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Exhibition featuring the ‘finest wood engravings of the past century’ coming to Harrow

An exhibition is coming to Harrow that will feature ‘the finest wood engravings of the past century”.

The new exhibition, coming from the esteemed Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, will be held at The Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner this September.

‘Scene through Wood’ offers a visual feast of wood engravings from the past 100 years, and celebrates the extraordinary artists, past and present, who made them.

Wood engraving is a historic printing technique, notable for producing images of enduring artistic merit with extremely fine detail and outstanding tonal range.

Notably, wood engraving may be the only art form to have originated in England, it was developed, honed and refined to extraordinary finesse by the naturalist Thomas Bewick (1753–1828). The exhibition begins by tracing the origins and early development of wood engraving including an early woodcut by Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), who influenced the wood engraving of Bewick and William Blake (1757–1827).

The majority of wood engravings produced in the nineteenth century were reproductive, and it was only in the late nineteenth- and early twentieth- centuries that more artistic concerns were addressed.

Exhibition featuring the 'finest wood engravings of the past century' coming to Harrow Harrow Online
Under Water by Monica Poole

Founded in London in 1920 by leading artists including Lucien Pissarro (1863–1944) and John Nash (1893–1977), The Society of Wood Engravers (SWE) aimed to promote wood engraving as a medium for modern artists.

Curated by engraver and artist Anne Desmet RA RE, the only engraver elected to the Royal Academy of Arts, this exhibition was originally on display at the University of Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum — home to one of the most extensive collections of wood engravings in the world.

The exhibition includes a selection of fine art wood engraved prints from Britain, while also highlighting other artist-engravers whose work has influenced British engravers past and present. Included are notable artists such as Robert Gibbings (1889–1958), Gwen Raverat (1885-1957) and Gertrude Hermes (1901–1983), alongside recent outstanding figures such as Monica Poole (1921–2003), Edwina Ellis (1946–), Simon Brett (1943–) and Anne Desmet (1964–). Wood engraving is now both an independent, richly creative art form and a versatile means by which commercial images can be crafted.

Its enduringly popular commercial appeal is clear from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust, illustrated by Andrew Davidson (1958–) and Chris Wormell (1955–) respectively. ‘Scene Through Wood’ also explores the medium’s continued and varied uses in commercial applications, from book illustration to advertising and fine lettering design.

‘Scene Through Wood: A Century of Modern Wood Engraving’ will be at The Heath Robinson Museum from 10th September – 11th December 2022.

Exhibition featuring the 'finest wood engravings of the past century' coming to Harrow Harrow Online
Heath Robinson Museum. Credit: Craig Shepheard

Address: Heath Robinson Museum, Pinner Memorial Park, West End Lane, Pinner, Harrow HA5 1AE heathrobinsonmuseum.org.

Opening Times: Thursday – Sunday from 11am to 4pm. Entry Fee: Included in cost of museum entry.