Page 1

Robin Tanner 1904-88

Exhibition Handlist


Robin Tanner 1904-88

Exhibition Handlist


Robin Tanner 1904-88

Exhibition Handlist


Contents Robin Tanner: Trustee of the Crafts Study Centre . ...................................................... page 7 The Exhibits ...................................................................................................................... page 8 The Tanners as Collectors of Modern Craft ................................................................ page 30 Robin Tanner: The Etcher . ............................................................................................ page 31 Robin Tanner and the Child Art Movement ................................................................ page 33 Marion Richardson and the Child Art Movement . ..................................................... page 35 Robin Tanner: Biography ............................................................................................... page 38

Left: Old Chapel Field, Kington Langley, Wiltshire – the house that Robin Tanner and his wife Heather lived in from their wedding day in 1931

Robin Tanner 1904-88

5


Robin Tanner: Trustee of the Crafts Study Centre

R

obin Tanner played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Crafts Study Centre. He was a Founder Trustee of the charity when it was established in 1970, and he remained on the Board until his death in 1988. He commented on the early history of the Centre: Painfully, slowly, and with characteristically English altruism and amateurishness, the idea of a collection of the best work of the 20th century artist-craftsman was born – not just a museum collection, but one that, augmented by craftsmen’s records, writings and papers, could be handled and seriously studied and enjoyed. A group of concerned craftsmen and educationists formed themselves into a charitable trust, which we called the Crafts Study Centre Trust’. 1

Robin and his wife Heather were very generous donors to the Crafts Study Centre. The founding museum collections, with key ceramics by Hans Coper, Lucie Rie, Bernard Leach, Michael Cardew and Katharine PleydellBouverie and important textile lengths by Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher and Rita Beales, were shaped by the Tanners’ gifts. Indeed this generosity of spirit is felt by the Centre today as Robin appointed the Crafts Study Centre as copyright holders of his etchings enabling a modest income from reproduction rights. 1

P  hyllis Barron (1860 –1964) and Dorothy Larcher (1884 –1952) as I knew them, 1 June 1978.

His role within the Crafts Study Centre was wide and varied: he was its conscience as well as its protagonist. He was committed to the Centre as a beacon for the field of craft but also for its practical work as a public repository for the material evidence of craft practice. He was convinced that the study of modern craft could best take place through a holistic reading not only of craft objects (although these were of primary significance) but also the related evidence of the craft archive and specialist books. Serious study and enjoyment would be most effectively played out by interconnected research.

Left: Robin Tanner reading at Old Chapel Field

Robin Tanner 1904-88

7


The Exhibits

1

2

Still life, watercolour on paper.

3

Stones, watercolour on paper.

obin Tanner R Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner

R obin Tanner

The Gamekeeper’s Cottage, etching. obin Tanner, 1928 R I n 1975 the artist was to rework the worn out area beyond the doorway, burnishing out the two flowers near the main figure.

7

8

The Wicket Gate, etching (second and final state). R obin Tanner, 1978

8

9

The Plough, etching. R obin Tanner, 1974

Woodland plants, etching. R obin Tanner, 1982

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


4

5

6

Still is the Land, etching. R obin Tanner, 1985

Gray’s Elegy, etching.

Weeds, etching.

R obin Tanner, 1980

R obin Tanner, 1986

10

11

12

April, etching.

The Fritillary Fields, etching.

R obin Tanner, 1985

October, etching (probably second state).

R obin Tanner, 1983

R obin Tanner, 1985

Robin Tanner 1904-88

9


The Exhibits

13

14

The Hazel Copse, etching.

15

The Drinking Trough, watercolour on paper.

R obin Tanner, 1984

The Drinking Trough, etching. R obin Tanner, 1980

R obin Tanner

A collection of books and archives in the display cabinet running along the left-hand side of the gallery

23

Robin Tanner, The Etchings. Garton & Co., London, 1988.

18

Robin Tanner & The Old Stile Press: being printed examples of twenty original patterned paper designs, with a personal memoir by Nicholas McDowall, book and slipcase.

 Country Alphabet, Tanner, A H., Tanner, R. The Old Stile Press, 1984.

The Old Stile Press, 1994.

24

Blotter, red suede, flaps tooled with gold. George Sutcliffe, 1941– 42 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner

10

19

25

Diary of Holiday in Italy and Arles 1960 kept by Heather Tanner. R HT/4/4/6

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


16

17

 Gough’s Cottage, Kington Joe Langley, ink and white body colour.

Cotswold Dovecote, tempera on prepared canvas. obin Tanner, 1940 (amended) R B ased upon a dovecote at Naunton, Gloucestershire and on the Manor House at Easton Piercey, Wiltshire. Begun when Tanner was an H.M.I. of Schools in Leeds.

20

Double Harness: An Autobiography by Robin Tanner Teacher and Etcher, Tanner, R.

Robin Tanner, 1931 E xhibited at the Royal Academy in 1932. Conceived as an independent finished work, and not as a study for an etching, though it is referred to in Tanner’s etching November.

21

A Country Book of Days, Tanner, H., Tanner, R.

22

The Etcher’s Craft, Tanner, R. Friends of Bristol Art Gallery, 1980.

I mpact Books, London, 1988.

