This week I came across this fabulous linocut depicting Rocket, by the artist Edward Bawden CBE, RA (1903 – 1989). It takes such a great amount of skill and a very gifted eye to condense a complex thing like a locomotive into such a simple form, and Bawden has done that beautifully. I particularly like the relaxed pose of the driver with his hands casually on his hips and the modelling of the smoke billowing out.
Bawden studied at the Cambridge School of Art, and then the School of Design at the Royal College of Art. He built a career as an illustrator, printmaker, graphic designer and painter during the 1920s and 30s – alongside his friend Eric Ravilious, with whom he formed a successful design partnership.
As is evident in these works, he was known for his simplicity of line, and his linocuts were particularly popular. Bawden worked for the Curwen Press, the Stuart Advertising Agency, London Transport, British Railways, Twinings and Shell-Mex, to name a few.
Along with Ravilious, he was also know for his large-scale mural paintings. He became an official war artist during the Second World War, visiting France, Belgium and the Middle East. He was also a tutor at Goldsmiths College, the Royal Academy Schools, the Royal College of Art and Leicester College of Art and Design.
There are more of Bawden’s works in our collection too, such as this large print of Liverpool St Station. The print shows the grandeur of the station’s architecture, again showing Bawden’s skill in extracting the key details and form of the structure. Here he makes the station look churchlike with its grand arches towering over the concourse and the tiny, almost insignificant engines below.
On a more local note, Bawden also designed this poster for British Railways (North Eastern Region), depicting three scenes from the York Mystery Plays, with a backdrop of St Mary’s Abbey. The design and style are highly ususual for a railway poster, standing out against others of the same period. The destinctive feel of the linocut works extremely well with the historic theme of the Mystery Plays.
Finally, it also occured to me that in a former life I had come across Bawden’s work before. As a Curatorial Assistant at the Whitworth Art Gallery I remember cataloguing his Church and Dove; Wood Pigeon wallpaper.