Printmakers of the past

Now and again someone will mention a printmaker of the past and we become curios to see their work and find out a little bit about them.

Printmakers of the past

Mabel Royds
Kathleen Hale
Francisco Goya

Mabel Royds

Mabel grew up in Liverpool. At age fifteen, Royds was awarded a scholarship to attend the Royal Academy in London but instead decided on the Slade School, where she studied under the tutelage of Henry Tonks. Royds moved to Paris, where she trained with the painter and printmaker Walter Sickert. She then went to Canada where she taught for several years at the Havergal College in Toronto. In 1911, Royds settled in Edinburgh where she taught at the Edinburgh College of Art, then under the directorship of Frank Morley Fletcher, under whose influence she took up making colour woodcuts. In 1913 she married the etcher Ernest Lumsden, who also taught at Edinburgh, and together they travelled through Europe, the Middle East and India. In 1921 Royds exhibited at the newly-formed Society of Graphic Art in London.

Kathleen Hale

Kathleen was born in Broughton, Salford, Lancashire, and was brought up in a suburb of Manchester. Her childhood was far from idyllic: her father died when she was very young and she was forced to endure long periods of separation from her mother. This, along with the frustrations of an unexpressed artistic talent, produced a rebellious reaction in the young girl’s naturally ebullient nature. However, her talent as an artist was recognised at school by a sympathetic headmistress at Manchester High School for Girls and she went on to attend art courses in Manchester and at the University College, Reading from 1915 to 1917, where she was taught by Allen W. Seaby.

In 1917, Kathleen moved to London to make a life for herself as an artist. She worked for some time as Augustus John’s secretary whilst developing a wide circle of friends in the artistic community, such as Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. During the 1920s she earned a living as an illustrator, accepting commissions for book jackets, posters and illustrations for children’s books, as well as selling her own drawings. She also attended the Central School of Arts and Crafts. Hale spent time in Paris in 1923, where she met the couple Cedric Morris and Arthur Lett-Haines.

In the late 1930s the Orlando series was among the earliest picture books produced using photolithography. In 1941 Orlando’s Evening Out was the first fictional picture book published by Puffin Books, the children’s imprint of Penguin Books.

Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes

 Goya was a Spanish romantic painter and printmaker. He is considered the most important Spanish artist of late 18th and early 19th centuries and throughout his long career was a commentator and chronicler of his era.

Goya was born to a modest family in 1746 in the village of Fuendetodos in Aragon. From the age of 14 he studied painting under José Luzán y Martinez and moved to Madrid to study with Anton Raphael Mengs. He married Josefa Bayeu in 1773; the couple’s life together was characterised by an almost constant series of pregnancies and miscarriages.

He became a court painter to the Spanish Crown in 1786 and this early portion of his career is marked by portraits of the Spanish aristocracy and royalty, and Rococo style tapestry cartoons designed for the royal palace.

Goya was a guarded man and, although letters and writings survive, we know comparatively little about his thoughts. He suffered a severe and undiagnosed illness in 1793 which left him completely deaf.

After 1793 his work became progressively darker and pessimistic. His later easel and mural paintings, prints and drawings appear to reflect a bleak outlook on personal, social and political levels, and contrast with his social climbing. He was appointed Director of the Royal Academy in 1795, the year Manuel Godoy made an unfavorable treaty with France.

In 1799 Goya became Primer Pintor de Cámara, the then highest rank for a Spanish court painter. In the late 1790s, commissioned by Godoy, he completed his ‘La Maja Desnuda’, a remarkably daring nude for the time and clearly indebted to Diego Velázquez. In 1801 he painted Charles IV of Spain and his family. In 1807 Napoleon led the French army into Spain.

He remained in Madrid during the Peninsular War, which seems to have affected him deeply. Although he did not vocalise his thoughts in public, they can be inferred from his ‘Disasters of War’ series of prints and his 1814 paintings ‘The Second of May 1808’ and ‘The Third of May 1808’.

Other works from his mid-period include the ‘Los Caprichos’ and ‘Los Disparates’ etching series, and a wide variety of paintings concerned with insanity, mental asylums, witches, fantastical creatures and religious and political corruption. All of these suggest that he feared for both his country’s fate and his own mental and physical health.

His late period culminates with the ‘Black Paintings’ of 1819–1823, applied on oil on the plaster walls of his house the ‘Quinta del Sordo’ (house of the deaf man) where, disillusioned by political and social developments in Spain, he lived in near isolation.

Goya eventually abandoned Spain in 1824 to retire to the French city of Bordeaux, accompanied by his much younger maid and companion, Leocadia Weiss, who may or may not have been his lover. There he completed his ‘La Tauromaquia’ series and a number of other major canvases.

Following a stroke which left him paralysed on his right side, and suffering failing eyesight and with poor access to painting materials, Goya died and was buried on 16th April 1828 aged 82. His body was later re-interred in Spain.