Impact Books, London, 1987.

26

Holiday Diary 1962 Autun and Peisey with Barron kept by Heather Tanner. RHT/4/4/8

27

Diary Holiday in Dordogne and Auvergne 1961 with Barron kept by Heather Tanner. RHT/4/4/8

Robin Tanner 1904-88

11


The Exhibits

28

29

30

Smocks and Smocking, by Heather Tanner, with drawings by Robin Tanner, article. The Countryman, Autumn 1953. S ee pages 25 –28 of this handlist for a facsimile of the the article.

Tall narrow neck vase, thrown, stoneware, using two different clay balls in throwing, glazed.

Smock, machine-woven (plain weave) natural cotton, handsewn, reinforced with linen and printed cotton repairs.

ucie Rie, 1972 L Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.112

Late 19th/early 20th century

34

35

Smock, machine-woven (plain weave) natural linen, handsewn. Probably a copy of a 19th century smock. ‘MA 1953’ embroidered on hem.

36

Floral display held in a jug, oils on canvas. Dorothy Larcher 2007.11

Bunch for a Birthday, tempera on canvas. Dorothy Larcher Gifted by Robin Tanner

Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner

12

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


31

32

Vase, thrown, stoneware, unglazed pigmented body, manganese inside and outside rim.

Vase, thrown, stoneware, unglazed interior and exterior upper half, manganese glaze pigmented body.

Tall neck vase, thrown,

stoneware, unglazed exterior, brown/black manganese neck.

Hans Coper, 1953 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.106

37

33

Hans Coper, 1958 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.105

Hans Coper, 1956 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.104

38

39

The Old Thorn, watercolour on paper. Robin Tanner Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner

Floral display of lilies and poppies, oils on canvas. Dorothy Larcher 2007.10

Robin Tanner 1904-88

Embroidered linen bag (unfinished). Designed and executed by Dorothy Larcher Gifted by Robin Tanner T.74.142.a

13


The Exhibits

40

41

The Old Thorn (Martin’s Hovel), watercolour on paper.

42

Woodland, watercolour on paper.

Robin Tanner, 1976 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner

Armchair, bowed arms, English yew with rush seat.

Robin Tanner Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner

44

45

ordon Russell Workshop, 1929–30 G Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner F.74.14

46

Length, Skate, linen, positive print in red. Barron and Larcher, 1923 – 40 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner T.74.243

Length, Spook, natural linen, hand-blockprinted, positive print in black and ungalled iron. Enid Marx, 1930s Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner T.75.2

14

Length, French Lines, cotton, blue with a discharge block print. Barron and Larcher, 1923 – 40 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner T.74.206.b

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


43

Dining table, Roof Tree design, English oak.

Two chairs (from a set of four), ash, rush-seated.

 ordon Russell Workshop, 1928 G R.G. France (maker) Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner F.74.15

 ordon Russell Workshop, 1929–30 G Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner F74.16.a and d

47

48

Length, Small Holly, linen, positive print in quercitron. Barron and Larcher, 1923 – 40 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner T.74.246

Robin Tanner 1904-88

Length, Large Feather, Black, red and green stencilled on linen. Barron and Larcher, 1923 – 40 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner T.74.222.a

Photographs of Robin and Heather Tanner’s home at Old Chapel Field, Kington Langley, Wiltshire.

15


The Exhibits

49

50

Vase, thrown, stoneware, unglazed rim, manganese interior.

I nvocation Before Prayer, broadside by Jean Milne. Red watercolour and black ink on vellum.

Hans Coper, 1955 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.103

55

51

57

Length, cotton, lino block print in black, paste resist, manganese dye. Art and the Child, Richardson, M. University of London Press, London, 1948. S ee pages 33–37 for two articles related to the Child Art Movement.

16

Graily Hewitt, undated Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner C.74.28

Alfred Fairbank, 1934 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner C.74.2

56

Susan Bosence, 1950 – 60s Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner T.75.25

Praise the generous gods for giving, broadside. Raised and burnished gold on vellum.

Sample book of printed textiles, art silk crepe. rovenance: Marion Richardson, P c.1920s 2008.3.2.11

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


52

53

Some Favourite Poems of Mary Grace Walker (D.G. Rossetti, Robert and Elizabeth Browning, Keats, Wordsworth, Dora Sigerson and Christina Rossetti), manuscript book. Purple ink on vellum, initials raised and burnished gold, bound in limp vellum.

54

Length, cotton, positive print and paste resist.

Hand-woven stole or wrap, black and white cotton and chenille, plain weave, spaced reeding, cut weft tufts.

Susan Bosence, 1950 – 60s Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner T.75.11

Ethel Mairet, c.1950 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner T.74.304

Graily Hewitt, 1907 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner C.74.26

58

59

Sample book of printed textiles, The Rossendale Printing Co. Limited, St James’s Buildings, Oxford Street, Manchester. rovenance: Marion Richardson, P c.1920s 2008.3.3.1

Robin Tanner 1904-88

60

Remnant of fabric, possibly experimental, positive print on cotton, by Barron and Larcher. rovenance: Marion Richardson, P date acquired unknown 2008.3.1.150

Handwritten note from Phyllis Barron to Marion Richardson sent from Parkhill Studios, Parkhill Road, Hampstead, London. rovenance Marion Richardson, P 1920s 2009.3.4.1 S ee page 29 of this handlist for a facsimile of the the letter.

