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Peter Reddick

A Backward Glance


Peter Reddick’s work is extraordinary. The sheer breadth of it and the skill and time involved takes your breath away. Being able to host a retrospective of his work here at Spike Print Studio - the organisation that Peter helped set up 30 years ago - is a privilege and signals a wonderful sychronicity. Peter Reddick is one of this country’s most respected engravers. He is well known for his illustrations for the novels of Thomas Hardy, but I find that many contemporary printmakers and artists respond to his landscapes; of rolling hills, cliffs and windswept trees. His colour woodcuts of the Dorset coastline hang onto the paper, sinking and shimmering with the lightness of touch and colour he has used. The image appears flatter on the paper during these works, with a slight indication of perspective. The energy within the prints brings them alive. They hold the essence of the English countryside; for we have all been there at some point, listening to the wind in the trees and paddling on the shoreline. The generosity of Peter is evident in many ways. His belief in the democracy of print means that his deliberate large print runs are accessible to many people. He has also run a wood engraving course for the Print Studio for several years, and not taken any money for it, in order to give something back to printmaking. This catalogue gives the viewer just a small glimpse at the world through Peter Reddick’s eyes and we are delighted to celebrate his work here at Spike Print Studio. Gill Nicol


Peter Reddick

Peter Reddick has the spring and the address of someone half his age. Few engravers are still making prints at the age of 83. It is rare to be able to consider, in a wood engraver, the ‘style of old age’ associated with the few, like Titian, who get to it. I first encountered Peter’s work as a teenager; it was one of the things that drew me to engraving. It is moving to think that we are now friends and colleagues and I have been able to watch his work pass through several stages. Mind you, he’s still twenty years ahead. The sort of engraving that first drew me to Peter’s work is typified by his celebrated Poppies: linear, with relaxed yet carefully graded tonal infill letting the white of the page definitively show through. In a later, more recent body of work, white lines are skimmed, sketched over or speared into the black matrix; tones never quite establish the distinct separation of the first manner, like the dry, wooden notes of a xylophone, but emerge from, and drop back into, the black as from an oily sea; mist and lights flare around forms more than they define them. One can see this approach coming on as Peter worked his way through his long sequences of Thomas Hardy illustrations: at first the white of the page controlled everything, but by the end the black of the block ruled and figures glimmered in its twilight. This late aspect of Peter’s work is more to do with gesture and the urgency of the cut line than with the tonal disposition of masses. His association with Hardy is rightly celebrated. But this is only a fraction of Peter’s work for the Folio Society. His portrait of Wordsworth, for example, first published in 1970, was used again thirty years later in the current series of Folio Poets; he illustrated a whole other series of books, Trollope this time, with pen drawings; he worked for other publishers, notably the Limited Editions Club of New York; he was Gregynog Fellow for a year and drew much inspiration from rocks and bad weather. However, the association with such books can blind one to Peter’s own presence; the vision that brought Hardy and Wordsworth under his wing. There are some illustrators of whom one says not ‘He was their perfect interpreter’ but ‘They were his perfect authors’. The wind and the furze were already in his touch. A Peter Reddick retrospective is an opportunity to see outside the covers of the books to the flexing and shifting sensibility beyond, to other work such as the monorpints and large, atmospheric woodcuts. His latest book, The Abstract Garden, published by the Old Stile Press, is a celebration of Reddick the freelance artist: though neither retrospective or curatorial in itself, it covers aspects of past achievement as well as bringing into being a range of new work. It heralded this show. For Peter Reddick the style of old age is characterised by something ever young, flaring passion rather than a dry rustle, darkness rather than light, forms that leap and flow. Simon Brett


Peter Reddick

The death of William Rufus for FOLKLORE MYTHS & LEGENDS OF BRITAIN Readers Digest 1977


The Gathering of the Clans for FOLKLORE MYTHS & LEGENDS OF BRITAIN Readers Digest 1977


