Clifford Webb (1895 – 1972)
Clifford Webb was born in London, after service in the First World War during which he was wounded, he studied at Westminster School of Art. Webb later taught there, and at Birmingham School of Art and St Martin’s School of Art, London. In the mid-1920s he was associated with the Artist’s Craftsman’s Group and Modern Group and was a founder member of the Society of Wood Engravings. He was prominent amongst the group of artists who brought about a revival of wood engraving in 1920s. Between1937 and 1954 he illustrated eight books for the Golden Cockerel Press. He made many independent prints of landscape and animal subjects, for which there was a popular market at the time. Despite modest subject matter, which can appear bland, his achievements as an engraver were the complete reinvention of the theme in terms of the engraver’s repertoire. At his best, he treads the divide between pure abstraction and a full-bloodied response to nature with sinuous skill.
A Retrospective Exhibition of the work of Clifford Webb RE RBA, Leicester Polytechnic, 1982
To abstract means to remove, and in the art sense it means that artist has removed or withheld references to an object, landscape or figure to produce a simplified or schematic work. This method of creating art has led to many critical theories; some theorists considered this the purest form of art: art for art’s sake. Unconcerned as it is with materiality, abstraction is often considered as representing the spiritual.
An intaglio process whereby lines are cut into a metal or wood plate using an engraving tool (a burin), which is pushed in front of the hand to achieve a sharp controlled incision capable of great delicacy. This technique requires a great deal of control and is not suited to spontaneous mark-making.
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.