The Cutting Edge of Modernity: Grosvenor School Linocuts at Osborne Samuel London

By Richard Moss | 10 April 2013

Exhibition preview: The Cutting Edge of Modernity - An Exhibition of Grosvenor School Linocuts, Osborne Samuel Gallery, London, until May 11 2013

a woodblock print of a curved tube station with train arriving
Cyril Power, The Tube Station (1932)© Courtesy Osborne Samuel
During its 1930s heyday, the Grosvenor School of Art, in London's Pimlico, produced some of the best linocut prints in the world and attracted some of the best global talents to the fledgling medium.

Under the tutelage of Claude Flight, people such as Cyril Power and Sybil Andrews blended a sense of movement and tempo with a Modernist style which today seems to capture perfectly the spirit of the man-made world of the 1930s and its blend of machine age production and human endeavour. 

The London Tube network, factories, farm labourers, cyclists, gymnasts and racing cars all fell under the spotlight of the Grosvenor School artists, who produced a thrilling series of colour linocuts. Their popularity soon spread from London’s Redfern and Ward galleries to shows in New York, Australia and even China. 

a print of racing cars racing around a curved track
Claude Flight, Brooklands (circa 1929)© Courtesy Osborne Samuel
A commission from the Underground Electric Railways Company of London saw Power's talents used to good effect on the poster art of the period, publicising the sporting venues that could be reached by train from the London capital.

As well as Power and Andrews, who were also respectively tutor and secretary at the school, artists such as Swiss born Lill Tschudi and Australians Ethel Powers, Eveline Syme and Dorritt Black were attracted by the bold and colourful style of printmaking espoused by Flight.

Like most art of this period its popularity waned between the sixties and seventies, but today the Grosvenor School prints are highly collectible with editions of Powers’ arguably best work, Tube Station, realising up to £1000,000 at auction.  

Although beyond the pockets of most, this selling exhibition - coinciding with the 27th edition of The London Original Print Fair (April 25-28 2013) - is a welcome chance to see some of the best examples.

With their thrilling sense of speed, movement and activity, visitors may perceive the traces of the Cubist, Futurist and Vorticist movements that influenced Flight and his students – some of the lesser known players in the story of how British art embraced Modernism and came into its own in the 1930s.

More pictures:

a print of three skaters
Cyril Power, Skaters (1932)© Courtesy Osborne Samuel
a stylised print of feet walking across wave like shapes
Sybil Andrews, Rush Hour (1930)© Courtesy Osborne Samuel
a print of racing cars racing around a track
Lili Tschudi, Race in Switzerland (1930)© Courtesy Osborne Samuel
a print of riders jumping over a hedgerow
Sybil Andrews, In Full Cry (1931)© Courtesy Osborne Samuel
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