Peter Reddick

When I came to work for the Folio Society in 1986, Peter Reddick had already been making engravings and drawings for the Society for almost 30 years, having made his bow with a portrait of John Donne, published in 1958. He had illustrated all of Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles, and his magnum opus, The Complete Novels and Tales of Thomas Hardy, was well underway: two volumes had been published of the 18 which were finally to appear. The proofs of Wessex Tales were on my desk when I arrived – indeed they were my introduction to the wood engraver’s art. In sheer numbers, Peter’s Folio oeuvre is impressive – almost 500 engravings and 200 drawings to date – but it is the quality of his work which is truly outstanding. Early in my Folio career an experienced wood engraver told me how few wood engravers are confident in handling the human form – most will shy off people wherever they can and stick with birds and flowers, the textures of which come more naturally to the engraver’s tools. But, he said, Peter Reddick is a notable exception. Peter’s engraving technique is so supple, so fluid, that he is capable of reflecting nuances of character in a way which sets him apart: indeed it is impossible to imagine the Folio Hardy having proceeded from any other hand. Year after year, further volumes of Hardy appeared, until the series was finally concluded in 1994, 26 years after it had begun. Anyone might be expected to tire over so marathon a course, that the later volumes would show signs of flagging; not Peter. The work on Jude the Obscure, the last of the fully-illustrated books in the series, shows if anything an even greater flexibility of line, and subtlety of characterisation than any which had gone before. The conclusion of the Folio Hardy by no means signalled the end of Peter’s Folio career. He has contributed to a number of books since then, including the Folio Shakespeare, the Golden Treasury, and George Eliot’s Adam Bede. Most notable is his superb edition of Wordsworth for the Folio Poets series, with 85 engravings in all. There are figures aplenty (birds and flowers too!) but most memorable are his depictions of brooding mountainous landscapes in wild weather: so much vastness expressed in so small a space. Joe Whitlock-Blundell




The Mayor of Casterbridge Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1969


The Return of the Native Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1971


Peter Reddick



Far From the Madding Crowd Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1986


Tess of the D’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1988




The Woodlanders Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1989



Under the Greenwood Tree Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1989


Peter Reddick



The Trumpet Major Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1990


Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1992




Villette Charlotte Bronte, Folio Society 1991


Adam Bede by George Eliot, Folio Society 1999


Peter Reddick



Poems of Robert Browning Limited Editions Club, New York 1969



Poems of Robert Browning Limited Editions Club, New York 1969



Cerddi Robert Williams Parry Gregynog Press 1980 The first book published by the revived Gregynog Press in 1980 Poems in Welsh


Peter Reddick


A landcape engraving for a projected book on Peter Reddick’s landscapes to be published by Simon Lawrence at The Fleece Press



Colour Linocut


Peter Reddick


Colour Woodcut



Colour Woodcut


Peter Reddick


Colour Woodcut



The Abstract Garden poems by Philip Gross Old Stile Press, Llandogo 2006


Peter Reddick


The Abstract Garden poems by Philip Gross Old Stile Press, Llandogo 2006 A collaboration where the artist illustrated some of the poet’s words and in other instances, the poet wove his words round the artist’s images. The printer designer then created the pages and the book.



The Abstract Garden poems by Philip Gross Old Stile Press, Llandogo 2006


Peter Reddick


The Abstract Garden poems by Philip Gross Old Stile Press, Llandogo 2006



The Abstract Garden poems by Philip Gross Old Stile Press, Llandogo 2006


Peter Reddick


Selected Poems of William Wordsworth Folio Society 2002


Selected Poems of William Wordsworth Folio Society 2002




Selected Poems of William Wordsworth Folio Society 2002


Selected Poems of William Wordsworth Folio Society 2002


Peter Reddick

A conversation 23/10/07 Irena Czapska (IC) Peter Reddick (PR)

IC Peter, we have been friends for over 10 years and as artists we have a continuous dialogue about practice. Tell me what attracted you to wood engraving in particular and print in general. PR When I was about 16 and like the gosling emerging from the egg into awareness, I met the books by HE Bates - Down the River and the other Through the Woods. They were both illustrated with wood engravings by Agnes Miller Parker and were romantic visions of the countryside. So I was enthralled by the medium and convinced that I wanted to be a book illustrator. IC I know you feel that the printed image should be accessible to all. Do you feel that printmaking can still be viewed this way?

PR Yes I do, as I have always felt that as wood engravings are easy to print and as you could print hundreds without any degradation of the image, there is a case for not limiting the edition. The limited edition is partly an artificial thing done for the benefit of galleries – so I have always kept some prints as non-limited editions to keep the prices low and some for galleries as limited editions. IC Much of your work has been illustrating nineteenth century classics by authors such as Hardy, Trollope and Wordsworth which may lock you into an era. Do you feel that has happened? Do you feel that you have had to stay in a particular vein of work? PR Well, commissions are a great stimulus. It just happened that I was lucky enough to get all the Hardy novels to do at the rate of one a year. IC Well that’s a fantastic commission!


