Magazine article The Spectator

'Edward Bawden: Scrapbooks', by Peyton Skipwith and Brian Webb - Review

Magazine article The Spectator

'Edward Bawden: Scrapbooks', by Peyton Skipwith and Brian Webb - Review

Article excerpt

Bus tickets, cigarette cards, letters and exhibition flyers are delightfully juxtaposed in Bawden's albums -- and every page raises a smile

Such is the veneration in this country for the St Ives school of painters, it's easy to forget that other art colonies existed, let alone thrived, in the mid-20th century: that in Great Bardfield, Essex, perhaps chief among them.

The village near Saffron Walden was home to the likes of John Aldridge, Kenneth Rowntree, Michael Rothenstein, Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden (1903-89). Maybe it's going a bit far to say there has been a resurgence of interest in this loosely affiliated group of figurative artists. But it's certainly a welcome coincidence that, following the success of Dulwich Picture Gallery's superb Ravilious exhibition last year, comes the publication of Bawden's scrapbooks -- assembled by him over 55 years and

reproduced in a single volume by his erstwhile dealer Peyton Skipwith, together with Brian Webb.

Many contemporary artists compile scrapbooks, but often these are carefully conceived works of art in themselves, their contents forming a deliberate whole and intended for display. Bawden's scrapbooks, by contrast, were intended for his eyes only and are of a more amateurish, traditional kind. We duly come across bus tickets, coin rubbings, cigarette cards, newspaper

cuttings and other ephemera.

Some of his juxtapositions are so quirky they border on the surreal: the wrapper for a tin of Portuguese sardines shares a page with the ink sketch of a girl's doll. A photograph of the England cricket team on board SS Liverpool bound for Australia appears beside a note from a friend thanking Bawden for the ticket to a flower show, and a flyer for the exhibition of Picasso's 'Guernica' at New Burlington Galleries in 1937.

Bawden always insisted that, as an artist, good design was what mattered to him. …

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