Saturday, 12 May 2018

 

Exhibition of art works from the Contemporary Art Society at the Blackheath School of Art in 1934


From 5 to 10 February 1934, a loan exhibition of recent acquisitions from the Contemporary Art Society was held at the Blackheath School of Art. This was the first temporary exhibition that I came across in the course of learning more about the history of the school. The exhibition was opened by the local painter Francis Dodd, and his speech provided advice to the students in the art of drawing and the style of depiction.[1] The display was promoted as having immense value for the students being able to view works by modern artists up close. The residents of Blackheath who also found the exhibition beneficial ‘were given the opportunity of seeing in their own immediate neighbourhood an exhibition of a standard rarely available outside of Bond-street’.[2]

One hundred works, comprising of recent acquisitions by the society, formed a part of a touring exhibition which, in addition to Blackheath, also visited City Art Gallery, Leeds, St Marylebone Town Hall, Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, City Art Gallery, Manchester and Corporation Art Gallery, Carlisle.[3]

The works for the exhibition were chosen by the keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, Campbell Dodgson and the display of the works of art arranged by the principal John Platt. Two of Platt’s works were acquired as a part of the Print Fund in 1934, they were Red Bull and Mullion Cove, both of which featured in the exhibition at Blackheath School of Art. Additionally the list of acquisitions from 1934 feature works by another teacher at Blackheath including woodcuts by Douglas Bliss, Illustrations to the Devil in Scotland.[4] Acquisitions from the immediate two preceding years included prints by Platt, Mullion Cove and The Echoing Shore,[5] and Robert Austin, Still LIfe, Perugia.[6]

Works on display in the exhibition included:
Dame Laura Knight – Gemini - more here
Pearl Binder – Wentworth Street - more here
Ludwig Heinrich Jungnickel – Jagua
Anna Findlay – The Paper Mill - you can find out more about Anna Findlay from the excellent Modern Printmakers blog - here


Joseph Simpson – George Bernard Shaw, etching, 1929. The British Museum, 1941,0208.92.
Source: The British Museum.




John Edgar Platt – Mullion Covemore here

John Edgar Platt, Red Bull - more here
Source: http://woodblock.com/platt/
John Edgar Platt – The Echoing Shoremore here
Source: http://woodblock.com/platt/

Most of the above works were acquisitions from 1932 or 1933.

Works acquired by the CAS by Robert Austin and Douglas Bliss can be seen below.

Robert Austin, Still Life, Perugia, etching, 1932, Minneapolis Institute of Art. Gift of Robert Austin's Daughters Rachel and Clare 2013.70.37. A version of this print was acquired by the Contemporary Art Society in 1933 and gifted to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Source: Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Douglas Bliss, Wandering Willie's Tale, from The Devil in Scotland.
Source: Collection of the author.

Douglas Bliss, Thrawn Janet image from the Title page, from The Devil in Scotland.
Source: Collection of the author. A book featuring prints from the Devil in Scotland was given to the British Museum by the Contemporary Art Society in 1934. Whether this book was included in the exhibition at Blackheath School of Art is unknown.
Having Blackheath as one of the venues for this touring exhibition was a coup for the students of the school and the locals alike. John Platt's contacts in the art world enabled him to organise interesting exhibitions during his time as principal from 1929 to 1940. This is intended to be the first in a series of entries on the exhibitions held at the Blackheath School of Art in the 1930's.






[1] ‘Loan exhibition of recent acquisitions of the Contemporary Art Society’ in Blackheath Local Guide, 17 February, 1934, p 11. The concluding passage of Dodd’s opening speech advised students that whilst looking at the drawings on display ‘that the best drawing was the one they saw with their minds’ eyes before they began to touch paper, for it was extremely difficult to do anything in a perfect manner.’
[2] loc. cit., p. 10.  Students were able to use their analytical skills to ascertain the technical skills which would have been very valuable for their development.
[3] Contemporary Art Society Report, 1934 - 1935, p. 29. The exhibition featured over 100 prints and drawings which were recent acquisitions.
[4] loc. cit., p. 30. I am unsure as to whether this work was acquired pre Feb 1934 for it to be included in the exhibition.
[5] Contemporary Art Society Report, 1932 – 1933, p. 33. Whether the CAS acquired two versions of Mullion Cove (one in 1932 and the other in 1934) is yet to be ascertained.
[6] loc. cit., p. 34. Robert Austin taught at BSA in the mid 1920’s.

