Granny Ashdown
Granny Ashdown, verso
  • Granny Ashdown
  • Granny Ashdown, verso

Granny Ashdown
Leon Underwood

In 1921, Underwood had established his Brook Street School, encouraging his carefully-selected students to avoid 'the harmful and repressive influences of orthodox art training'. Nevertheless, the foundation of Underwood's approach was a rigorous programme of life drawing, leading to proficiency in draughtsmanship. The discipline of print-making was also important. Thus, the early 1920s saw Underwood himself working energetically on figure paintings and etchings. The latter have been described (by Christopher Neve, 1974) as, 'unsurpassed of their kind in the period immediately after the war'. The family spent the summer of 1922 at Ashurst, near Tunbridge Wells, where Underwood sketched and drew local landscapes and figures. His etching of a well-known character, 'Granny Ashdown' - who sat for him, 'patiently on a milking stool in the open' - was drawn at great speed, straight onto the plate, no allowance being made for studies, sketches, later corrections or second states of the print.

The quality and coherence of this image is extraordinary. The full burden of the age and experience of Granny Ashdown is conveyed in the compass of a few inches. The range of touch - from sold black to a web of light, staccato notes and long, broad and simple lines - is employed with absolute confidence. This remains one of Underwood's most moving and impressive works of art.

The size of the edition of this print has not been declared, but is thought to be c.15.

Etching on laid paper
Size Unframed:
10ins x 6ins
25cms x 15cms
Size Framed:
17ins x 13ins
43cms x 33cms
Signed and dated [19]22 in pencil, lower right; Wolseley Gallery label, verso

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