17


The Exhibits

61

Children’s Work in Block Printing, Tanner, R.

62

The Dryad Press, Leicester, Sixth Edition, 1970. RHT/15/3/1

Lettering for Children, Tanner, R.

63

Dryad Press, Leicester, Sixth Edition, 1953. RHT/15/3/2

Autumn Bunch, egg tempera on canvas. Robin Tanner, 1942

67

68

Necklace made from 15 square, porcelain beads strung onto black cotton ribbon. Each button is press-moulded and the top surface of each bead has been dipped in metal oxide. Lucie Rie, mid 1950s Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.91.1

18

69

Set comprising two cups and saucers and a jug, thrown, porcelain, manganese, sgraffito decoration. Lucie Rie, 1950s Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.114.a-b

Vase, thrown, stoneware, white underglaze outside and inside lower half, manganese inside upper half and rim. Hans Coper, 1955 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.107

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


64

65

Phyllis Barron 1890–1964 Dorothy Larcher 1884–1952 A record of their block-printed textiles, Catalogue: Volume One.

Bowl, thrown, porcelain, white body, white/semi-transparent glaze overall, incised decoration.

71

Vase, thrown, stoneware, white glaze overall, excluding foot which is pigmented with manganese. Hans Coper, 1953 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.102

Robin Tanner 1904-88

Vase, thrown, oval rim flecked grey glaze overall.

Lucie Rie, c.1963 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.108

Compiled by Robin Tanner, completed in 1968 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner 2001.1.a

70

66

Lucie Rie, 1960 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.113

72

Vase, hexagonal, thrown, stoneware, tenmoku glaze overall excluding foot and narrow band at foot. Bernard Leach, 1971 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.88

Tea caddy, press-moulded, stoneware, grey body with tessha glaze overall, wax resist decoration. Bernard Leach, c.1924 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.86

19


The Exhibits

73

74

75

Bowl, thrown, stoneware, grey ash glaze with fleck.

Set of four coffee cups and saucers, thrown, earthenware, light brown exterior glaze and dark brown interior glaze, sgraffito decoration.

 mall bowl, thrown, shallow S fluting, stoneware, cream, matt, wood ash glaze.

atharine Pleydell-Bouverie, 1971 K Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.92

atharine Pleydell-Bouverie, 1965 –70 K Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.93

Bernard Leach, 1936 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.101.a-d

79

80

81

Dish, thrown, stonewarereduced red body, yellow green glaze over brown, punched decoration.

J ug, thrown, stoneware, greygreen and brown glaze overall, excluding uneven band at foot. Richard Batterham, 1964 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.210

20

Richard Batterham, 1972 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.212

Small bottle, stoneware, grey ash glaze with fleck, wide vertical incised decoration. Given to the Tanners by K.P. B.  atharine Pleydell-Bouverie, 1960s K Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.90

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


76

77

Cut-sided bowl, thrown, stoneware, grey ash glaze, excluding band near foot.

Cut-sided bowl on narrow raised foot, thrown, stoneware, wood ash glaze, grey green.

 atharine Pleydell-Bouverie, 1971 K Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.91

82

78

83

Attributed to Hans Coper, early 1950s P rovenance: Robin and Heather Tanner. L oan by kind permission of private owner Robin Tanner 1904-88

Richard Batterham, 1963 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner, 1971 P.74.208

84

Casserole dish, thrown, stoneware, band of manganese around rim. Lamp base, stoneware, sgraffito decoration through manganese glaze.

Covered jar, thrown, stoneware, red body, wood ash, felspar and clay glaze overall.

Richard Batterham, 1963 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.209

Hans Coper, c.1955 P rovenance: Robin and Heather Tanner (see photograph on wall with candlelit table). L oan by kind permission of private owner

Saucer, thrown, porcelain, manganese overall with incised lines towards centre, white glaze on foot. Lucie Rie, mid 1958 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.120

21


The Exhibits

85

86

Bowl, thrown, footed, porcelain, light grey glaze overall, manganese inlaid cross hatchings on exterior.

87

 all-footed vase, thrown, T porcelain, uranium glaze and an iron glaze. Sgraffito pattern on interior and sgraffito revealing clay body on exterior.

 idded box, porcelain, L manganese glaze overall, excluding inside rim, sgraffito decoration.

Lucie Rie, 1950s Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.119

Lucie Rie, 1960 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.115

91

92

Top, middle and bottom shelves: Breakfast/tea service, thrown, stoneware, thick opaque glaze and manganese decoration. Lucie Rie, late 1950s Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.91.2.1 – P.91.2.10

22

Lucie Rie, 1960 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.117

93

Silver fork and spoon. Adrian Haarlar Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner

Tablecloth, hand-woven, natural grey and pink, handspun linen. Rita Beales Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner T.75.29

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


88

89

90

 andwritten letter from Robin H Tanner to Lucie Rie, 8 February 1984. Rie/16/5/4/10 Transcription: “Dearest Lucie,

Vase, thrown and altered, porcelain, white glaze overall.

 ase, thrown, porcelain, V Sgraffito on grey slip.

