Sunday, October 08, 2017

The Womraths Outgrabe: Andrew Kay Womrath's Print Collaborations with Urushibara

A few months ago, I posted about the publication of a new Yoshijiro Urushibara catalog raisonné by Hilary Chapman and Libby Horner.  Among the prints included in that catalog was a single known print collaboration between Andrew Kay Womrath (1869-1939) and Urushibara.  Recently, however, I've learned of several additional collaborations between Womrath and Urushibara.  While I have updated my prior post to expressly include these omitted prints (indeed, I regularly update and revise prior posts whenever new information comes to my attention), I thought a separate post specific to the Womrath collaboration was warranted to highlight this discovery that might otherwise have escaped the attention of my regular readers who read and filed away my earlier Urushibara piece when it was first posted.

[Japanese Cherry Trees] by Andrew Kay Womrath
Courtesy of the Galerie Michel Cabotse
(woodblock print)

Womrath's works are arguably beyond the scope of this blog.  I'm not aware that he ever traveled to the Far East, and, with one arguable exception (the Japanese cherry tree print shown above), he does not seem to have depicted Asian imagery in his prints.  He is of interest to me solely because of the fact that Urushibara carved and printed some of his prints.

Salon des Cent (1897) by Andrew Kay Womrath
Courtesy of the Colletti Gallery
(lithographic poster)

Information about Andrew Kay Womrath on the Internet is scarce.  Womrath was born in Frankford, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, in 1869.  He seems to have first traveled to Europe in the 1890s, where he made contact with representatives of the Arts & Crafts movement in London and Scotland.  One of his earliest known works is a series of engravings for Patrick Geddes, editor of the quarterly The Evergreen (Edinburgh).  In Paris, he supplied illustrations to the art magazine La Plume, exhibited prints, bookplates, and drawings at the Salon de Champ de Mars in April 1896, and designed a highly regarded poster for the Salon des Cents in 1897, which also exhibited his work.

[Venice Boats] by Andrew Kay Womrath
(woodblock print)

[Venice Boat] by Andrew Kay Womrath
(woodblock print)

For the rest of this life, Womrath continued to sail between France, Great Britain, and the United States (though, as many of his prints evidence, he clearly spent some time in Venice as well).  As a pictorial artist, his engravings and drawings were regularly published in such publications as The Savoy, Saint-Nicolas, La Revue du Touring-Club de France, and The Studio (1899-1900), among others.  As a metal artist, he participated in the Arts and Crafts Exhibition in Syracuse, New York, in 1903.

 
 [Venice From the Water] by Andrew Kay Womrath
(woodblock print)

 
[Venice Boats] by Andrew Kay Womrath
(woodblock print)

In the early 1910s, Womrath co-founded Womrath Brothers & Co., a firm of architecture and interior design in New York City.  He was a member of the Architectural League, and his work appeared in the annual exhibition of the American Fine Arts Society in1920.  Shortly before his death, Womrath's engravings were exhibited at the Grand Palais in Paris in June 1939 as part of the Salon of the Colonial Society of French Artists.

L: Anemones in Vase
R: Anemones in Vase [with Black Background]
by Andrew Kay Womrath
Courtesy of Hilary Chapman Fine Prints
(woodblock prints)

[Canal Scene, Venice] by Andrew Kay Womrath
Courtesy of Hilary Chapman Fine Prints
(woodblock print)

I have not been able to determine as yet when Womrath first attempted to make woodblock prints in the Japanese manner, or if such attempts preceded his studies with Urushibara.  In fact, it is not even clear how or when Womrath first came into contact with Urushibara.  However, given Womrath's Arts and Crafts background, it would not be surprising to learn that he was on social terms with Frank Brangwyn, and Brangwyn would have been the logical person to have recommend that Womrath study woodblock printing and carving with Urushibara during one of his London stays.  If so, Womrath's woodblock prints were likely made sometime between the two World Wars, most likely sometime during in the 1920s.


[The Bridge], #9/45 by Andrew Kay Womrath
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
(woodblock print)

Urushibara had two of Womrath's prints in his personal possession, which he subsequently donated to the British Museum.  Wikipedia asserts that Urushibara purchased these prints from Womrath, but I suspect that they were merely gifts from the student to the master. Of course, another reason why they might have been in Urushibara's possession is because Urushibara may have assisted Womrath with either the carving or printing of these prints.

