s saddlery and harness-making business on Crown Street, now Crown House. 16 The Market Gardener. Gardener Mr Piper.

The six pen and ink drawings.

But, the story doesn’t end here, as on Friday 28th May 2021 the Bell Inn lithograph was re-created. Notice that the fireplace is on the left in Bawden’s work but behind me on the right as indeed it is. The sketch and litho was reversed on the plate.

Yours truly is pictured taking the part of John Aldridge, pipe in hand while Phllip Mizen plays the role of his grandfather Fred Mizen complete with eye patch. Landlady Sharon Alford pulls a pint while her son Kieran, alias Sgt. Baker keeps a wary eye on proceedings.

My stay in Great Bardfield was fabulous, in the words of Tirzah: ‘Long Live Great Bardfield’.

Mr Jarrold at The Bell.

The blog on Fred Mizen can be found here….. https://httpartistichorizons.org/2021/04/28/fred-mizen-1993-1961/

Many thanks for help with these notes to The Bawden Room leaflet. The Bawden room is situated in the forecourt of Great Bardfield Town Hall. To book a visit contact Janet Dyson on 07957 483207.

Graham Bennison May 2021. https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist

Lino-cut: ‘Toppings Bookshop.’

Lino-cut. ‘Toppings Bookshop.’ Toppings is a popular bookshop in Greyfriars, St Andrews. This is an original hand-made lino-cut printed from the block, many separations. The actual image size is 12″ x 9″. An edition of 20 numbered and signed. The second pic shows the lino-cut in a mount. Price £40 plus p and p. on Etsy BUT £35 to friends on this site.

Douglas Percy Bliss

Phyllis Dodd: Portrait of Douglas Percy Bliss, 1926

Fellow Royal College of Art students Douglas Percy Bliss, Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden studied together, lived together, and following graduation remained firm friends. While Ravilious and Bawden are prominent in the Pantheon of 20th Century artists and widely celebrated Bliss is less well known and deserves far more recognition.

Douglas Percy Bliss was born in Karachi, India (now Pakistan) on the 28th of January 1900, where his father was a trader. The family was originally from Northamptonshire, but his grandfather moved to Morayshire in Scotland, where he raised a family of sixteen children. Douglas always regarded himself as Scottish, as he was raised in Edinburgh and was educated at George Watson’s College 1906-17. On leaving school, he joined the Highland Light Infantry until the end of the Great War in 1918. He went on to gain an M.A. honours degree in English Lit. at Edinburgh University in 1922. The study of Art History in his first year encouraged his lifelong interest in art and architecture. After obtaining his degree, Bliss studied painting at the Royal College of Art in London where he came to know Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden students in the Design School. Bliss had intended to join the Design School, to prepare to become an illustrator, but was persuaded by RCA Principal, William Rothenstein, to enter its Painting School.

Early in his career, Bliss stated he wanted to ‘draw trees really well’. In a variety of media, he used his characteristic muted colours and the clean lines of an engraver to celebrate the English and Scottish Landscapes. Sadly, much of the work of his talented youth was lost.

The-Poor-House-RCA-Composition-dec-1923. Satires in stone the Sportsman 1923. Scarecrow 1925 Ink, body colour with scratching out.

The fraternity of Bliss, Ravilious and Bawden lived and exhibited with one another; they exchanged ideas and techniques and made pilgrimages to sites such as ‘Rat Abbey’ – Samuel Palmer’s run-down cottage in Shoreham – to study the local countryside. For some of this time, Bliss shared lodgings with Bawden at 58 Redcliffe Road, and then space with Ravilious at 38 Holbein Studios.