Monday, 19 March 2018


Meryl Watts: Master Printmaker


Born Eveline (Evelyn) Meryl Watts in 1910 to Charles and Eveline Watts, Meryl Watts had a long association with both the Blackheath Conservatoire of Music and the Blackheath School of Art.[1] The first connection I discovered was that she was a student at the BCM, specifically as a programme seller for the performance of Prunella on Wednesday 26 May 1926 at the Blackheath Concert Hall. Looking through the few student and teacher lists in the archives they revealed that Watts had lessons at BCM as early as 1919.[2] In 1919 Watts and her father Charles both had lessons, Meryl undertook Physical Exercise with Miss Laura Pearson and her father, Charles, piano with Gayle Gardner. At this point in time they were still residing at 34 Oakcroft Road. Meryl received tuition for both piano and physical education. Her teachers were Gardiner until halfway through the Spring Term 1928, Miss Laura Pearson (physical education), and Hindley from midway through the Spring Term 1928 (piano).[3] Watts was also involved in community events, having designed a programme for a Barnardo’s Homes fete in Blackheath.[4]


Prunella Programme, Blackheath Conservatoire of Music, 1926.


Meryl and Charles Watts, Blackheath Conservatoire of Music, Autumn Term 1919.


Meryl Watts, Study for a Woodcut (Angel Fish), gouache on cardboard.
Source: Collection of the author.


It is clear that John Platt held Watts’ work in high regard as a number of her woodcuts appear in his collection.[5] As Platt regularly invited artists and students who were interested in the colour woodcut technique this was not proof in itself that Watts was a student at the school. Proof of Watts being a student at the school can be found in a number of Blackheath Local Guide editions. My first encounter with her as a student at the school was in the Blackheath Local Guide of 22 April 1933. A woodcut print by Watts included in the exhibition at the New Argosy was selected as one of the prints of the year by the Society of Graver Printers.[6] Watts’ colour woodcut print, Angel Fish was singled out for praise in the 1933 students’ exhibition and during this academic year she won a prize for colour woodcut.[7] Additionally, according to the Blackheath Local Guide, Watts won an award for Vacation work during the 1934-35 academic year.[8]


Meryl Watts, The Mad Hatter, woodcut, mid 1930's.
Source: Liss Llewellyn Fine Art
Meryl Watts, The White Rabbit, woodcut, mid 1930's.
Source: Liss Llewellyn Fine Art



Watts produced some woodcuts from Alice in Wonderland during her time at BSA. Whilst this has been a favourite subject of artists since Lewis Carroll’s first edition, which he illustrated, it would be nice to think that events at the school may have inspired Watts’ choice of subject matter. Beryl Laverick, a student at both BCM and BSA, starred as Alice in Wonderland in the West End in 1933.[9] This must have caused quite a bit of excitement at both schools and Douglas Bliss remembers the classes that Laverick attended being interrupted by photographers and various suitors.[10] I would love to think that Watts’ woodcuts of The Mad Hatter and The White Rabbit were inspired by the events at BSA and BCM at this time.



By 1936 the school had become renowned for tuition in the art of the colour woodcut under Platt. In an article entitled ‘The Colour Woodcut in Blackheath’ Alan Seaby referred to Platt’s mastery of the medium stating that; ‘There is no doubt that in your hands the wood print has been raised from its former status.’[11] The same article continued by extolling the work of some of the students who featured in an exhibition of the Society of Graver Painters in Colour. Pictures by Miss Doris Boulton, Mr J Milner and Watts were described as ‘show[ing] the possibilities of clear, telling colour in this medium’.[12] In the review of the 1936 prize giving there is reference to a work purchased by the Ministry of Education in Czechoslavakia whilst on exhibition there with the British Council.[13]

The school at this time became renowned as a centre of excellence in the field of commercial art under the expert tutelage of Charles Paine:
‘In recent years the Blackheath School of Art has taken the foremost place as the centre for training in commercial art, the design classes being under the instruction of the well-known artist-designer, Mr Charles Paine.’[14]
Also in 1936 Watts was one of two Blackheath students who won three first prize awards for an LCC competition of Commercial Art in conjunction with the manufacturers of Viyella Fabrics Messrs William Hollins and Co Ltd.[15]


