Friday, 10 February 2012

Around Antwerpen School of Printmaking (IX)

Emile Verpilleux (V)
In the beginning there was:
Emile Antoine Verpilleux & Hubert Valentine Fanshaw.

Had I known this print, “the Tower”, published in “the Studio” 1910, I would have begun my Antwerp and Verpilleux  postings with it. But I didn't. We can safely assume it is his first. Probably he had just returned to London after his educational years in Antwerp. It is Antwerp’s St. Jacobs tower and for that reason I repeat here some already shown contemporary woodblocks.
L: A.v.d.J             R: Jean Claessens (1978-1963)
The mysterious artist mentioned in the 1913 article in "the Studio", "who knew the ropes" and succeeded in persuading young Verpilleux to change from painting into taking courses in printmaking with Eduard Pellens was most certainly Hubert Valentine Fanshaw (1878-1940). Fanshaw studied in the Sheffield Technical School, the Royal College of Art in London and in the Academie Royale des Beaux Arts in Antwerp. He immigrated to Canada in 1912 just before the second article on Verpilleux beginning of 1913 in the “the Studio” illustrated with two color prints by Verpilleux. Honouring Fanshaw for his foresight I show a selection of, his typical Canadian, prints here. And if I said they were by Walter J. Phillips you would believe me too. 

Two other artists followed Fanshaw to Canada a year later, in 1913: Walter Joseph Phillips (1884-1963) and the etcher Cyril Barraud (1877-1940) Also, in 1913,  Dresden trained German printmaker Henri Eric Bergman (1893-1958) immigrated to Canada and these 4 men were to become the founding fathers of the Society of Canadian Painter-Etchers/Engravers. As a watercolor painter Phillips took up etching only after 1914 (taught by Barraud who left for the War) and his block printmaking career started even later. These prints by Fanshaw showing how these men influenced each other creatively. Phillips has more then enough entries in the www. Bergman's and Barrauds work I shall discuss and show later. 

Another souvenir de Belge is Verpilleux' print "Malines" showing the majestic tower of St. Rombouts Cathedral in Malines (Mechelen). It should have been almost twice as high but the imbalance between ambition and reality left it an impressive 96 meters still. As we know today this medieaval financial crisis surely wasn't the first nor to be the last. 
A century after Verpilleux sat there nothing much has changed in mediaeval Mechelen. But I am quite sure Verpilleux is trying to tell us more then just showing a nice view. A procession seems to be going on and there's statue clearly visible. The statue (removed and replaced in 2006) is of Margareth of Austria Savoy (1480-1530) 

She choose Mechelen her residence ruling over the Lower Countries. In the end of her life processions were held to her health. She suffered and died of a bone marrow infection after a fall from her horse and after a not very happy life. But she was well loved by her subjects. Also since 1273 the famous Hanswijk procession devoted to Maria is held here every sunday before Ascension (end of april, beginning of mayfor over 800 years. Followed by a horse drawn parade with historical themes and relics of St. Rombout. Although very small the horses and horsemen are clearly visible. Well well, Emile Verpilleux the teacher, hidden history lessons from a woodblock print. 

PS: thanks to Charles (see comments) here is Emil Orlik's (1860-1911) view on Mechelen (Malines) and St. Rombouts. He visited Belgium and the Netherlands in 1898.


  1. Well, I did say that Verpilleux's keyblocks were worth looking at so I am very interested to find out which procession it was. I have owned this print for years and shall look for the horses again in the morning. I can't see them now.

    I am not convinced by your Fanshawe connection. For a start, the prints you have here are linocuts and must date from 15 years later - most of his prints were lino. I think we have to see some woodcuts. I'm not sure that Fanshawe 'knew the ropes'.

    I assume that the first print is by Verpilleux. I must have missed this. It's too good to be a first print, Gerrie!

    Did you also know that Emil Orlik made a woodcut of St Rombouts after his visit to Belgium? It is very similar to Verpilleux.

    And who is A vd J?

    Very interesting and worthwhile post, Watson, even though I still think you haven't got to the bottom of this.


  2. And once you start looking, there are all kinds of potential links. For instance, if Fanshawe did study at the RCA, he could have learned woodcut from William Giles and then gone on to study at Antwerp as a result.

  3. Thanks Charles. As to the Fanshaw connection: I agree, it's far to good, but: this print was published 1910 and there's nothing known by Verpilleux before that date. All other known material is dated later, all known prints and all illustrational work. If you have a better candidate: name me another British artist that was a student in Antwerp and immigrated in 1912. Thanks for the Orlik hint. It takes an expert. I mentioned he was in Antwerp in part II but missed the print: now the posting is still fresh I've worked it in.
    There's still no clue who A.van der J. was. This print is in de van der Grinten collection (Part I)

  4. As to the RCA connection: yes, I see that's a possibilty too. I don't think I've gone to the bottom of this and welcome every possible suggestion and alternative to furthter knowledge and insight.

  5. Well, I am confused because I don't know what the 1913 article said and I seem to have a big gap in my Studio notes. Why is Antwerp the connection? We don't know when he was there.

  6. My dear Holmes, my guess by facts and deduction is roughly from about 1905 to 1910. Age, training and an earned scolarship. Born 1888, back and working in London 1910.