PR Terrific, a marvellous commission! The Folio Society published 18 in all and I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. In a way, the figurative work that you need to do for that sort of book is fascinating in itself because first of all you have to try and create character and not alienate the reader who might have a totally different idea of that particular character. And also you have to look up the architecture of the period, the transport, what sort of furniture and clothes. Then you try and bring the whole lot together in a unity which is believable – and that is the fascination of it. IC Do you feel that this may have circumscribed your work or do you feel that you were able to progress other aspects of your art? PR Landscape first got me going in drawing and painting. It arose from a kind of spiritual awakening when I was about 14 or 15 I suppose. IC Can you remember where that happened? PR Yes, in the countryside in Essex, early mornings when everything seemed bathed in light. And that has been a continuous love of mine and an aspect of the world I wanted to respond to. It has the problem too that the more literally you do it, the more boring it is when you have done it and somehow there is the need to interpret and change and transform. And that I think is what took me into printmaking in that you can’t be too realistic - I love printmaking because it forces you to translate.


Peter Reddick

IC I do think your landscapes do have a freedom and are very successful – they are quite beautiful. Did you find that you enjoyed doing the monoprints? PR Yes – it’s a kind of transition between drawing and painting. IC Do you feel from where you are now, that you could have done things differently? Something that you would have like to have tried or to have experimented? PR No, I just wish that everything I had done, I had done better. The maddening thing about all art is that you do it in a great white heat of enthusiasm and then the next day it may have evaporated like fairy gold. IC How does the illustrator relate to the publisher? PR Assuming that you can find a publisher who will commission you to make illustrations, then the publisher wants the most images for the least money and the artist wants the most money he can get. If only the publishing world would give the artist royalties, that would be nice, but they don’t. So there is a sense of tension in that the publisher is the patron and one is grateful but, sometimes, only just grateful! IC A Backward Glance is a major retrospective for you. How does it feel to see at least 50 years of your work in front of you? PR Well, apart from the fact that it is a tiny snapshot of what I have done - as it is bound to be only a tiny selection – I am pleased enough to own it, I have to say.

Irena Czapska is the curator of Peter Reddick’s Retrospective A Backward Glance

IC The title of the exhibition A Backward Glance, which you chose, suggests that we are only going to take a glimpse at the past and not dwell. Do you feel that the creative process of being an artist is still exciting? PR Yes of course. One of the reasons why I looked at that as a title is that I had a retrospective in Wales and the translation in Welsh was Trem yn ol. So there was a sense of this is a retrospective but is it a terminal state? IC Maybe life is a terminal state! I think that is good. If you can go into your studio and you carry on cutting wood and carry on printing and it is always when you peel the paper away – that frisson of excitement...

Drawings for Barchester Chronicles by Anthony Trollope 1976 - 1981

PR Having done so much commissioned work and illustration I do realise that I am dependent on somebody asking me to do things. I don’t spontaneously think of doing figurative illustration for itself.

IC and yet your figurative work is so skilful... PR Thank you, but figures are hard work... IC I think figures can be very hard work, definitely and yet if it is country you respond to, I think you could get mileage forever out of a subject like a landscape.... PR Yes, that has been the nice thing about working with Philip Gross on The Abstract Garden where I made images to go with his words and he made poems in response to some of my images. It was a lovely collaboration and a huge stimulus. The imagery conjured up by the words can set you off to create something which you wouldn’t have known you could do. That’s the enjoyment of working ‘in response to ideas in words’. IC Can you separate art from craft? PR Painters can be sniffy about illustrators. But, if you are working for publishing and in relation to books – you need all the skills of a fine artist plus the craftsmanship to produce the image so that the whole thing becomes a unity - if you are lucky. IC You need to know all the rules before you can actually break any of the rules. PR Yes, I haven’t been good at breaking the rules. I know I am not an innovator but the most I can feel is that I have picked up a tradition and run with it and perhaps contributed a bit. Perhaps that is the most you can ask in life.