Meryl Watts, Chameleon, colour woodcut, 1938.
Source: www.merylwatts.co.uk 


The Contemporary Art Society acquired Watts’ Chameleon in 1938 which was an extraordinary achievement for an art student who was not yet an established artist.[16] At this time the CAS also acquired works by Platt, highlighting the critical interest in her works. This technique and her chosen subjects were most definitely influenced by Paine and Platt. It is also quite probable that Watts influenced her teachers as has been convincingly highlighted in the excellent Modern Printmakers blog. More can be read here

In a number of exhibition reviews in the mid 1930's in The Scotsman Watts' works were praised by the 'London Critic'. These exhibitions included The Annual Society of Graver Printers in Colour at Walker's Gallery in 1936, The Society of Women Artists at the RI Gallery in 1937 and the annual exhibition of The Society of Graver Printers in 1938. The Scotsman's critic at the time was none other than Douglas Percy Bliss, who taught at the Blackheath School of Art (see previous entries for more on Bliss at BSA), and he would have been familiar with Meryl Watts and her colour woodcuts.[17] 

Works by Watts were also displayed in the Royal Academy exhibitions.[18] In the 1938 edition of the exhibition the following work by Watts was included:  Chestnut Roaster featuring ‘a bowed old man pushing his barrow.’ That this work was described immediately after those of her teacher, Platt – The Plough and Lapwings, cannot have been a coincidence, especially as The Plough’s snow setting certainly influenced Watts’ depiction of the Chestnut Seller against a harsh winter landscape.[19]  Looking through the excellent www.merylwatts.co.uk there are designs for a Blackheath Art Group logo. The development of this emblem bears a resemblance to the logo used on the cover of the 1934 prospectus and also to later advertise courses and exhibitions in the later mid 1930’s.
.
Meryl Watts, Entrance, Portmeirion, No. 3 Black and White series, hand-coloured by the artist?
Source: Collection of the author.


Watts left Blackheath in 1939/1940 and moved to Wales with her family. It was whilst in Wales that she created some of the images that she is perhaps best remembered for, black and white woodcuts of Portmeirion which were later made into postcards. Some of these postcards are on display in the Waiting Room of the Conservatoire. This technique was also used to great effect in the beautifully illustrated This Year’s Roundabout published in the mid 1950’s.

Sadly Watts never returned to Blackheath although the view, northwards, down towards the village from Lee Park was immortalized through her woodcut depicting the view both in Spring and Winter. Entitled Blackheath Village this colour wood block print was included in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1934.[20] It was also described in the 1933 students’ exhibition review:
‘Of much local interest was Miss Meryl Watts’ colour-print of Messr Hinds’ shop viewed through the trees of Lee Park.’ [21]
Meryl Watts, Blackheath Village, colour woodcut, 1933.
Source: www.merylwatts.co.uk

Blackheath looking northwards from Lee Park to Blackheath Village, early 1900's. Hinds is the building on the right side of the street.
Courtesy of the Blackheath Society Archives. Thanks to Allan Griffin for his assistance.




Even today, if you stand by the red post box on Lee Park you can still look down to see the general view Watts adapted pictorially for the finished image. On the right hand side in a brilliant Autumnal red brick of what was, at the time, Hinds and Co. The shopfront was set forward from the main building onto the pavement of Lee Road with its awning standing out in the picture from the redbrick fa├žade. The building most recently housed Costcutter although it is now empty.  To the right of Hinds and Co can be seen the garden of the Conservatoire behind a wrought iron fence although the building is not visible. In the distance a church spire, which is most likely All Saints, can be seen from the top end of Lee Park, although it is not visible from this spot today.

Meryl Watts, Self Portrait, 1930's.
Source: www.merylwatts.co.uk
Blackheath School of Art students standing outside the art building mid 1930's. Meryl Watts is the student to the far left of the foreground.
Picture courtesy of the Blackheath Society Archive. Thanks to Allan Griffin for his assistance.

