Edward Bawden was born in 1903 in Braintree, Essex. He was a painter, an illustrator and a graphic artist, who began his training under the artist Paul Nash in the 1920’s. He studied at the Royal College of Art in London with Eric Ravilious, and was described by Paul Nash as ‘an extraordinary outbreak of talent’. He began his career working one day a week for the Curwen Press, for which he would produce illustrations for companies such as London Transport, Westminster Bank and Twinning’s. He was later discovered by the Stuart Advertising Agency, and it was during his time there that Bawden created his most innovative works for Fortnum and Mason and Imperial Airways. During the Second World War, Bawden served as one of the official war artists for Britain, and during this time made many watercolours recording the war in Iraq.
Bawden lived in Great Bardfield in Essex during the 1930’s – 1970’s and it was while living there that he became a member of the Great Bardfield Artists. This group of artists all shared a passion for figurative art although all diverse in their styles. After the death of his wife in 1970, Bawden moved to Saffron Waldon where he continued to work until his death in 1989.
This engraving might have been intended to illustrate the cover of an issue of The Twentieth Century Magazine, a follow up of the Nineteenth Century Magazine, a British monthly literary journal founded in 1877 by Sir James Knowles. In 1900, the title was changed to Nineteenth Century and After and then to The Twentieth Century Magazine. It existed until 1972. The aim of the journal was to publish debates by leading intellectuals and many of the early contributors were members of the Metaphysical Society, many of them well respected and with a left wing bias. They included people such as John Berger, Richard Findlater, Edith Saunders, Lord Emingford , Edwin Morgan and Al Alvarez, all literary or political figures. At the time the address of the magazine was 26 Bloomsbury Way, WC1 and the editor was the Hon. FDL Astor.
Bawden undertook work for the magazine from 1955 to 1961. He contributed to all issues, from volume CLVII, Number 935 to volume CLXIX, Number 1009, except August 1958, May 1960 and February 1961. This engraving is very much in line with other illustrations of the same type for the magazine. There is one in particular illustrating the Christmas cover of the December 1956 issue where turkeys are selling human beings rather than the other way round. The people are lined up upside down like commodities, ready to be purchased. Here human beings (students or writers) are also lined up, processed through a literary criticism machine.
Many thanks to Nigel Weaver of the Fry Art Gallery for telling me of a possible link with The Twentieth Century Magazine and information relating to it
- BACON, Caroline and McGREGOR, James, Catalogue of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery Edward Bawden Archive, Trustees of the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery
- BLISS, Douglas Percy, Edward Bawden, Pendomer Press, 1978
- GILMOUR, Pat, Artists at Curwen, Tate Gallery, 1977
- GREENWOOD, Jeremy, Edward Bawden: Editioned Prints. Wood Lea Press, 2005
- HARLING, Robert, Edward Bawden, Art & Techniks, 1950
- McKITTERICK, David, Introduction to the catalogue of the exhibition of 15 engravings at the Victoria & Albert Museum, 1988
- McLEAN, Ruari, Book of Cuts, Scolar Press, 1978
- RICHARDS, J.M., Edward Bawden. (Penguin Modern Painters Series) Penguin, 1946
- YORKE, Malcolm, The Inward Laugh: Edward Bawden and His Circle, The Fleece Press, 2005