Lucie Rie, early 1960s Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.118

Lucie Rie, early, 1960s Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner P.74.116

 ou are never far from our thoughts. Y Every morning when I lay the table for breakfast with your black cups & saucers & plates I picture you drinking your coffee alone, up in your beautiful austere room. This morning the first pot of yours I ever bought – in a London exhibition in the late fifties – stands on the table, filled with Snowdrops, White Heather, & white Lenten Hellebores, & I wish I could bring you a bunch! It is strange that this dreadfully windy & rather cold spring is nevertheless unusually early.  e hope so much that all is well W with you & that you keep warm and cosy.

94

I felt outraged by a review in the Times Literary Supplement of the biography of Hans. We haven’t yet seen the book; but this reviewer was disparaging about Han’s achievement. What he wrote made me feel very angry. I hope there have been better & more enlightened reviews.

95

 esterday I came across a lovely Y letter from Hans, written in October, 1961, from Digswell House. Evidently I had just been to see his wall in Berkeley Street, & had told him how fine I thought it. “It was received by the clients in ominous silence”, Hans wrote! One day I must let you & Jane read the letter.

Photograph of sitting room at Old Chapel Field showing table laid with Lucie Rie tea/ breakfast service. Rie/16/5/1

Handwritten letter from Robin Tanner to Lucie Rie, Undated. Rie/16/5/4/11

Robin Tanner 1904-88

 ell hope all is well with Jane. W Please give her my love.  nd we all three send much love to A you, dear Lucie. Robin”

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The Exhibits

96

97

Stole, hand-woven with stripes, natural undyed linen and vegetable-dyed linen in dark grey and gold weld, warp stripes and weft stripes at ends.

Fabric-covered, hand made book containing samples of hand spun, vegetable-dyed, hand woven linens by Rita Beales. C.1930 – 40s The handwritten labels on deckleedged paper are by Robin Tanner. Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner 2009.2.1

Rita Beales, 1937 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner T.75. 28

Two etchings on the rear of the second column in the centre of the gallery

98

99

Wiltshire Hedger, etching. Robin Tanner, 1928 Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner

24

Wiltshire Roadmaker, etching. Robin Tanner, (1928), 1970 I n 1970/71 the artist reworked the plate extensively, achieving greater variety of tone and, most noticeably, a more effective sunset. Gifted by Robin and Heather Tanner

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


Exhibit number 29 – facsimile of the article: Smocks and Smocking, by Heather Tanner, with drawings by Robin Tanner

Robin Tanner 1904-88

25


Exhibit number 29 – Facsimile of the article

26

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


Robin Tanner 1904-88

27


Exhibit number 29 – Facsimile of the article

28

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


Exhibit number 60 – facsimile of the letter: Handwritten note from Phyllis Barron to Marion Richardson

Robin Tanner 1904-88

29


The Tanners as Collectors of Modern Craft

T

he movement to improve children’s education by introducing progressive reforms in the early part of the 20th century was slow and tentative to develop. However, during the post war period it gained credence, momentum and a committed following. Robin Tanner as HMI of Schools was by this time at the forefront of the movement to promote the role of craft in primary and secondary schools. From the mid 1950s to 1964 he designed, organised and directed annual Ministry of Education courses that dealt with the importance of art and craft in education. They were delivered at Dartington Hall in Devon, home of Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst, themselves great patrons of the arts and crafts. The courses were inspired by the celebrated International Conference of Craftsmen in Pottery & Textiles held at the Hall in July 1952 and organised by the potter Bernard Leach and gallery owner, Muriel Rose. Already a confirmed collector of the crafts, these activities acted as a forum, and drew Tanner into friendships with many craft practitioners and those associated with the mid 20th century modern crafts movement, such as Susan Bosence, Ewart Uncles, and the architect David Medd. The Tanners collected, used, lived with and enjoyed the fine craft. Two letters from Robin Tanner to Lucie Rie (16/5/4/10 exhibit number 90, and 16/5/4/11 exhibit number 95) included in this exhibition demonstrate the deep appreciation and admiration the Tanners felt for her work. They also greatly admired the hand-blocked textiles of Barron and Larcher, who Tanner had met in 1938. In early 1958 he embarked upon a vast project

30

with Phyllis Barron to catalogue their work with a plan to devote more time to its completion on his retirement in December 1964. However, Phyllis Barron died in November of that year, leaving what remained of her great life’s work in his hands. The project was finally completed in 1968 when he and Ewart Uncles bound it into two elephant volumes. Following three exhibitions of Barron and Larcher’s work in Painswick, Cheltenham Art Gallery and the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol, Tanner wrote: there was a cry on all sides that this important and beautiful work should not be dispersed, and that examples of other great artist-craftsmen of this century should be rescued and gathered together before it was too late. 1 The majority of objects in this exhibition were either gifted to the Crafts Study Centre by the Tanners at time of its first exhibition at the Holburne Museum of Menstrie in Bath in 1974, or later bequeathed. They are objects which form the core and essence of the Crafts Study Centre collections, along with work donated by their friends Bernard Leach, Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie, Rita Beales, Edward Johnston, Grailey Hewitt, Irene Wellington, Ernest Gimson, Edward Barnsley, and the residue of weaving by Ethel Mairet and her students at Gospels in Ditchling. Jean Vacher 1

D  ouble Harness: An autobiography by Robin Tanner, Tanner, R., Impact Books, London, 1987, p. 179.

