School of Art

Contact Details

School of Art
Aberystwyth University
Buarth Mawr
SY23 1NG

Tel: +44 (0)1970 622460

Fax: +44 (0)1970 622461


Prints of the 1920s and 1930s

By the end of the 19th century attitudes towards etching had changed significantly and the notion of the limited edition fine art print was established. The so-called 'Etching Revival' culminated in the 1920s with an unprecedented market for contemporary prints, the high demand for etchings and the promise of commercial success turned many young artists to printmaking.

Sidney Greenslade purchased prints mainly by contemporary practitioners to demonstrate 'very simple and unaffected work by acknowledged masters of their Art'. It was hoped that the high standards set by London artists would help students at Aberystwyth improve their design, execution and techniques 'due to careful study of and the good influence of the collections'. Greenslade reflected popular middle-class taste for the 'traditional' etchers; his endeavour to illustrate good craftsmanship led inevitably to the exclusion of modernist concerns.

The overall tone of these inter-war prints is conservative and for the most part backward looking-to a past golden age, a sanctuary of rural life that was deemed to be under threat. This aspect of the print market between the wars is represented by a group of etchers who were contemporaries at Goldsmiths' School of Art in the mid-1920s: Graham Sutherland, Paul Drury and Edward Bouverie Hoyton. Their vision of rural Britain was derived from the work of Samuel Palmer and Frederick Landseer Griggs whose etchings of monumental Gothic cathedrals and visionary scenes of medieval England displayed sentiments akin to Sutherland's own. The small densely worked plates that depict rural or agrarian work are heavy with symbolism, as the landscape became a vehicle for emotions, its physical appearance transformed.