Magnolia, #6/35 by Andrew Kay Womrath
ex. collection of Yoshijiro Urushibara
Courtesy of the British Museum
(woodblock print)

[...] Brittany, #20/35 by Andrew Kay Womrath
ex. collection of Yoshijiro Urushibara
Courtesy of the British Museum
(woodblock print)

The previously known Womrath collaboration with Urushibara is catalogued as "Canal Scene" (aka Venice by Day) (OS43).   While no edition was noted in the catalogue raisonné, the copy below is from an edition of 50.   What was not previously known was that a night version of the scene also exists in an edition of 50.  While this version is not signed by Urushibara, it is a practical certainty that Urushibara was involved, since the print would have reused the keyblock and most or all of the color blocks that Urushibara would have carved for the day version.   A visual comparison of the two prints leaves no doubt in my mind that they were printed by the same person, and that that person was Urushibara.

[Venice by Day], #24 /50 by Andrew Kay Womrath and Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(woodblock print)

 [Venice at Night], #1/50 by Andrew Kay Womrath and Yoshijiro Urushibara (unsigned)
Personal Collection
(woodblock print)

In the last few months, a slew of Womrath prints have been popping up for sale directly or indirectly from a representative of the Womrath estate.  This next print illustrates the folly of relying solely upon the absence of Urushibara's signature to disprove Urushibara's involvement.   The numbered version shown below is signed by both Womrath and Urushibara.  However, #43/50 (not shown), however, is signed by neither Womrath nor Urushibara.
[Lakeside by Moonlight], #44/50
by Andrew Kay Womrath and Yoshijiro Urushibara
(woodblock print)

The above design is also very similar to another Womrath nocturne print which is not signed by Urushibara.  Given this is the only copy I have been able to find, I am not yet willing to rule out the possibility that Urushibara was also involved with this print.
 
[Trees by Water at Night], #16/30 by Andrew Kay Womrath
 (woodblock print)

Finally, there is this unnumbered print of a fishing boat that is signed by Urushibara.  This copy, like all the other copies I have seen, is not signed by Womrath or numbered.  However, it does contains the initials "KW" for "Kay Womrath" printed in the image, the only Womrath copy I've seen to do that so far.

[Fishing Boat] by Andrew Kay Womrath and Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(woodblock print)

The Womrath estate also had this set of prints of a European couple, neither of which is signed by Urushibara.   If Urushibara was involved, the absence of his signature was hardly an aberrant oversight, as it appears to be missing from the entire edition.  However, the waviness of the right borders of the prints suggest to me that they were carved by Womrath himself.  I cannot believe that a professional carver such as Urushibara would have been responsible for such sloppy carving.  (If a reader has seen a copy signed by Urushibara, I would be very interested to know about that, as I would about any additional information that confirms or refutes the assumptions I have made in this post about Womrath's prints.)

[European Couple by Day], #5/25 by Andrew Kay Womrath
Courtesy of Arts and Designs of Japan
(woodblock print)

 [European Couple at Night], #17/25 by Andrew Kay Womrath
Courtesy of Arts and Designs of Japan
(woodblock print)

It is hard to tell from the following image, but Womrath's Notre Dame print suffers from a small error in registration of the blocks down along the borders of the image, persuasive evidence that it was also printed by Womrath himself and not by Urushibara.  Womrath, however, might have been inspired by one of Urushibara's more sophisticated treatments of the same subject.

[Fishermen on the Seine, Paris] by Andrew Kay Womrath
Courtesy of Hilary Chapman Fine Prints
(woodblock prints)

Paris, Notre Dame, Evening by Yoshijiro Urushibara
Personal Collection
(woodblock print)

I think it safe to say that Womrath's prints shown above that include depictions of cloud formations would seem to be among his most mature woodblock prints.  Unless Urushibara was involved in the carving or printing of those prints as well, it is apparent that Womrath eventually became a competent woodblock print artist.  Nonetheless, while his best prints are not without charm, I doubt anyone would confuse Womrath with any of the major Anglo-English woodblock printmakers of the day.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Come to the Supermarket in Old Peking: The Linocuts of Katharine Jowett

Katharine Jowett (1882-1972) was born in Northamptonshire, England, the daughter of Reverend Timothy Wheatley, a minister at the Mint Methodist Church in Exeter.  (Other on-line sources erroneously state that she was born around 1890-1892.)  Jowett’s mother’s family, the Pearses, were early followers of John Wesley.  In 1904, Jowett went to China, following a Methodist missionary that she intended to marry.