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


Robin Tanner: the Etcher Woodland plants, etching. R obin Tanner, 1982 Exhibit number 9

R

obin Tanner remarked that ‘as a boy I had two great longings – to be a teacher and to be an artist – and I have never wavered’ 1. His creative work was realised privately through drawings and sketches, and publicly through the sale and exhibition of etchings. Tanner remarked that his earliest influence came from Bible illustrations by Gustave Dore, and that ‘I was most blissfully at home in this world of Black and White. The infinite range of tones, from brightest shining white, through countless silvery and darker greys of many textures, to richest, deepest, and most velvety black, positively enthralled me. Etchings and engravings became my chief obsession, and they still are today’ 2. Tanner’s subjects as an accomplished, neo-Romantic etcher fall into a narrow geographical sphere, but even in this narrow boundary of location he seeks to find a sacramental atmosphere to his descriptions of the natural

Robin Tanner 1904-88

world and the rural built environment. He remarked that ‘all I wanted to say on copper…is contained in a few square miles of N. W. Wiltshire – a land of Cotswold stone, but a countryside that is Cotswold with a Wiltshire difference’. In locating his creative work into this precise place of personal acquaintance and reflection, Tanner records both his profound sense of himself as a countryman (although he was born in Bristol in 1904) and the significance of Old Chapel Field in the village of Kington Langley, Wiltshire, the house that Robin and his wife Heather lived in from their wedding day in 1931. Robin Tanner was taught etching by Stanley Anderson in an evening class at Goldsmith’s College, London in the 1920s. His first etching A Tithe Barn is dated 1926 and he was not especially happy with it, noting that it was ‘an unhappy hybrid between Clausen and Blampied’3. His second etching Alington in Wiltshire is more assured and indeed his style did not vary much from the style of iconography and the tone established by this work. The print brings together a poetic, pastoral harmony of farm buildings and landscape to represent a longing for the ‘timeless’ rhythms of rural life. Tanner added a more mystic dimension to these early works, such as Martin’s Hovel with its radiant focus of light. He was evidently influenced in this, as in later works, by the romantic sensibility of William Blake and Samuel Palmer. These influences were kept up in spite of the harsh criticism of his tutor, who commented on ‘this blasted searchlight’ in Martin’s Hovel. This print is also regarded as significant because it demonstrates the influence of William Morris, his idealism and his search for all that was in concord with nature.

31


Robin Tanner: the Etcher

Tanner was a patient, well-prepared artist, leaving little to chance. He made many pencil studies in advance of each print either of the whole image or exact details within the work. He also used record photography as a tool. He would spend time in the field to ensure that the prints feel like authentic, known places, even though they come to represent a more generalised and sometimes symbolically charged place of nature. The etching Autumn of 1932 marks a departure in his output as it is the first stilllife describing an abundant array of hedgerow, field and downland plants and berries. This exacting review of Wiltshire flora strongly influenced his later output. By the 1930s etching had fallen out of favour as a medium, not least because sales collapsed due to economic depression and the upsurge in the use of photography as a recording medium. Tanner was also stretched by the demands of a full-time career in education and he did not have the time to give to the demanding requirements of print making. He did print two new etchings in the 1940s, but it was not until the 1970s, when he had retired, that he focused again on etching. His later prints continued to draw out an idealised pastoral evocation from the Wiltshire countryside, and these natural places are shown without any concession to modern life: this is a Wiltshire with no cars, very few people, no telegraph poles or phone booths. The images are a retreat to the past, or a place in the sanctified imagination; to a place where traditional rural tasks hold sway, where the village is the centre of humanity and activity and where the future is held at bay. The solace of nature is all important.

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Tanner began to focus on flora in his etchings and works such as August in Wiltshire presents indigenous flowers including Harebell, Squinancy and Rest Harrow with a realistic and a symbolic force, almost as a lament for the countryside. This theme is played out in the turbulent and even gothic imagery of The Old Road: elegy for the English Elm (1976) which records the disastrous march of Dutch Elm disease on the English countryside. Tanner was modest about his work as an etcher saying towards the end of his life that ‘nor can I claim great success as an etcher…The vision I have is glorious, but I’m afraid the reality is always a partial failure. Yet something urges me to continue the pursuit’ 4. A catalogue raisonne of Tanner’s etchings was published by Robin Garton in 19885. A full set of Tanner’s etchings is held in the collections of the Crafts Study Centre and his etching plates are held in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Simon Olding

1

Q uoted in What I believe: lectures and other writings by Robin Tanner, Crafts Study Centre, 1989, p. 2.

2

Ibid, p. 5.

3

S ir George Clausen, (1852–1944), Professor of Painting at the Royal Academy and noted landscape artist who was also a skilled print maker; Edmund Blampied (1886 –1966) was a prolific print maker.

4

Q uoted in Ken Watts, Figures in a Wiltshire Scene, The HobNob Press, 2002, p. 259.

5

Robin Garton, Robin Tanner: the etchings, Garton and Co., 1988.

