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- Costers dancing
Group of dancing figures, including woman with plumed hat. 1952 Lithograph, printed on grey paper
- Height: 435 millimetres
- Width: 587 millimetres (approx)
Inscription ContentSigned and dated in reverse in the image; also signed and dated below in blue pencil and inscribed "Artist's Proof"
Text from Frances Carey & Antony Griffiths, 'Avant-garde British Printmaking 1914-1960', BMP, 1990, no.210.
'Costers Dancing' was the theme of four lithographs (Sanesi 21-4) executed by Richards in 1951-2, all printed by him at the Royal College of Art in a handful of proofs, with the exception of the first which was printed in six colours and issued in an unlimited edition by the Royal College for the Festival of Britain. The version described in Carey & Griffiths 1990 is an unrecorded black and white proof for a lithograph ultimately printed by Richards in three colours, of which no more than three copies are known to have been pulled; another of the proof impressions from the artist's estate has the background printed in orange. A preparatory drawing for yet another version of 'Costers Dancing', which was never turned into a lithograph, is in the British Museum (1987,1212.123).
Richards's lithographs for the Redfern Gallery in the late forties and early fifties were all printed professionally. At the end of the decade, in 1959, he began a long collaboration with the master-printer Stanley Jones, a former pupil of his from the Slade, at the Curwen Studio, starting with the 'Hammerklavier Suite' of six lithographs. But in many respects, some of Richards's most remarkable prints were those he printed himself between 1951 and 1955, either at the Royal College or at the Slade.
Stanley Jones has provided a critical account of Richards's auto-didactic approach to lithography in the mid-fifties:
"At this time he preferred to use zinc plate rather than stone. I think the time element spent in its preparation somewhat deterred him, rather than indicating a preference for the metallic surface. We watched, with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation, as each week he would bring into school freshly drawn plates to print on the offset machine. The sequence of events was fairly predictable. After several pulls had been achieved, the image would take on a distinctly blighted look as the chemistry he had employed began to deteriorate. Usually this meant two things: either he gave up the idea completely or, with varying degrees of exasperation the situation would be a signal for renewed alteration or improvisation of his original idea through the use of etches and abrasives. The results were sometimes surprising both to him and us; the frustration was the destruction of his printing surfaces under this kind of graphic punishment" (Pat Gilmour, 'Ceri Richards, his Australian Printer and Stanley Jones', 'Tamarind Papers', vol. 10, no. 1 (Spring 1987), p.32).
The technical imperfections described by Jones were quite inimical to any proper editioning, yet the element of chance in the whole operation gave a sense of immediacy to the surface texture of the compositions which is not always to be found in the more competently printed lithographs made later.
Richards clearly profited from the example of Picasso's astonishing virtuosity with lithography, which he could have observed at first hand in the exhibition of fifty-five lithographs of 1945-7 shown in London in 1948 by the Arts Council. Nonetheless, the 'Costers Dancing' of 1951-2 were the culmination of a theme which Richards had made entirely his own, progressing from the static representation of 'Costers in a Pub' of 1940, his very first attempt at lithography (Sanesi 4), to these extravagant evocations of a "cockney saturnalia" (the phrase of Mel Gooding in 'Ceri Richards Graphics', 1979).
British XXc Mounted Atlas
1990/1 Sep-Jan, BM, 'Avant-Garde British Printmaking 1914-1960', no.210
1991/2 Nov-Jan, Middlesborough AG, Avant-Garde British Printmaking
1992 Feb-April, Plymouth City Mus & AG, Avant-Garde British Printmaking
1992 May-June, Glasgow, Hunterian AG, Avant-Garde British Printmaking
1992 Oct-Dec, Manchester, Whitworth AG, Avant-Garde British Printmaking
Prints & Drawings
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Object reference number: PPA7742
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