Joseph (Mathias) Wolf was born on the 22nd January 1820 in the little village of Mörz, near Koblenz, Germany. His father, Anton Wolf (1788-1859) was a farmer and headman of the village. As a boy, Wolf loved spending time outdoors, observing and sketching the local wildlife. Sometimes, he would shoot specimens to dissect them at home in order to achieve a better understanding of their anatomy, plumage or fur. He would also capture live birds and mammals to draw them. He built special traps to catch large birds of prey without harming them. His obsession, apparently, earned him the unflattering nickname ‘bird fool’ from his father. Watching wildlife became a lifelong passion and, although he killed some for study, he abhorred the mindless slaughter of animals that many Victorians regarded as a ‘manly’ pastime and sport. According to his biographer and friend Alfred Herbert Palmer (1853-1931), son of artist Samuel Palmer (1805-81), Wolf accused these ‘sportsmen’ of having “no desire to know about a thing. Their only desire is to kill it.” He also called man “the most destructive and carnivorous animal in the world.”
‘To hell with nature!’ – A Reappraisal of Charles Tunnicliffe Prints
Painter-printmaker Charles Tunnicliffe (1901–1979) grew up on a farm near Macclesfield in Cheshire. A scholarship enabled him to study at the Royal College of Art in London. Soon after his studies, Tunnicliffe gained a reputation as an etcher of farming subjects. Today, he is widely regarded as Britain’s foremost twentieth-century wildlife artist.
Towards the end of a career spanning six decades, Tunnicliffe was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. In an interview published in the Society’s magazine, Tunnicliffe stated:
‘I have shocked quite a lot of people by saying ‘To hell with nature!’ Nature is made to be used, not to be dictator, as far as the dyed-in-the-wool artist is concerned.’
Tunnicliffe’s exclamation expresses the frustration of an artist whose pictures are often judged on the strength of their fidelity to nature. Instead, Tunnicliffe’s prints show us nature transformed by culture and outdone by art. They demonstrate their maker’s knowledge of art history, his love of design, and the need to tell his own story.
Printmaking earned Tunnicliffe his Royal Academy of Arts membership in 1954. By then, he rarely produced fine art prints. For decades, Tunnicliffe’s work in various media appeared in magazines, on calendars and biscuit tins.
The stock market crash of 1929 had made it necessary for Tunnicliffe to rethink his career. Turning from etching to wood engraving, he became a prolific illustrator. His first project was Tarka the Otter.
Anglesey was no retreat for Tunnicliffe. Working on commission, he created colourful paintings he described as ‘decorations for modern rooms.’ He also continued to turn out mass-reproduced designs that promoted anything from pesticides to the Midland Bank.
Since the mid-1930s, Tunnicliffe’s work has been appreciated mainly second-hand. Until last year, when Robert Meyrick and I put together a catalogue raisonné of his etchings and wood engravings, Tunnicliffe never had a printmaking exhibition at the Royal Academy.
For some of his early prints, no contemporary impressions are known to exist. The plates were proofed by School of Art printmaker Andrew Baldwin.
Tunnicliffe’s career does not fit into the narrative of Modernism. It is a product of modernity. In his work, at least, he never said ‘to hell’ with culture. Pragmatic yet passionate, he made images to make a living.
Harry Heuser, exhibition curator
Curatorial team: Phil Garratt, Neil Holland, Robert Meyrick, Karen Westendorf
‘A’ For Aber Two
7 August to 1 September 2017
This exhibition is a A follow up to last year’s A for Aber. This time the focus is on Visit Wales’ theme of the ‘Year of Legends’ 2017.
At the Margins arises from this collaboration and a long-standing friendship between two printmaking communities: Print Council Aotearoa New Zealand and Aberystwyth Printmakers in Wales. This was fostered by a Strategic Insight Programme award (SIP) to Judy Macklin to develop a bi-national programme of art-science collaboration between Wales and New Zealand. The theme of this exhibition was jointly conceived by Judy Macklin, Kathy Boyle (President of Print Council Aotearoa New Zealand) and Mark Macklin. Continue reading
2017 is the ‘Year of Legends’ in Wales, and we delved deeply into our collection to see what treasures relating to this fabulous theme might come to light. We selected a few, some of which will be included in a small display at the School of Art; others will only be viewable online. This is an on-going project and from time to time we might add to this post, so keep an eye out for updates.
(Click on the images to enlarge them.)
Special thanks to Joyce Cummings and Vic of the Cheltenham Local History Society; without their research in local Cheltenham Newspapers this essay would have been much poorer.
The School of Art collection at Aberystwyth houses eleven landscape prints engraved by Edward John Burrow after drawings by Robert Eustace Tickell. Tickell had them printed in a volume entitled ‘The Vale of Nantgwilt – A Submerged Valley‘ in1894 (Fig. 1). Who were Burrow and Tickell and why did they choose to record these pleasant and picturesque if otherwise unremarkable scenes?