He became student editor of the R.C.A. magazine. The quality of his third magazine (Gallimaufry) was outstanding, he introduced the innovation of hand- colouring by stencil. The magazine included woodcuts by Ravilious and caricatures by Bawden. The British Museum bought several copies and sent one to the Louvre Print Room in Paris.  Introduced to the Society of Wood Engravers by tutor Paul Nash, Bliss discovered that wood engraving was an ideal medium for his artistic and design talents studying wood engraving in his post-graduate year. The high quality of Bliss’s engravings was quickly admired beyond the walls of the R.C.A. The art critic of The Times praised Bliss’ wood-engravings for concentrating ‘a world of imagination in an inch or two of space.’

RCA student magazines: Gallimaufry and Mandrake.
In 1925, the supremely conservative Oxford University Press published a book of engravings by young art student Bliss illustrating ‘Border Ballads’. Commissions quickly followed on the success of ‘Border Ballads’, including illustrations for ‘The History of Rasselas’ by Dr. Johnson, published by J.M. Dent in 1926. The same publishers paid a great compliment to Bliss when they commissioned him to write ‘A History of Wood Engraving’. Even today this is regarded as one of the best expositions ever written about this specialised field of Art. Good copies of the 1928 edition are eagerly sought by dealers and students in Europe and America.

Border Ballads The History of Wood Engraving

In 1926 Peggy Angus took fellow graduate Bliss to the Scots Labour Club, where, Bliss reported: ‘We hobnobbed with Ramsey MacDonald, chatted long with Ishbel his daughter, sundry Labour MP’s – fierce devils with jaws and wild eyes who talked about unscrupulous Liberals, feudal Dukes, etc. There was speechifying, a sword dance, songs from Peggy and other northern song-birds and then they cleared a space for a reel. Before you could say “Boo” Peggy and I were in it ‘hooching’ and sweating and clapping hands and jumping about like young opossums.’

Three years later MacDonald became Prime Minister for the second time, as a widower, Ishbel became his official hostess.

In the autumn of 1927, Bliss held his first exhibition, with Bawden and Ravilious, at the St George’s Gallery, George Street, Hanover Square. Mainly focussing on watercolours, it included his first landscapes of Barra, an island in the Outer Hebrides, which he returned to on many occasions, and which inspired some of his finest works.

Three paintings of Barra plus a wood engraving.

In 1928 Bliss married fellow RCA student Phyllis Dodd, who was a painter having previously studied at the Liverpool School of Art before moving to the RCA.

Encouraged by his wife Bliss concentrated on his painting, producing oil and watercolour landscapes in Scotland and England. Coincidentally his paintings record the end of an era of small holding. He also painted some urban scenes just before the towns were transformed by high rise and high-density buildings. The married couple first lived at 65 Sancroft Street, Lambeth, before moving to Blackheath in 1932, and settling at 38 Lee Park. They had two daughters, Prudence, who became an art historian, and Rosalind, an artist and teacher. They were joined in Blackheath by Bliss’s widowed mother, Isabel (and she would remain in the household until her death in 1966).

A Hebridean Cottage. Morayshire shepherd, wood engraving 1926. Morayshire Crofter wood engraving c 1928. The Quiraing, Skye 1927. The Red Cart 1939.

When war broke out in 1939, his collection of engraved blocks was still mostly unpublished. During the Blitz, the entire collection was stolen from his London home. However, almost forty years after the theft, sixteen of the missing blocks were identified at an auction in Somerset. They had not been properly cared for and the bigger ones split when printing was attempted. Thus, good prints of his wood engravings, perhaps the most characteristic expression of his Art, are rare.

In the 1930s he taught at the Blackheath School of Art and was the London art critic for The Scotsman.

Railway Bridges at Blackheath c.1932. A London Square in Winter 1941.

Bliss produced two series of Artists in their Studios, exhibited in London exhibitions in 1934 and 1937. Many were sold.

Conversation at Arles. Rossetti painting ‘lovely guggums.’ BR Haydon torn between High Art and a selling line of Napoleans Musing”, 1935.