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


Robin Tanner and the Child Art Movement

D

uring the first half of the 20th century a radical movement to reform children’s education through the teaching of art in schools took place. At the heart of this was the philosophy that art had the power to shape a child’s development in a way that drab, rigidlytaught representational art was unable to do. The fostering of imagination and self-realisation in a child was central to this. Robin Tanner, together with a small group of likeminded individuals, such as Marion Richardson who wrote Art and the Child in 1948 (exhibit number 56, shown right), and Professor Franz Cižek in Vienna, played a leading role in the movement. It was to culminate in the child-centred approach to education that we know today. Tanner and Richardson shared much in common. Both were teachers with strongly held beliefs about the power of art to change children’s lives. To develop self-realisation they encouraged their pupils to look at the world around them in visionary ways; through the mind’s eye. Richardson directed her pupils to scenes from everyday life such as people, buildings, streets or night-lit shops. Tanner delighted in found objects from the natural environment such as bark, lichen, shells, stones and feathers or scenes the Bible. Central to their teaching was the role of pattern. Both taught block printing and both were absorbed with the connections between art and lettering. Tanner wrote of his early childhood experience: The shapes of letters and the pattern of paragraphs upon a printed page were immediately magical to me 1

Robin Tanner 1904-88

A small collection of printed textile samples held by Richardson, which were later gifted to the Crafts Study Centre, provides potential insights into her thinking and the connection between pattern and the repetition of letterforms (exhibit number 57 – two of these samples are shown overleaf ). The same might be argued for Tanner’s delight in the handblock printed textiles of Barron and Larcher whom he met for the first time in 1938 at their studio in Painswick, Gloucestershire. He was overcome by the quality and spontaneity of their work. He came away with a ‘rag bag’ of printed cottons, linens, silks and velvets to show in the schools that he inspected. At the time they used to sell such bunches of remnants for 5s or 7s 6d. These were faulty pieces or remnants left over from making silk garments which were often of very fine detail in delicate lines, spots and sprigs or bold patterns in soft colours of ungalled iron2.

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Robin Tanner and the Child Art Movement

According to Tanner, one of Barron’s greatest interests was education: …her influence was strongest with teachers in primary and secondary schools and in colleges of education. 3 The encounter was to lead to a long friendship with Phyllis Barron who left a large body of their work to Tanner on her death in 1964. Little documentary evidence can be found to support the idea of personal contact between Tanner, Richardson and Barron and Larcher. However, the inclusion of a piece of fabric by the latter together with a note from Barron written in the early days of her practice at Hampstead, London (1923–30) in the Richardson acquisition, hints at shared conversations. The freshness of vision in Barron and Larcher’s work would have appealed to Richardson and Tanner alike. Jean Vacher

December 2011

1

D  ouble Harness: An autobiography by Robin Tanner, Tanner, R., Impact Books, London, 1987.

2

P  hyllis Barron, 1890 –1964 and Dorothy Larcher, 1884 –1952, as I knew them, Bath Festival, Tanner, R., unpublished notes, CSC archives RHT/10/9/3/1.

3

I bid.

Right: two fabric samples from exhibit number 57

34

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


Marion Richardson and the Child Art Movement reformer, in Cambridge in 1920 1. Richardson recorded her teaching methods in various manuals, articles, and recollections, including Art and Child, 1948 (exhibit number 56, shown left), The Dudley Writing Cards, 1928 and Writing and Writing Patterns, 1935. Trained as an art teacher at Birmingham Municipal School of Art and Crafts, Richardson began teaching art education at Dudley Girls’ High School in 1912, and hoped to give the children ‘complete confidence in their inner vision’ and to encourage the children’s own individual expression2. She became especially interested in modern teaching methods and developed her own curriculum of teaching art to replace traditional methods 3. Rather than imitating ‘adult conventional art’, Richardson encouraged the students to develop an art of their own, leading Richardson to discover a common denominator, or a ‘vital something’, between the art of her students and the works of the Post-Impressionists, which Richardson viewed at the Grafton Galleries in the summer of 1912 4. As her methods developed over the years, visitors from Great Britain and abroad came to observe her classroom, and in the August 1919 issue of Cambridge Magazine, her article ‘How to Teach Drawing’ was published 5.

T

he English art educator, Marion Richardson (1892 – 1946), was an early pioneer of the New Education Movement and is also well known for her important contribution to the development of handwriting in the twentieth century. As one of the most leading advocates of child art in Great Britain, she opened the first exhibition of the pupils’ works of Franz Cižek, the Austrian art education

Robin Tanner 1904-88

In 1914, Richardson began teaching writing at Dudley and, as with the art curriculum, developed her own system of teaching handwriting, leading to the publication of the Dudley Writing Cards in 1928. In 1930, Richardson was appointed inspector of schools in the London County Council, and her methods of art education and handwriting were widely taught, allowing her teaching systems to be reviewed within a wider context.

