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National showcase of wood engraving to be held in Sussex for first time

PUBLISHED: 10:12 17 March 2015 | UPDATED: 10:12 17 March 2015

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From 25 April - 20 May 2015, the Society of Wood Engravers 77th Annual Exhibition will be held at the Kevis House Gallery in Petworth

The Society of Wood Engravers is the principal organisation for the art of wood engraving in Britain. The Society’s Annual Exhibition tours the UK, and the Petworth show this spring will be the first time for many years that the exhibition has been held in the South East of England, other than in London.

The exhibition will feature original prints by some of the Society’s 70 members, as well as work from selected international artists. A mixture of wood engravings, woodcuts and linocuts will be on display. Artists with work in the show include Hilary Poynter, Neil Bousfied, Colin See-Paynton, Howard Phipps, and Harry Brockway.

Although often intricately detailed, the pictures are remarkably affordable, with prices ranging from just £45 to £550.

As the tools used are finely pointed, wood engravings tend to be relatively small, and because the finesse of wood engraving produces a particularly rich tonal range, they are usually, but by no means exclusively, black and white.

“This show represents some of the finest wood engraving currently being produced, and we are delighted to be bringing the exhibition to the South East.” says Richard Hodgson, a director of Kevis House Gallery.

“We are also using this exhibition as a chance to celebrate the work of the wood engraver Gwenda Morgan, who was born in Petworth and spent most of her life in the town. Examples of Morgan’s engravings are held by most of the major museums, but her work and connection to the area still remains relatively unknown to local residents and indeed in the UK. For instance, there has been no exhibition dedicated to her in the UK since the 1990s, and yet she is currently the subject of a comparative exhibition at the Art Gallery of Great Victoria, Canada.”

Gwenda Morgan’s father was the proprietor of Austen’s the ironmongers, a shop that still serves the town of Petworth on the Market Square. When the artist died in 1991, she made a significant bequest for the refurbishment and upkeep of Petworth’s community hall. For the duration of the Society of Wood Engravers’ show, nine of Gwenda Morgan’s engravings which usually hang on the upper floor of the Leconfield Hall will be moved to be on show to all in the window of a gallery in the Square.

Gwenda Morgan (1908 – 1991) studied at Goldsmiths College and then at the Grosvenor School of Modern Art, under the wood engraver Iain MacNab. She exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Redfern Gallery, and the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers & Engravers (RE), of which she was a member. She was well known for her book and other illustrations, especially for the Golden Cockerel Press publications of ‘Gray’s Elegy’ in 1946, and ‘Grimms’ Other Tales’ in 1956. Many of the scenes in her illustrations were based on landscapes and buildings in the Petworth area, with the Sussex-born artist Eric Ravilious being a strong influence on her work.

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