A photograph from outside the art school and extension survives which most likely dates from the mid 1930’s. This is an image depicting Blackheath School of Art students and so far the only student I have only been able to identify is Watts to the far left. A self portrait painted in the 1930’s looks very much like the woman in the photograph.
I am looking forward to reading more about Watts in the forthcoming book on colour woodcuts by Gordon (of Modern Printmakers fame). Hopefully the above information and her fantastic woodcut prints will enable her legacy and important contributions to both the BSA and local community to live on.



[1] Watts was listed as Eveline Meryl Watts in the 1911 census living at 34 Oakcroft Road SE13. The spelling of her Christian names varies as she also appears as either ‘Eveline’ or ‘Evelyn’ Meryl Watts in the 1930’s Electoral Rolls. She must have been known as ‘Meryl’ not to be confused with her mother.
[2] BCM Students’ payment register 1919. The Summer Term payment records show that Meryl had lessons with Miss Pearson and that the fees were paid by her mother Eveline. Meryl’s had twelve 20 minute lessons for the term. Her father, Charles, took up piano lessons with Gayle Gardner in the Autumn Term 1919.
[3] BCM students’ payment register, 1928. The register shows the payment being split equally between Gardiner and Hindley.
[4] Blackheath Local Guide, 4 July 1936, p. 6. ‘The programme for the fete bore a special cover designed by Miss Meryl Watts.’
[5] Thanks to Platt’s granddaughter, Liza, for kindly showing me what remains of his collection and also a comprehensive list of the pictures that formed a part of his collection. The fourteen works by Watts include: Blackheath Village (from Lee Park), Pelican, Chameleon, Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Cactus, Two White Rabbits and Man Pushing a Cart with a Brazier.
[6] ‘Blackheath Artists’ in Blackheath Local Guide, 22 April 1933, p. 12. The article refers to an exhibition held at the New Argosy in Blackheath Village which included works by a number of students. The work by Watts which was singled out was Flower Woman.
[7] ‘Blackheath School of Art: Annual Exhibition of Students’ Work and Prize Distribution’ in Blackheath Local Guide, 22 July 1933, p. 28. Angel Fish was described as possessing ‘delicate evanescent tones’.
[8] ‘Blackheath School of Art: Exhibition of Students’ Work and Prize Distribution’ in Blackheath Local Guide, 27 July 1935, pp. 26
[9] A drawing by William Haselden for Punch, now in the V&A, records the cast for Alice in Wonderland at the Little Theatre 1933 (S.1744-2014).
[10] DP Bliss letter to Neil Rhind, 6 April 1981. Bliss wrote in his letter, ‘She was acting as alice in A in Wonderland when she joined my class. It was once or twice interrupted by Beryl’s “sugar daddies” and press photographers.’ – 28.
[11] ‘The Woodcut in Blackheath’ in Blackheath Local Guide, 19 December, 1936, pp. 58 – 59. The author quotes an article in The Artist on Platt’s woodcuts and also refers to an article in the Observer in which the author Jan Gordon refers to the ‘distinguished simplicity of Platt’s work in the medium’. The article also features reproductions of Lamb by John Platt and a portrait of him by his son Michael.
[12] ibid. The work by Doris Boulton was ‘Dog’s Holiday’ described as ‘full of vitality’ and by Milner ‘Bridge’ as being ‘powerful in design’. Platt later became President of the Society of Graver Painters in Colour in 1938, holding the position until 1953.
[13] ‘Blackheath School of Art: Prize Distribution and Private View of Students’ Work’ in Blackheath Local Guide, 4 Jul 1936, p. 36.
[14] ‘Commercial Art at Blackheath School of Art’ in Blackheath Local Guide, 14 March, 1936, p. 33.
[15] ibid. The other student was Roy Stone and between them they shared £28 of the £48 available in prize money.
[16] Blackheath Local Guide, 1 January, 1938, pp. 27-28. The article regarding a prize giving for 1937 mentioned that Meryl Watts, a student of the Colour Woodcut class had a work purchased by the Contemporary Art Society.
[17] Bliss, D.P., 'Art in London: Colour-Prints' in The Scotsman, 14 Dec 1936, p. 13, Bliss, D.P., 'Art in London: Several Interesting Shows: Women Artists' Show' in The Scotsman, 21 Jun 1937, p. 13 and Bliss, D.P., 'Art in London: Graver Printers' Show: Notable Contributions' in The Scotsman, 10 Dec 1938, p. 10.
[18] Blackheath Local Guide, 7 May, 1938, p. 3. A brief list includes Meryl Watts amongst people connected with the school included in the RA Summer Show.
[19] loc.cit., p. 32. Also on pages 31 and 32 of the same edition (see note 3) there is a more detailed article of works from artists connected with Blackheath.
[20] Blackheath Local Guide, 5 May 1934, p. 7. The article lists works by students and teachers at the school.
[21] ‘Blackheath School of Art: Exhibition of Students’ Work, July 1933’ in Blackheath Local Guide, 22 July 1933, p. 23.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