 
Hata Gate, Peking
(watercolor)

After arriving in China, Jowett decided that she did not wish to marry the object of her affection. Instead, she married the Reverend Hardy Jowett, who came to China in 1896 as a Methodist missionary.  During the Great War, Hardy Jowett was appointed an officer in the Chinese Labour Corps and also served in France.  After the war, he was appointed Junior and then Senior District Officer of Wei Hai Wei.  He subsequently accepted an offer from the Asiatic Petroleum Company to become its Peking Manager, a post he retained until his retirement in 1933.  So it appears that Katharine Jowett was living in Peking since at least the mid-1920s. Based on the age of her oldest son, she would have married Hardy Jowett by early 1911 at the latest. Given that she gave birth to that son in England in 1912,  and had a second son at some point, I suspect that the outbreak of WWI meant that she remained in England until after the war was over.

Temple Entrance
(watercolor)

The Jowetts were socially prominent expats in Peking in the twenties and thirties.  Hardy Jowett, for example, was a member of the Rotary Club, Toc H, the China International Famine Relief Commission, the Peiping Institute of Fine Arts, the College of Chinese Studies, and the British Chamber of Commerce.  While Katharine Jowett is not known to have had any formal art training, she presumably started to paint before traveling to China.  Near as I can tell, she seems to have turned to linocut printing as a new pastime once her children were substantially grown.  (Gordon at the Modern Printmakers blog speculates that she might have learned to make linocuts from one of Claude Flight’s books and from some other printmaker such as Isabel de B Lockyer.)  Jowett’s paintings and prints were popular among the upper class Chinese and Western population in China.  Two of her linoleum cuts were used to illustrate articles published in the Christian Science Monitor in 1934 and 1935.  Chairman Mao is said to have had a set of her prints in his office.

Jowett’s husband Hardy died in 1936.  Thereafter, Jowett presumably lived off of her husband’s pension as occasionally supplemented by the sales of her paintings and prints.  The print collector and dealer Robert O. Muller visited her in Peking in 1940 on his honeymoon trip to Asia.  Although she was only 58 years old at the time, he called her “a pleasant, cultured, elderly English woman” who had “not made many prints.”  If Jowett was still making prints by that point, the outbreak of WWII would shortly put an end to such efforts because she was interned by the Japanese in a prisoner of war camp.  Although she met and became close to a German baron in that camp, Jowett never remarried. After the war, Jowett returned to England and died in Okehampton in 1972, where her youngest son practiced medicine.  She is buried in the Pearse family graveyard in Sticklepath, outside of Okehampton.

Temple of Heaven
Personal Collection
(watercolor)

Unlike traditional woodblock prints, Jowett did not use a keyblock to outline her design.  (Even some contemporaneous Japanese woodblock print artists like Ito Yuhan were starting to dispense with the use of a keyblock to give prints the softer look of watercolors.)  Jowett, however, eschewed  the use water-based pigments in favor of oil-based inks (that have a regrettable tendency to rust), and layered her colors in the manner of an impressionistic painting.  Her linocuts all have a thick dark printed border, reminiscent of woodblock prints from the Arts and Crafts movement.

The conventional wisdom is that Jowett produced 20-25 very small, self-published linocut designs, not counting variants.  By my count she made half again as many such designs.  While most of her prints are small, they come in a surprising number of different sizes, and I’ve seen one with the image as large as 30.5 cm x 21 cm. Some of her prints appear in editions of 100 or 200.  Many are hand-titled (although not always consistently).  Another interesting facet of Jowett’s prints is that they are not infrequently touched up by hand with paint.

Peking Temple of Heaven
(lithograph)

The subject of all of Jowett’s prints is Peking itself.  She never ventures further than the Summer Palace, and her principal focus is the towers and gates of Peking’s inner and outer walls (some of which no longer exist) and the city’s most famous temples and pagodas.  A few commercial shopping streets are also depicted, but it is the Chinese architecture that appears to primarily interest Jowett.  If people appear in Jowett’s prints, they are faceless entities, props strategically deployed to insure her designs do not become overly static.  Another notable feature is her choice of perspective.  It is seldom completely straightforward, usually slightly askew, but never exaggerated or contrived.  Her goal is simply to engage the viewer, not to grandstand.

