- Edward Bawden
- 1903 - 1989
- CBE, RA
Though of Cornish ancestry he was born in Braintree in 1903, and was perhaps more firmly rooted in Essex than any other artist represented in the North West Essex Collection.
Edward Bawden can be seen as the key artist in the Bardfield/North West Essex group. His long career spanned most of the twentieth century, and comfortably straddled boundaries and borders between the fine and applied arts, boundaries which are seen as so immovable today. Even before his appointment as an Official War Artist in 1940, Bawden had established a reputation as a designer, illustrator and painter. As well as these areas his output over the years include murals, posters, designs for wallpaper, ceramics, lithographic prints and watercolours.
The same professionalism and attention to the rigours of design would be applied whether to an advertisement for petrol or a painting for the Royal Academy.
Edward Bawden attended the Friends' School in Saffron Walden. At the age of eleven he strained his heart and was excused participation in sports. This may have allowed him to devote more time to drawing, and his portraits and caricatures attracted the attention of his tutors who arranged for him to spend a day a week at the Cambridge School of Art. The school, now part of Anglia Ruskin University, had been founded to comply with the Ruskinian philosophies of improving design for industry, and encouraging amateur aspirations. Bawden fitted perfectly.
Before long, he had gained entry to the Royal College of Art. Here he was taught by Paul Nash (a lasting influence on Bawden and his contemporaries), and the popular E. W. Tristram. It was at the RCA that Bawden first met his 'kindred spirit', Eric Ravilious, the two quickly becoming firm friends, though entirely different in temperament. Shortly after leaving the college, the pair gained a prestigious commission to paint a mural for the refreshment room of Morley College in London.
Edward Bawden's influence on twentieth-century illustration and design is incalculable and; his graphic work is perhaps quintessentially English. There are traces of early influence: Beardsley, Lear, 'Dicky' Doyle and Paul Nash, but ultimately Bawden's was a distinctive voice which emerged from the shy, wry observation of the everyday life of his time.
He first rented half of Brick House, the imposing Georgian house in Great Bardfield in the mid-1920s with Ravilious, and after his father purchased the whole house for him on his marriage to Charlotte Epton in 1932, he continued to live there until moving to Saffron Walden in 1970 after Charlotte's death.
- Edward Bawden
- A Tasty Morsel/My Cat Wife
- 200 x 286 mm
- Cat. No.
Also known as 'A Midnight Snack', this linocut appears to be a self-portrait of the artist beneath the bedclothes beside his cat (called Emma Nelson) who has just snared a rodent. Cats were a recurrent motif in Bawden's work, but here the night time scene has more than a hint of the dream world and the bizarre. Bawden would have been familiar with the work of Tirzah Garwood (Ravilious), who produced a similar wood engraving in the late 1920s: Cat into Wife. The theme of a cat turning into a woman, or wife, runs through many cultures and fables, including those of La Fontaine. This work was made for a portfolio sold by the Royal College of Art Appeal Fund, and sponsored by Asda supermarkets.