Henry Cliffe (1919 – 1983)
Henry Cliffe was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire, and studied at the local art school and at Bath Academy of Art. He ran the lithography studio at Bath from 1950 until his retirement in 1981. He was a regular exhibitor in international print exhibitions and in 1960 was one of five artists shown in the British Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. His early works seemed derived from both Surrealism and the neo-romantic English landscape school of the1940s. Throughout the 1950s Cliffe’s work became more concerned with the relationship between the human figure and the landscape and in 1959 a suite of lithographs on this theme was published by the St George’s Gallery, London.
Henry Cliffe: The Metamorphoses Suite, St George’s Gallery, London, 1959
XXX Venice Biennale 1960 British Pavilion: Pasmore, Paolozzi, Clarke, Cliffe, Evans, The British Council, 1960
Landscape is one of the principle genres of Western art. In early paintings the landscape was a backdrop for the composition, but in the late 17th Century the appreciation of nature for its own sake began with the French and Dutch painters (from whom the term derived). Their treatment of the landscape differed: the French tried to evoke the classical landscape of ancient Greece and Rome in a highly stylised and artificial manner; the Dutch tried to paint the surrounding fields, woods and plains in a more realistic way. As a genre, landscape grew increasing popular, and by the 19th Century had moved away from a classical rendition to a more realistic view of the natural world. Two of the greatest British landscape artists of that time were John Constable and JMW Turner, whose works can be seen in the Tate collection (www.tate.org.uk). There can be no doubt that the evolution of landscape painting played a decisive role in the development of Modernism, culminating in the work of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists . Since then its demise has often been predicted and with the rise of abstraction, landscape painting was thought to have degenerated into an amateur pursuit. However, landscape persisted in some form into high abstraction, and has been a recurrent a theme in most of the significant tendencies of the 20th Century. Now manifest in many media, landscape no longer addresses solely the depiction of topography, but encompasses issues of social, environmental and political concern.
Lithography means, literally, stone drawing. In addition to fine grain lithographic stones, metal plates can also be used for lithography. The method relies on the fact that grease repels water. An image is drawn in a greasy medium onto the stone or plate, which is then dampened with water. Greasy printing ink rolled onto that surface will adhere to the design but be repelled by the damp area. The inked image is transferred to the paper via a press. For large editions, the grease is chemically fixed to the stone, and gum arabic, which repels any further grease marks but does not repel water, is applied to the rest of the surface. For colour lithography the artist uses a separate stone or plate for each colour required.