- Museum number
- Object: Church town
Abstract composition. 1948
Colour screenprint, printed in brown, green and black with grey gouache added around the edge
Verso: Abstract composition; trial impression
Colour screenprint, printed in brown, green and turquoise
- Production date
Height: 279 millimetres
Width: 240 millimetres (sheet)
- Curator's comments
- Text from Frances Carey & Antony Griffiths, 'Avant-Garde British Printmaking 1914-1960', BMP 1990, no.162.
This and possibly one other subject by Lanyon inscribed "Figure of houses, gelatine bichromate print 1947" were among the first artist's screenprints made in Britain. Stencilling as a variety of screenprinting had been briefly used by the Curwen Press for book illustration in the early thirties, when it was the subject of an essay by Paul Nash in the Curwen Press 'Miscellany' of 1931. By the latter half of the forties it was established as a commercial medium in Britain for the production of posters, show cards, wallpapers and textiles, but as an artistic medium it had only been exploited in America, where the term 'serigraphy' was coined in the early forties to distinguish between the autographic and the purely reproductive uses of the process. A leading protagonist of silkscreen printing in Britain during the forties was F. W. Mackenzie, who taught at the London County Council School of Photo-Engraving and contributed articles on the technical aspects of the subject to journals like the 'Serigraph Quarterly' (published in New York), the 'British and Colonial Printer' and the 'Penrose Annual' (see vols 43 and 44,1949 and 1950). Mackenzie's interest was immediately engaged by the 'creative' experiments with silkscreen printing by American artists and he was instrumental in bringing to England an exhibition of screenprints circulated in Europe by the United States Information Service in 1949-50; in an article for the 'Serigraph Quarterly' in 1949 (vol. iv, nos 2 and 3, p.3) he wrote, "Screen process has aroused a lot of interest in art schools here, and I hope to keep them in the rather purer atmosphere of Serigraphy and away from the mechanical aspects of the process."
The reasons for Lanyon's initial attempts at screen-printing are unknown, but 'Church Town' was executed by the simplest possible method of attaching hand-cut stencils to the underside of a gauze screen, the stencils thereby masking out the areas to which the artist did not wish colour to be applied; the masked area in this case was subsequently covered with grey gouache.
The inscription "gelatine bichromate print" on 'Figures of Houses' of the previous year is a reference to the method of making photographic stencils, which had been used for photogravure and collotype printing as well as for commercial silkscreen printing. Lanyon's father was a photographer and the materials were therefore readily to hand.
'Church Town' does not appear to have been exhibited during the artist's lifetime, but an impression numbered 1/7 was included in a posthumous exhibition of his gouaches and drawings at the Bear Lane Gallery in Oxford in 1969; the same impression was sold at Sotheby's on 11 December 1989, lot 340. In common with the rest of the edition it had remained with the artist's widow, Sheila Lanyon, until recently.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1990/1 Sept.-Jan., BM, 'Avant-Garde British Printmaking 1914-1960', no.162
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number