Much of Bawden’s output was for commercial organisations, some bizarre (marketing beef products), some more upmarket (brochure for top London stores), but you can always tell who is behind the work. Much of this commercial graphic design work feels very much of its time, the inter and post war years in Britain having a very definite feel, familiar perhaps to anyone who grew up in the post-war Britain of the 1960’s, a time which actually probably felt more like the 50’s. Where the book really shines however, is in grouping together examples of work by Bawden and his friends and contemporaries, and what a varied bunch they were in style, if not in subject matter. You realy do get the feeling of a community of artists feeding from one another, even if Bawden in his self-deprecating way would have denied any influence he might have had himself. He worked beautifully in pen and ink, with the purity of line as seen in this picture, but also created texture and tone with muted colour washes as in this interior detail of his local pub. Yorke writes with authority on Bawden’ exquisite technique in the field of linocuts, and his use of multiple prints to get different colours and tones, using thin inks as you might watercolour, on prints that were often very large. See here in this pier image of a storm.
Unafraid in his use of bold block colours, his work is always user-friendly, see this detail from his Hare and Tortoise print,His work could also be classically timeless too, see here his illustration for Blake’s Tyger, this could have been cut yesterday.
What comes across about Edward Bawden the man, is of a slightly prickly, self deprecating character, who didn’t suffer fools gladly. A fiercely moral man, devoted to his wife (and to his children even though he always said he disliked children) who in later life delighted in exploiting his deafness and revelling in what we might now think of as a “grumpy old man” persona, though I suspect he wouldn’t have appreciated the stock cynicism of our TV exponents.
This is a fine book – do yourself a favour, if you have any interest at all in British art in the 20th century, track down a copy.
There’s plenty of his stuff out there on the net, here’s a few bit and bobs to whet your appetite!