35


Marion Richardson and the Child Art Movement

By 1935, Richardson had revised her handwriting teaching methods, publishing Writing and Writing Patterns. She wrote of her methods: ‘These cards and books are designed to give a child practice in the essentials of simple running hand, which will serve him throughout school life and be the foundation of a good adult hand. A free cursive writing employs only easy movements of the hand and arms, such as are used in primitive forms of decoration and childish scribble’6. Richardson developed these writing lessons into five books, which progressed in difficulty and were intended for children from ages six and a half to 10 years old. In the first book, the children traced large scale pictures of simple patterns, concentrating on movement rather than on perfect reproduction. The patterns were created by arranging letters by family group, such as ‘V and W, which are made with one continuous zigzag movement’, or ‘U, C, G, O and Q, which are all made without lifting the pencil except for the tail of Q, which is an added stroke’7. This exercise taught a simple writing rhythm and introduced cursive writing forms. As the child progressed, lessons evolved from pattern drawing to writing in a neat cursive form, which maintained a free quality of line. Richardson hoped that pattern-making would continue after the child learned to write, and encouraged her students to decorate the pages of their written assignments with their own patterns. In 1917, Richardson met Roger Fry at the Exhibition of Children’s Drawings held at the Omega Workshops in London. He became interested in the drawings of the Dudley girls, remarking on their ‘forthright simplicity and freshness of vision’ and including their work in the

36

exhibition8. The Omega Workshops influenced Richardson to include decorative arts in her classes, and her students produced painted furniture, lampshades, and blockprinted fabrics and papers. Through Fry, Richardson came to the attention of the Minister of Education, H.A.L. Fisher, and also met many artists, writers, and critics, including Margaret Bulley, who persuaded the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester to exhibit the children’s art in 1928. This exhibition was visited by representatives of the cotton trade, and patterns designed by Richardson’s students were sold to be block-printed for reproduction9. Examples of these patterned textiles have recently been donated to the Craft Study Centre collection. One such piece, a repeat of flowers, was reproduced by Rossendale Printing Company in a large range of colour ways (2008.3.3.1, exhibit number 58)10. An Adam Murray & Company sample book in the collection also shows a pattern that may have been inspired by Richardson’s writing lessons, as it consists of a repetition of V shapes similar to the patterns that students traced in Book I of Writing and Writing Patterns. Another interesting example in the collection appears to have been block-printed in the classroom, and shows a pattern created from repeated and mirrored U shapes (2008.3.1.150). This pattern is similar to the exercise Richardson taught in Book I of Writing and Writing Patterns. The colours and forms of the cloth recall the works of Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher, early 20th century textile designers, with whom Richardson was in contact, as a letter held by the Craft Study Centre collection attests (2008.3.4.1, exhibit number 60).

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


Writing and Writing Patterns was taught for over 50 years in England, influencing several generations, and the rounder, more relaxed script left a mark on English handwriting, differentiating it from the cursive styles of continental Europe and the USA. Several other countries also copied Richardson’s teaching method, and similar models were introduced in Norway in the 1950s and in Denmark 11. Writing and Writing Patterns was also used in classrooms around the world, as a letter held in the Craft Study Centre collection shows. The author of the letter describes how she learned ‘Marion Richardson’ at The Army School in Singapore, and later taught the method in her own classroom. Valerie Kohler December 2011

1

 oldsworth, Bruce, ‘Marion Richardson (1892 –1946),’ in Readings H in Primary Education, ed. Herne, Steve; Cox, Sue and Watts, Robert, Intellect Books, Bristol, 2009, p. 61.

2

R ichardson, Marion, Art and the Child, University of London Press, London, 1948, pp. 15, 17.

3

H oldsworth, p. 58.

4

R ichardson, Art and the Child, pp. 14, 17.

5

H oldsworth, p. 64.

6

R ichardson, Marion, ‘Teacher’s Book’, Writing and Writing Patterns, University of London Press, London, 1935, p. 3.

7

R  ichardson, ‘Teacher’s Book’, p. 8.

8

R  ichardson, Art and the Child, p. 32.

9

R  ichardson, Art and the Child, p. 35.

Robin Tanner 1904-88

10

I bid.

11

S  assoon, Rosemary, Handwriting of the Twentieth Century, Intellect Books, Bristol, 2007, p. 71.

Further reading: Alson, Jean and Taylor, Jane, Handwriting: Theory, Research and Practice, Croom Helm, London, 1987. Holdsworth, Bruce, ‘Marion Richardson (1892 –1946)’, in Readings in Primary Education, edited by Herne, Steve; Cox, Sue and Watts, Robert (pp 55–71), Intellect Books, Bristol, 2009. Richardson, Marion, Art and the Child, University of London Press, London, 1948. Richardson, Marion, The Dudley Writing Cards, G. Bell and Sons, London, 1928. Richardson, Marion, Writing and Writing Patterns, University of London Press, London, 1935. Sassoon, Rosemary, Handwriting of the Twentieth Century, Intellect Books, Bristol, 2007.

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Robin Tanner: Biography 1927

Buys an etching press.

1928 Gives up teaching to be a full time student at art school during the summer. With Heather Spackman buys Old Chapel Field. Returns to Wiltshire. 1928/9 Etches full time, working at his parents’ home in Chippenham. 1930 Vivian Goold, Heather’s uncle, designs Old Chapel Field, Kington Langley. 1931 Marries Heather Spackman at Corsham Church. 1932 Murals of summer, spring and autumn painted by pupils in his classroom. 1904 Born Easter Sunday in Bristol. Third of six children. Father a carpenter and joiner.

