February 1, 2013

Gwen Raverat's Wood Engravings

        Gwen Raverat is another relief print artist I didn't know about until one of my helpful readers brought her to my attention - in this case, her grandson.  So I looked up her beautiful work, and I hope you'll enjoy it, too.
        Raverat (British, 1895-1957) was associated with many of the writers and artists of the Bloomsbury Group, and later with feminist writers.  She was determined to make her way as a serious professional artist, and she succeeded, becoming one of the founders of The Society of Wood Engravers.  Perhaps that's what gives such exuberance to her illustration of a high-spirited girl from one of her own favorite childhood books!

        I love that Raverat's work is detailed enough for realism, but without ever becoming so perfectly detailed as to lose the look of carved wood.  She experiments with both ends of the spectrum: finely shaded accuracy, and starker, more stylized black and white.  Some of her work is almost sketchy, like this wonderful
woman depicted with just a few cuts so that she's defined by her shadow as much as her light.  Other blocks, by contrast, have a more Victorian style of shading.

        Raverat has a deft touch with light in almost all her blocks.  I only wish I could capture light like she does!  Certainly the engraving technique is a little more conducive to subtlety than woodcuts on the grain, but unlike some wood engravings, Raverat's are very seldom a washed-out all-over midtone.  She always uses enough solid black and solid white to keep some drama.
        You can see lots more information about Raverat, along with plenty of pictures of her work at the website maintained by her grandson.  (Alas, many of the pictures there are awfully small, but then wood engravings tend to be small in person, too.)  If you like the samples I've show here, go check out The Raverat Archive.

[Pictures: London Snow, wood engraving by Raverat from the Cambridge Book of Poetry for Children, 1932;
Olga Climbing Down the Wall, wood engraving by Raverat from The Runaway by Elizabeth Anna Hart, 1936
Weaving, wood engraving by Raverat from the Cambridge Book of Poetry for Children, 1932;
Horse Chestnuts at Granchester, wood engraving by Raverat, 1937;
Village Street, Escures, wood engraving by Raverat, 1920.
(All images from The Raverat Archive.)]

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