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Edward Ardizzone:
The Etchings and Lithographs
Wolsey Art Gallery, Christchurch Mansion,
Ipswich until March 30, 2003

Ardizzone is celebrated as an Ipswich Grammar School boy (although he rather disliked much of his shooldays), born into an Italian family in Tangier and raised as French. His career spans much of the twentieth century and if you don't think that you know his work, when you see it, you probably do. Although he worked mainly in the family house in Maida Vale and later in Kent, he carried with him images of the Suffolk countryside, The Wet Dock, pubs and prostitutes and social history from twenties Ipswich.

My own introduction to this man came through one of my favourite books as a child, 'The Otterbury Incident' by C. Day Lewis. Those oddly timeless, yet to today's eyes rather dated, figures, drawn with almost careless ease and brevity - and which became for me an essential part of the story. The figurework sometimes has echoes of William Blake in the sets of coloured prints for Dickens stories. There's Beryl Cook in the fulsome women, also an innocence and fun in caricature and posture. His lovers, in particular, display this flavour of times past; only 'Lovers among the rocks' hints at depths of passion and pleasures of the flesh.

Probably the centrepiece of the exhibition for me is the life-class lithograph 'The model and her reflection' from 1955. Full of characteristic tonal shading, it shows several figure drawings on the boards of the students while the pulchritudinous model herself leans nonchalantly on a support, her body curving back, head turned down and to one side: a wonderful life drawing! Then there are the delightful pub drawings. Ardizzone loved his pubs and a pint and drew compulsively in the bars, the street, wherever he needed to recall and record.

The last pair of images to stick in the mind are two posters for art exhibitions; Ardizzone's posters hark back to those by Lautrec, with hand lettering and integrated illustration elements in brush and lithographic crayon. The first is for The London Group (of which he became a member) show in 1950s with big, colourful shapes and figures. The second is not strictly a print, but advertises the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1969. Thronged with people, the studio painting of the nude on the back wall is mirrored by the mini-skirted young woman in the foreground whose boyfriend's arm snakes around her waist. After the low-hemlined, modest, patrician women of the earlier poster, this sensuous display is almost shocking.

Not surprisingly, this has been one of The Wolsey Gallery's most popular shows.

--Loon News Service
March 2003

 

Examples of Ardizzone's drawing and writing can be found on the Imperial War Musuem website: www.iwm.org.uk