April 26, 2017

Block Printmaker Parker

        Agnes Miller Parker (UK, 1895-1980) was most known as an illustrator and did wood engravings in that style of very fine, precisely controlled stippling and cross-hatching.  On the whole, this style tends to be too smooth for my taste - I like a little more carviness - but it’s certainly interesting for variety.  She’s also important for being one of the artists who helped bring about a revival in the use of relief block printing for book illustration in the early twentieth century, after it had gone out of fashion with the invention of other methods of reproduction in the second half of the nineteenth century.
        My favorites of Parker’s work are definitely her animals.  They combine a detailed naturalism with the stylized sleekness of the modern art movements of the mid twentieth century.  The backgrounds are often just a suggestion of forest or meadow while the animals themselves are detailed to the last whisker.  Parker obviously loved portraying the lithe movement and flexibility of animals, especially cats, a subject she returned to over and over.
        One interesting note is a curator’s observation that Parker “often conceived her wood-engraving designs in colour, which helped her bring a remarkable tonal richness to the final product.”  This is the opposite of what I usually think, which is that the best relief block prints are planned to take advantage of the strengths of black and white,
rather than adapting from the strengths of color.  But maybe this is why I don’t tend to be as attracted to the wood engravings with gradations of tone too fine and smooth.  At any rate, however, Parker’s animals are pretty cool.  I hope you enjoy them.

        Here are the P printmakers you can revisit in prior posts:

[Pictures: The Challenge, wood engraving by Agnes Miller Parker, 1934 (Image from The Great Cat);
Two Rabbits, wood engraving by Parker, 1936 (Image from Vincent G Barlow);
Fox, wood engraving by Parker, 1940 (Image from invaluable);
Cocquette, wood engraving by Parker, 1934 (Image from The Great Cat).]
(Quotation from Anna McGee at Cambridge University Library.)

A-Z Challenge, all posts for the letter P


lorig said...

I really like those images. Thank you for sharing this with us.

Mail Adventures said...

I am amazed by the variety of styles in this art.
Eva - Mail Adventures

Kristin said...

That first cat looks sort of diabolically.
Finding Eliza

Deborah Weber said...

That is curious that she rendered first in color, and yet I can really imagine that looking at her images. Interesting.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

I agree! Definitely a hunter, not a cuddly lap pet.

Linda Gardiner said...

These are fabulous! So much detail. The fact that she worked in color then backwards for the tones is very interesting.
Weights & Measures