Ravilious, after seeing the exhibition in 1934, wrote to Bliss as follows:
What an awfully good and lively show that was. Cezanne (sold I notice) and Van Gogh were damn good drawings – the landscape in the latter was boiling point. I loved it. Holman Hunt, Toulouse Lautrec and Turner were the others I enjoyed most, the Turner I would have taken home if I could rub two halfpennies together……Congratulations on the show…..You should do well with these drawings. They are the goods.

In 1939 Bliss volunteered for the RAF Reserve and was sent to an officer training centre in Uxbridge. Two years later, he was called up and stationed by the RAF at Felixstowe, where he did a radar course. Appointed to a branch of the Air Ministry that dealt with concealment and decoy, he served in Brighton and Bournemouth early in 1942, before moving to Bishopbriggs, near Glasgow, to work at a decoy site intended to simulate a city. In 1943, he moved to the historic Hoghton Tower, Lancashire, where mock tanks were being made. Later that year, and for the remainder of the war, he worked at the Camouflage and Decoy Unit based at Pinewood Studios.

Following bomb damage to their London home, Bliss and his family moved to Derbyshire. In November 1945 they moved into Hillside Cottage, Windley, near Derby.

High Noon, Windley. Gunhills Windley:  Painted without any sketches, from his bedroom window on the first floor of Hillside Cottage. The title is derived from the hills in the background, which according to local tradition were so named because guns were posted there either in the time of Cromwell or during the southernmost stage of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s march from Scotland in 1745. Gunhills. Cowley’s Farm, Ireton Wood, near Worksworth 1945.

After the war in September 1946 Bliss was appointed Director of the Glasgow School of Art. Hillside Cottage was kept for holidays until he retired there in 1964.

He referred to Glasgow as “the greatest industrial city in the Empire”. Bliss was instrumental in saving much of the Art Nouveau architecture and furniture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Bliss drew on his contacts to enlist teaching staff, including Gilbert Spencer, RA (1892-1979) (brother of Stanley) and Eric Horstmann. He continued as Director from 1946 until 1964. By the time he completed his period as Director, Glasgow School of Art was listed by Whitaker’s Almanack among the six top Art Schools in Britain.

Phyllis Dodd. Portrait of Douglas Percy Bliss.

During his Directorship of the Glasgow School of Art, the School saw a re-emergence of the importance of design and the creation of the three new or reconstituted departments of Interior, Textile, and Industrial Design, raising them to the status of Diploma subjects, and providing them with fully equipped workshops.

Bliss also worked hard to further the reputation and influence of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s legacy and to support Mackintosh research. One letter records Bliss asking the current inhabitants of Mackintosh’s old house on Southpark Avenue if a student interested in researching Mackintosh can come and visit their home to take a look. Bliss also worked on the campaign to save Glasgow’s Mackintosh Tea Rooms, enlisting help from individuals such as Nikolaus Pevsner and John Betjeman, and spread the reputation of Mackintosh world-wide by lending Mackintosh items to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, for an Art Nouveau Exhibition in 1958/1959.

Soon after retirement in 1964 settling at his cottage in Derbyshire, he became a governor of Derby School of Art. During his retirement, he continued to paint, and produced a monograph on Edward Bawden (1979), which recalled the excitement of his own student years.

‘Ecclesbourne Valley, Derbyshire in the snow’.

In 1983, a joint show of work by Bliss and his wife, Phyllis Dodd, was shown at St Michael’s Gallery, Derby.

He travelled widely in Europe, including Russia, and to Africa visiting Ghana five times as an art adjudicator at Kuman University.

Douglas Percy Bliss died in Ashbourne, Derbyshire on the 11th of March 1984.

Woodcut: ‘Tattie Bogle.’

To date there is no standard text on Douglas Percy Bliss and this blog has been cobbled from numerous sources. A book titled ‘Douglas Percy Bliss and Phyllis Dodd’ has been ‘coming out’ for a couple of years now but has yet to land in booksellers shops. Hopefully not too long ?

Charcoal Burners; Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum.

Graham Bennison https://www.facebook.com/BennisonArtist