Monday, 28 March 2011

Monica Poole (1921-2003) - Wood Engraver

I was trawling back through my files of pictures of pictures and was reminded of this artist; Monica Poole; artist, teacher and master wood engraver. I first encountered her when I lucked on the print illustrated, as it was poorly framed and behind that horrid non-reflective glass that flattens all pictures to make them look like photo copies, I was able to buy it very cheaply. I had not heard of her before, but the quality was trying to shine through. Once out in the light of day the quality really stood out and led to some trawling for info.

As often with modern post 1945 artists little has been written about them and so soon after her death her work is only appreciated by a few die hard collectors. Luckily; the internet was a rich mine of information with full obituarys published shortly after her death by papers such as the Guardian and Daily Telegraph. 

Monica was born in Canterbury, Kent and went on to study at the Thanet School of Art where she first encounter wood engraving. After WW11 during which she had worked in a factory, she completed a diploma in illustration at the Central School of Arts and Crafts where her teachers included the respected master wood engraver John Farleigh. Monica went on the published a book of his work after his death titled "The Wood Engravings of John Farleigh" (1985)

Her book illustration work is limited and I could only find one title that included her work; Reginald Turner's Kent (1950). She seems to be an artist out of her time.  If she had been working in the 1920's or 30's I am sure she would have been ranked with the like of Clare Leighton, Eric Gill, Agnes Miller Parker,  Blair Hughes-Stanton or her mentor John Farleigh but by the 1950's and 60's wood engraving was not the chosen method of illustration, it was out of fashion.

Even though her chosen technique was out of fashion during the post war years she did continue to publish prints like the one shown which often took months to complete and only sold in small editions. She also taught at the Tonbridge Adult Education Centre in Kent.

Fortunantly times change and her skills were appreciated more during the 1980's and 1990's she was able to exhibit extensively with a major retrospective being held at the Ashmolean Museum in 1993. Monica was elected a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers in 1967 and examples of her work can be found on collections such as the Victoria & Albert Museum, British Museum, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, the Fitzwilliam, Cambridge and in the Ashmolean, Oxford.

There is a photographic quality with 1st class wood engraving and this work certainly has it. One to look out for !!

Here are a few books on wood engraving ; (sponsored links)
Monica Poole: Wood Engraver
The Wood Engravings Of John Farleigh By Monica Poole


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