The dilemma of the Austin brothers…


Like all best laid plans this one did not work out the way that I had hoped. My idea was to promote the works of Frederick Austin as his elder brother Robert had received more exposure through exhibitions at the Ashmolean 1980, and some more recent exhibitions at the Fine Art Society and even more recently at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2009. Through the now infamous, well it has become this in my endeavours, 1931-32 prospectus for the Blackheath School of Art I discovered that Frederick Austin taught Pictorial Design and Antique and Architectural Drawing on Mondays and Tuesdays.[1]

I had got as far as beginning to plan about writing about Frederick Austin and how he had followed in his brother Robert’s footsteps by winning the Prix de Rome. Robert won it in 1922 and Frederick in 1927.[2] I wrongly assumed that this is where the ‘following in the footsteps’ of his brother had ended. Up until a few days ago I believed that Frederick Austin was the only member of his family who was connected with the Blackheath School of Art.[3] When looking through my new go to guide about the BSA, The Blackheath Local Guide, I discovered an article from 1930 referring to the newly employed Frederick Austin as ‘the brother of a former member of staff’.[4] This must have been his brother, and more renowned printmaker Robert Sargent Austin.

So now my focus was taken away from Frederick and my curiosity peaked into finding out more about Robert and his association with the school. Again the Blackheath Local Guide has been my source of information in finding out more about Robert Austin and his connection with Blackheath. He became a teacher specialising in etching in the Autumn Term 1925, employed by John Howard Hale.[5] It was something of a tradition that newly employed teachers at the school had some of their art works exhibited on the premises and Robert Austin was indeed no exception to this rule. These exhibitions provided an opportunity for current students to know more about their new teachers and would also have enticed prospective students through exposure to the art works of the teachers.

Both Robert and Margaret Holden Jones, who was returning to the school after teaching in the US, were scheduled to have works on display as a part of the Students’ exhibition in September 1925. Austin’s exhibition was delayed, due to a lack of space, eventually running from 19 to 24 October.[6] The exhibition featured sketches and drawings by Austin relating to his time in Europe after winning the Prix de Rome. The anonymous reviewer of the exhibition described it as follows:
His work is wonderfully intensive. The portrait studies are exceptionally strong, and in the treatment of the figure he betrays wonderful skill, in expressing vitality and other characteristics. Nowadays there is happily a renaissance of drawing, and in his series of pencil sketches done in Rome, Venice, Frankfort on the Maine, Paris and elsewhere, Mr. Austin is unquestionably a skillful exponent of it. He has the rare faculty of embodying a mass of correct detail into an obviously rapidly sketched-in drawing. The collection betrays the sure hand and quick touch of the artist.[7]

Robert Austin, The Birth of Venus (after Botticelli), etching.
Courtesy Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - more here
Robert Austin, Women in a Church, etching.
Courtesy of Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - more here

Robert Austin, The Angel of Saint Matthew, Orvieto, etching.
Courtesy of Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - more here


Even though there is no reference to specific subjects of the sketches included in the show it would be nice to think that the sketches may have informed later prints including Women in a Church, Spanish Steps Rome, Souvenir of Paris, The Mother, San Domenico, Perugia, The Angel of Saint Matthew, Orvieto, Italian Bride, The Birth of Venus (after Botticelli), Litany and German Madonna (these images all feature on the Liss Llwellyn Fine Art website - here).[8]

