June 4, 2021

Morgan's World

         I encountered the relief prints of Gwenda Morgan (UK, 1908-1991) during my 2020 A to Z Challenge on Nursery Rhymes, but it’s now time to feature some of her other work.  Morgan studied modern art, specializing in wood engraving and linocuts, embraced as a democratic art form.  She illustrated a number of books, and was inspired by the landscapes of south-eastern England where she lived most of her life.
        You can see that her work is clearly influenced by the time and place and artists with whom she was working in the 1930s and 40s, but also that she has some distinctive characteristics.  For example, her figures are usually quite tiny in their landscapes, and often simply silhouettes.  Other things are often silhouettes, as well, such as animals and trees, and she uses the solid blacks to make things stand out against more textured backgrounds.
        You can see another characteristic she sometimes employs in the first and last examples I have for you today.  That is a melding of multiple vignettes into a single epic view.  The first includes all sorts of details in a scheme that you could probably never see all in one vista, and certainly not with the level of detail Morgan gives us.  There is little perspective: the farthest objects are at the top of the page, but not significantly smaller than those in the foreground at the bottom.  Today’s final piece also shows multiple vignettes, but arranges them with a very interesting faceted effect.
        The second piece is a much more conventional composition for a landscape.  It's interesting for its finely engraved textures and patterns: every blade of grass, every roof tile…  I especially love the sharp detail in the reflection, observed by ducks and a cat.  The third piece is much less detailed, but I do love the little silhouetted adult and child, admiring the moon, with the thick black shadows all around them.
        I enjoy Morgan’s style, with its balance of blacks, whites, and patterns, and its affectionately stylized glimpses into tiny people and animals going about their lives.

[Pictures: From the Hills to the Sea, wood engraving by Gwenda Morgan, 1965 (Image from V&A);
East Dean, wood engraving by Morgan, 1947 (Image from V&A);
Moonlight, wood engraving by Morgan, 1970 (Image from National Galleries of Scotland);
By the River, wood engraving by Morgan, 1964 (Image from V&A).]

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