WOOD engravings

During the 1930s Suzanne Cooper produced a series of wood engravings.  Her teacher at the Grosvenor School, Iain Macnab, treated her as a favoured protégée and peer, affectionately inscribing a copy of his book on engraving to her with the words 'From one woodpecker to another'.

Some examples of the first edition of wood-engravings are now in the collection of the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester.

Eleven of the original matrices have survived, from which a second limited edition of prints have been made. They are now on sale from The Printroom Studio https://www.printroom.studio/artist/suzanne-cooper/

 

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Brightlingsea

Brightlingsea is a seaside town in Essex, not far from Suzanne Cooper’s childhood hometown of Frinton. She would have known the place well when it was still a bustling fishing port.

The strong verticals of the foreground figures stabilise a composition typical of Cooper’s dynamic handling of space. Sea and land swirl together beneath a high horizon. Houses tilt: steamboats and horses hurry. Waves and clouds echo each others curves. With its abundance of detail, and great variety of marks, the image demonstrates Cooper’s remarkable inventive energy

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Fog

wood engraving 23 cms x 20 cms

Several of Cooper’s contemporaries at the Grosvenor School in the 1930s were making lino-cuts under the tutelage of Claud Flight, in a style strongly influenced by Vorticist and Futurist art. This wood-engraving displays a similar aesthetic.

A night-time street scene, full of modernist imagery of motorcars and electric lighting, becomes an almost abstract composition.

Tantalisingly, the catalogue for a group show at the Wertheim Gallery in 1937 lists an oil painting by Suzanne Cooper also entitled ‘Fog’. At least a dozen of her paintings were sold during the 1930s: their present whereabouts are now unknown.

The Carol Singers

wood engraving 17 cms x 19 cms

Despite its cosily reassuring title, this enigmatic image is full of drama. Is the woman on the left singing, or crying for help? Are the men sharing a carol-sheet, or is one comforting the other? Why is the woman at the window apparently so distraught?

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The Falcon, Uppingham

wood-engraving 19 cms x 16 cms

The Falcon, was and still is, a popular inn in Rutland’s Uppingham. In this roofscape, seen from a bedroom window, Cooper creates a complex pattern of rectangular roofs and walls, charmingly framed by the curves of curtain and pot-plant, beneath one of her characteristic high horizons.

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The Busman's Holiday

wood engraving 14 cms x 18 cms

A domestic scene infused with vitality by the tilting lines and gesticulating figures. Even the cat is on the alert.

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Back Gardens

wood engraving 10.5 x 14 cms

Iain Macnab inscribed a copy of his book on wood-engraving to Cooper, with the words ‘From one wood-pecker to another’. This small image, with its complex geometry and wonderful variety of marks, demonstrates her remarkable command of the difficult medium.

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Thames Boat

line block print 11 x 14 cms

This line-block print is a simplified version of the oil painting of the same name.

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The House in the Wood

wood engraving 8 x 11 cms

Looking like the hidden house of a fairy-tale, this is actually a depiction of Cooper’s childhood home, Budleigh House on 2nd Avenue in the Essex seaside resort of Frinton.

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Chimneys

wood engraving 8 x 10 cms

This townscape strongly recalls the work of Suzanne Cooper’s mentor, Ian Macnab, master wood-engraver and founder of the Grosvenor School.

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Tropical Butterflies

Wood engraving 14 x 14 cms

Another memento of Cooper’s Caribbean cruise. In later life she made a number of cushions, embroidered in petit point to her own designs. Several of them include butterfly motifs.

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Carol Singers II

Wood engraving 4.2 x 2.97 cms

An image closely related to the wood-engraving 'Carol Singers I'

Cooper’s ability to produce fine work on such a tiny scale is all the more remarkable for the fact that her eyesight was terrible. She never took her glasses off, even on her wedding day. As a young girl, bicycling through Frinton, she once rode down a policeman, mistaking him for a bollard.

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