It seems likely that Robert Austin left the Blackheath School of Art in 1927 at the end of the Summer Term.[9] This is the most probable conclusion that I have been able to come to is his brother-in-law, James Woodford, who he met whilst in Rome, took over as life teacher in the Autumn Term of 1927:
Sculptors living in the neighbourhood and art students generally will be pleased to hear that the modelling classes have re-opened this session. The school has been fortunate in securing the services of Mr. J. W. Woodford, Prix-de-Rome, gold medallist to take charge of the classes.’[10]

In describing the works of the students’ exhibition in 1928 Woodford was referred to as the teacher of the life class. Given teachers were not referred to in the review of the 1927 exhibition I believe I am right to presume that James Woodford took over the Life Class from his brother-in-law Robert Austin but unfortunately I cannot be sure of the exact year, 1927 or 1928. It also confirms that my assumption that Frederick worked here because of his links with John Platt at the Leicester College of Art probably are not true as he was at the Royal College of Art from 1924 to 1927 and Platt was at Leicester from 1923 to 1929.[11] Most likely he came to work at BSA through more direct family connections, through his brother Robert or James Woodford.

Frederick Austin started working at the Blackheath School of Art in the Autumn Term of 1930. He started alongside two other teachers, Douglas Percy Bliss and Joan Herrin. He probably would have come across both Bliss and Herrin at the Royal College of Art as Bliss was a student there between 1922 and 1925 and Joan Herrin studied Design at the Royal College of Art from 1924 to 1927.[12] Writing in 1981, Bliss remembered Austin, as one of his few colleagues at the school, still living at this time.[13] His link with Herrin became initially apparent through an etching by Frederick Austin of the Adoration of the Shepherds, which is dedicated to Joan Herrin and dated 1926, when Austin was at the RCA.[14]

Frederick Austin’s initial introduction to the BSA students and interested locals, like his brother, came through his works being exhibited in a show alongside Bliss and Herrin, described as ‘works by modern artists’. This exhibition was held in the lecture hall in October 1930 and Austin’s works were briefly described as follows:
‘The examples of Mr Austin’s works are also arresting. Whilst he strikes a modern note, he does not offend by being too extreme.’[15]  

Frederick Austin, The Harvesters (4th state), etching, 1926.
Collection of the author.


Frederick Austin, Apple Orchard with Chopped Wood and Chickens, etching, circa 1936.
Collection of the author.

Frederick Austin’s subject matter of his prints included both rural scenes and religious images. Two of the rural images include The Harvesters from 1926 and Apple Orchard with Chopped Wood and Chickens circa 1936. The strong lines and attention to detail like the apples, ladders, fences and even his initials put on a chopped log in the orchard are characteristic of Austin’s work. Whilst the monumental, statuesque, quality of the hard working women in the fields harvesting wheat gives the scene a timeless feel in they could come from any era.


Ghislebertus, Christ Enthroned, central portal of the Tympanum, Twelfth Century, Vezelay Abbey.

          
Frederick Austin, French Sculpture (after central tympanum Vezelay Abbey), etching, 1954.
Collection of the author.

Inadvertently my two year old son led me to discovering the link between Austin’s French Sculpture and Vezelay Abbey. Such is my wish to introduce him to art and the dual nature of a visual memory which is sometimes a blessing and a curse. Whenever we went to the local library in Deptford, I would take an art book to show him some pictures in between reading children’s stories. On this occasion it was a blessing as looking at the sculpture in the book, What Makes a Masterpiece?, I immediately realised where I had seen it before when looking at the photograph of the enthroned Christ .[16] Austin’s print, depicts the reverse of the central portal of the tympanum of Vezelay Abbey, portraying Christ positioned on an elaborately decorated throne relaying his message to his Apostles. It is an incredibly powerful Christian image in both the sculptural and printed forms. Austin produced his print for The Print Collector’s Club in 1954. Vezelay also brought back memories of choices made in the past whilst visiting Burgundy about five years earlier. We chose to visit Autun rather than Vezelay in the summer of 2011. I do regret not visiting l’Abbaye de Vezelay but if I hadn’t been to Autun I wouldn’t have discovered the amazing Last Judgement of Ghiselbertus of been able to discover more about one of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden’s great patrons, Nicholas Rolin. I guess this will be a destination for future journeys.