Peter Reddick RWA Born in Essex 1924. Member of the Royal West of England Academy Hon retired Fellow of the Royal Society of Wood Printmakers Member of the Society of Wood Engravers 1979 – 1980 Gregynog Arts Fellow Former Chair and founder member of Spike Island Printmakers, Bristol

Books illustrated


(wood engravings unless otherwise stated)

Charlotte Bronte, Folio Society 1991

Crotchet Castle

A Pair of Blue Eyes / Two on a Tower The Well Beloved

Thomas Love Peacock, Folio Society 1964

The Mayor of Casterbridge

Desperate Remedies / A Laodicean The Hand of Ethelberta

Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1969

Poems of Robert Browning

A Group of Noble Dames / Life’s Little Ironies A Changed Man

Limited Editions Club, New York 1969

The Return of the Native

Thomas Hardy published as sets by Folio Books 1992 – 1994

Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1971

Folklore Myths & Legends Of Britain Readers Digest 1977 (some engravings)

The Barchester Chronicles by Anthony Trollope

Art training 1947 – 1948 Cardiff School of Art 1948 – 1951 Slade School of Fine Art, London 1959 – 1960 London College of Printing 1960 – 1962 Lecturer in commercial design at Kumasi College of Science and Technology, Ghana 1963 – 1967 Lecturer at Glasgow School of Art 1967 – 1989 Senior Lecturer at Bristol Polytechnic (UWE)

Folio Society (line drawings) 1976 Warden, 1977 Barchester Towers, 1978 Doctor Thorne, Framley Parsonage, 1979 The Small House at Allington, 1980 The Last Chronicle of Barset, 1981 The Two Heroines of Plumplington

Flip by Geoffrey Morgan

Adam Bede George Eliot, Folio Society 1999

The Forgotten Arts John Seymour, Dorling Kindersley – 6 chapter headings

Selected Poems of William Wordsworth Folio Society 2002

The Abstract Garden poems by Philip Gross, Old Stile Press, Llandogo 2006


Collins 1979

Cerddi Robert Williams Parry

1980, 1982, 1995 One man shows in Bristol

Gregynog Press 1980

Far From the Madding Crowd

1981 – 1982 One man show of work done as Gregynog Art Fellow. Toured by Welsh Arts Council at Wrexham, Newtown, Brecon, Mold, Llanberis, Ruthin, Radnor, Llandrindod Wells, Hereford, Llanelli, Aberystwyth and Cardiff.

Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1986

The Wessex Tales Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1987

Tess of the D’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1988

The Woodlanders Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1989

Exhibits regularly with Royal West of England Academy and The Society of Wood Engravers.

Under the Greenwood Tree Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1989

The Trumpet Major Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1990

Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy, Folio Society 1992


Peter Reddick

Credits With thanks to everyone who has contributed to A Backward Glance: A big thank you to the artist Peter Reddick; for his amazing energy and belief in print. The Spike Print Studio staff: Gill Nicol, Studio Director; Ed Talbot, Studio Technician; Irena Czapska, Studio Administrator and curator of A Backward Glance. Spike Print Studio Management Committee and members for their support, generosity and commitment to the Print Studio and to Peter.

Spike Print Studio 133 Cumberland Road Bristol BS1 6UX

With thanks to: Spike Island and Arnolfini for being helpful and supportive at all times, Bristol Musuem and Art Gallery, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Arts Council England, South West, Kings Plastics, Aardmann Animations and UWE.

Tel: 0117 929 0135 Email:

Catalogue design and photography: Mark Warman

Graphic design for Spike Print Studio: Paul Matson

ISBN 0 9545498 8 0 ISBN 978 0 9545498 8 0

To Catherine Williams, for her wonderful framing of Peter’s work To Oliver Sutherland and Gus Cummins for helping Peter with his slide show.


The writers Gill Nicol trained as a printmaker in the early 1980’s and was an artist for over 15 years. Since 1998 she has worked for many different art organisations, such as the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, Tate Liverpool, Creative Partnerships, and Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. She is currently Director of Spike Print Studio in Bristol. Simon Brett RE, SWE is a wood engraver and book illustrator. He has worked on many books for the Folio Society and private presses; has been Chairman of the Society of Wood Engravers (1986-92); and has published a number of books and articles about engraving, notably Engravers (1987), An Engraver’s Globe (2002) and Wood Engraving: How To Do It (1994 and 2000). Joe Whitlock Blundell has been Production Director of The Folio Society since 1986, in charge of all aspects of design and commissioning of artwork. Irena Czapska is an artist, specialising in printmaking and is the Studio Administrator of Spike Print Studio.


Wood Engraving


Peter Reddick

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Peter Reddick Exhibition Brochure  

Peter Reddick retrospective show at Spike Island, Bristol

Peter Reddick Exhibition Brochure  

Peter Reddick retrospective show at Spike Island, Bristol