Since Jowett's prints are not dated, I have decided to group them as best I could by subject matter, going roughly west to east from north Peking to South Peking.  While variant states of some of Jowett's linocuts do exist, I've only listed those states that materially vary in some way other than in her use of color unless Jowett herself ascribed a different title to the variant color scheme.  Indeed, since her pigments are susceptible to fading, a digital image that at first blush might appear to be a color variant in reality may be nothing more than a faded copy.

Camel Train Outside Peking
Courtesy of Hanga.com
(linocut)

Jade Fountain Pagoda
Courtesy of Hanga.com
(linocut)

Moon Gate, Peking
Personal Collection
(linocut)

Guardian of the Gate
Courtesy of the Annex Galleries
(linocut, edition of 100)

Bell Tower, Peking
(linocut)

Bell Tower by Moonlight (color variant)
Courtesy of Hanga.com
(linocut)

[Lama Temple]
Courtesy of Hanga.com
(linocut, edition of 200)

Temple of Ten Thousand Blessings
Courtesy of Hanga.com
(linocut)

The Barbican Gate, Tartar Wall, Peking
(linocut, edition of 100)

[White Pagoda, Pei Hai, Peking]
Courtesy of Hanga.com
(linocut)

[Temple Complex]
Courtesy of the Floating World Gallery
(linocut, edition of 200)

Coal Hill, Peking
Courtesy of the Annex Galleries
(linocut)

[Evening on Coal Hill]
Courtesy of Keith Sheridan Inc.
(linocut)

Corner of Forbidden City
Courtesy of the Annex Galleries
(linocut)

[Sunshine and Solitude in the Forbidden City, Peking]
Personal Collection
(linocut)

Woo Men, Forbidden City, Peking
Personal Collection
(linocut)

[East Gate]
Courtesy of Japan Prints
(linocut)

Sunset Behind East Gate, Peking
Personal Collection
(linocut)
 
Gloaming, Peking
Courtesy of Hanga.com
(linocut, edition of 200)

The City Gate, Peking
Personal Collection
(linocut, edition of 200)

Through the City Gate
Courtesy of Hanga.com
(linocut, edition of 200)

Tien An Mien, Peking
Courtesy of Hanga.com
(linocut, edition of 200)

Chien Men, Peking
Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
(linocut, edition of 100)

Street Outside Chien Men, Peking
Personal Collection
(linocut)

[Chinese Street]
Courtesy of Hanga.com
(linocut, edition of 100 or 200)

Lanterns in the Wind, Peking
Courtesy of Hanga.com
(linocut)

Peking (aka Gate of the Rising Sun, Peking) (small version)
Personal Collection
(linocut)

[Peking (aka Gatge of the Rising Sun, Peking) (large version)]
Personal Collection
(linocut, edition of 200)

[Gateway of the Rising Sun, Peking]
Courtesy of Skinner Auctioneers
(linocut)

Hata Gate, Peking
Courtesy of the Annex Galleries
(linocut)

Hata Gate, Peking (variant)
Personal Collection
(linocut)

 Note:  This copy, which has an extra figure in the bottom left corner is trimmed to the margins and signed inside the image.  It might be a discarded trial proof.

[Hata Gate, South Wall, Peking]
Courtesy of Stevens Fine Art
(linocut, edition of 200)

[Gate, Peking]
Courtesy of Keith Sheridan Inc.
(linocut)

The Pai Lou, Peking
Courtesy of the Joseph Lebovic Gallery
(linocut, edition of 200)

 
[Early Morning Inside Hata Men Gate (aka The Fox Tower)]
Personal Collection
(linocut)

Altar of Heaven, Peking
Personal Collection
(linocut, edition of 100)

 
Temple of Heaven, Peking
Courtesy of the Annex Galleries
(linocut, edition of 200)

[Temple of Heaven, Peking]
Courtesy of Hanga.com
(linocut)

[Temple of Heaven, Peking]
Courtesy of the Floating World Gallery
(linocut, edition of 100)

[Temple of Heaven, Peking (variant with clouds)]
Courtesy of Hanga.com
(linocut)

If readers are aware of further linocut designs by Katharine Jowett, please let me know.