Both Robert and Frederick Austin were two great exponents of the art of engraving and the Blackheath School of Art were indeed incredibly privileged to have them both on the staff as teachers. The calibre of these teachers is one of the reasons why the art school was held in such high esteem in the 1920’s and 1930’s. As with all of my entries I will continue to update information as and when I come across it in my sporadic research.






[1] Blackheath School of Art Prospectus 1931 1932 Session. Fred Austin taught Pictorial Design on Mondays 10am to 1pm and Tuesdays 10am to 1pm and Antique and Architectural Drawing on Tuesdays 2.30pm to 4.30pm.
[2] Nottingham Journal, 20 June, 1928, p. 1. There is a photograph on the front page featuring the brothers shaking hands entitled ‘Leicester Triumph’.
[3] Robert Austin and James Woodford married the sisters Ada Mae and Rose Harrison respectively.
[4] ‘Blackheath School of Arts and Crafts’ in Blackheath Local Guide, 4Oct 1930, p. 2. The article describes the artworks exhibited by three new members of staff at BSA Douglas Bliss, Frederick Austin and Joan Herrin referred to as an ‘exhibition of work by modern artists’.
[5] ‘Blackheath School of Arts and Crafts’ in Blackheath Local Guide, 19 Sep 1925, p. 18. Robert Austin is referred to as being newly employed and that some of his pictures from his time in Rome, as the Prix de Rome winner, and those of Margaret Holden Jones will be included in the student exhibition scheduled for 21 to 26 September 1925.
[6] Blackheath Local Guide, 17 Oct 1925, p. 10. I can only assume that Margaret Holden Jones’ works were included with the student exhibition as there is no mention of her exhibition being postponed. The article describes Austin as taking up teaching of the Life Class which would help enable students in gaining entry to the RCA, Slade, Royal Academy Schools and also various teaching certificates.
[7] Blackheath Local Guide, 31 Oct 1925, p. 23. Sadly I am yet to come across a record of any of the works that featured in the collection.
[8] Thanks to Paul Liss for providing me with an article titled ‘Brothers in Art’ in Antique Collecting, pp. 10 – 12.
[9] Blackheath Local Guide, 21 May, 1927, p. 2. Austin received a mention in notes about the school during the summer term referring to him as the teacher of the life and etching classes.
[10] ‘Blackheath School of Art Notes’, in Blackheath Local Guide, 12 Nov 1927, p. 38.
[11] Whilst there has been plenty written about Platt’s tenures at various schools I thought it would be nice to refer to the first page of his leaving gift from Leicester College of Art, a beautiful calligraphy dedication which reads: ‘We the undersigned members of staff at the Leicester College of Arts and Crafts wish to express our appreciation of your valuable work during the five and a half years you have been our Principal. We thank you for all of your kindness and for the trust you have placed in us throughout that period and while much regretting your departure, we hope that your future will continue to be a prosperous one.’ Thanks to Liza Axford for allowing me to view this exquisitely designed gift.
[12] Thanks to Neil Parkinson at the RCA who let me know that she graduated in 1927 with a Diploma in Design.
[13] DP Bliss, Letter to Neil Rhind, Mon 6 Apr, 1981, Collection of the Conservatoire. Bliss wrote: ‘Of the teachers of art I think that only Frederick Austin, the engraver is alive. He (‘The Times’ informs me) is holding a show of his works at present off Bond Street. He is the brother of the distinguished engraver and RA, Robert Austin, who engraved the Queen’s head on the first of the new-style bank notes.’ This adds further weight to Robert Austin having left before 1930 otherwise Bliss would have met him at BSA.
[14] The image appears on the Campbell Fine Art website - http://www.campbell-fine-art.com/items.php?id=235 The inscription states ‘To Miss Joan Herrin, from Frederick Austin. 1926.’
[15] Blackheath Local Guide, 4 Oct 1930, p. 2. Just like the review of Robert’s exhibition in 1925 sadly there is no clue as to which of Frederick’s works were included in the exhibition.
[16] Dell, C (ed.), What Makes a Masterpiece?: Encounters with Great Works of Art, London, 2010, pp. 76-77. I was initially attracted to the book as some of my former colleagues and teachers at the Courtauld Institute of Art featured in it.