1935 Appointed H.M. Inspector of Schools. Moves to Leeds for two years.

1915 Begins at Chippenham Grammar School, Wiltshire.

1936 Talks on ‘Child Art’ to Sheffield teachers where he is jeered in disbelief. Made Associate of The Royal Society of Painters Etchers and Engravers.

1921 Student teacher at Ivy Lane School, Chippenham. 1922–24 Attends Goldsmith’s College, University of London teacher training course. 1922 Sees for the first time the work of F.L. Griggs at the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers. 1924 Teaches at Blackheath Road Boys School, Greenwich and studies life drawing and etching in the evening under Clive Gardiner and Stanley Anderson at Goldsmith’s School of Art.

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1937 Returns to Old Chapel Field to be H.M.I. in Gloucestershire. 1938 Meets Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher for the first time. 1939 Tanners give asylum to Dietrich Hanff, aged 18. They register as conscientious objectors. 1941

Work as H.M.I. concentrates on Bristol.

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


1952 Speaks at International Conference of Craftsmen in Pottery and Textiles at Dartingon Hall, forming friendships with Hans Coper, Lucie Rie and Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst. Elected member of the Royal West of England Academy (R.W.A.). 1956

Becomes H.M.I. for Oxfordshire.

1964 Retires as H.M.I. Phyllis Barron dies, leaving all her work to Robin – from this bequest grew the idea of the Crafts Study Centre. 1966 Some etching included in the exhibition A Gothic Vision: Etchings and Drawings by F.L. Griggs at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. 1970 Becomes a founder trustee of the Crafts Study Centre. 1972 Elected a Senior Fellow of The Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (R.E.). 1974/5 Twelve etchings shown in the exhibition organised by Jo Graffy, After Many a Summer: English Pastoral Etchings, 1687–1973, shown at the Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendall; Holburne of Menstrie Museum, Bath; The National Book League, London and the Royal West of England Academy. 1977 Retrospective exhibition of etchings at Robin Garton’s Gallery. 1980 Exhibition of all Robin’s etchings in the Mayor’s Parlour, Malmesbury.

Robin Tanner 1904-88

1981 Retrospective exhibition Robin Tanner, Paintings, Drawings and Etchings shown at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. 1983 Eighty two plant drawings for Woodland Plants shown at Devizes Museum. 1984 The Complete Etchings shown in thirteen public libraries in Wiltshire. 1988

Dies.

1989 A pamphlet, What I Believe, Lectures and other Writings by Robin Tanner, is published by the Crafts Study Centre.

Etchings, other works of art and published writing: 1927

Allington in Wiltshire.

1928 Martin’s Hovel, Wiltshire Roadmaker and Wiltshire Hedger. 1929

The Gamekeeper’s Cottage and Christmas.

1930

Wiltshire Woodman and Harvest Festival.

1931 Commissioned by Nash’s Magazine to illustrate essay by Virginia Woolf. 1933 Autumn begun (printed in 1933), tempera portrait of Heather. 1934 Harry Peach, founder of Dryad Handicrafts, commissions books on block printing and lettering for children.

39


Robin Tanner: Biography

1935 Wren and Primroses and Wiltshire Rickyard (watercolours). 1936 His book, Children’s Work in Block Printing, is published by Dryad Press. 1936

Hedge Flowers.

1937 His book, Lettering for Children, published by Dryad Press. 1939 Wiltshire Village by Robin and Heather published by Collins. Wiltshire Rickyard.

1977 Impressions of the etchings Wren and Primroses, Full Moon and The Old Road published in British Etchers: 1850 –1940 by Kenneth Guichard, published by Robin Garton. The Old Road. 1978 Wiltshire Village republished in facsimile by Robin Garton. The Wicket Gate and The Cheese Room. 1979

December.

1944

Lesser Celandine.

1980 The Drinking Trough, an illustration for Gray’s Elegy. Woodland Plants.

1946

June.

1982

March and September.

1983

Fritillary Fields.

1948 Flowers of the Meadow by Geoffrey Grigson with illustrations by Robin published as a King Penguin Book. 1959 Writes the ‘Art and Craft’ and ‘Handwriting’ sections in Primary Education, HMSO. 1970

The Meadow Stile.

1971

Easter.

1972

The Clapper Bridge and White Violets.

1974 Joe Graffy of The Penn Print Room publishes a set of twelve plates in portfolio, with fifty impressions of each. The Plough and Full Moon. 1975

February and November.

1976

The Old Thorne and August in Wiltshire.

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1984 A Country Alphabet by Heather and Robin Tanner published by The Old Stile Press. Weeds and The Hazel Copse. 1885

April, October and Aldhemsburgh.

1986 A Country Book of Days by Heather and Robin Tanner published by The Old Stile Press. Weeds, The Hazel Copse and The Farms of Home Lie lost in Eden.

Crafts Study Centre: Exhibition Handlist


Robin Tanner 1904-88  

Handlist to accompany the exhibition 'Robin Tanner' held at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, Surrey, January to December 2012.

Robin Tanner 1904-88  

Handlist to accompany the exhibition 'Robin Tanner' held at the Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, Surrey, January to December 2012.

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