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Edward Bawden, CBE, RA (1903 – 1989) was an English painter, illustrator and graphic artist, known for his prints, book covers, posters, and garden metalwork furniture. He was admired by Edward Gorey, David Gentleman and other graphic artists.
Early life and studies
Edward Bawden was born in England on 10 March 1903, at Braintree, Essex, the only child of Edward Bawden (ironmonger) and Eleanor Bawden (née Game). His parents were Methodist Christians. A solitary child, he spent much time drawing or wandering with butterfly-net and microscope. At the age of seven he was enrolled at Braintree High School, and began studying or copying drawings of cats by Louis Wain, illustrations in boys' and girls' magazines and Burne Jones's illustrations of Malory's Morte d'Arthur. Later his parents paid for him to attend the Friends' School at Saffron Walden, and there, when he was fifteen, the headmaster recommended him to study for one day a week at Cambridge Municipal Art School (now Anglia Ruskin University).
On leaving school in 1919 he attended the Cambridge School of Art full-time (1919 to 1921). Here he became interested in calligraphy and in the work of Aubrey Beardsley, Richard Doyle, William Morris and other Victorians. This was followed in 1922 by a scholarship to the Royal College of Art School of Design in London, where he took a diploma in illustration until 1925. Here he met his fellow student and future collaborator, Eric Ravilious; the pair were described by their teacher, Paul Nash, as "an extraordinary outbreak of talent".
By 1930 Bawden was working one day a week for the Curwen Press (as was Ravilious and their former tutor, Nash), producing illustrations for leading accounts such as London Transport, Westminster Bank, Twinings, Poole Potteries and Shell-Mex.
In 1928, Bawden was commissioned by Sir Joseph Duveen at the rate of £1 per day to create a mural for the Refectory at Morley College, London with Ravilious and Charles Mahoney. The mural was opened in 1930 by former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, at the time leader of the opposition, having ended his premiership in 1929.
In the early 1930s he was discovered by the famous Stuart Advertising Agency, owned by H. Stuart Menzies and Marcus Brumwell. At this time Bawden produced some of his most humorous and innovative work for Fortnum & Mason and Imperial Airways. It was also in this period that Bawden produced the tiles for the London Underground, which were exhibited at the International Building Trades Exhibition at Olympia in April 1928.
In 1932 he married Charlotte Epton, who had been a fellow-student at the Royal College. They would have two children - Joanna (b. 1935) and Richard (b. 1936), both of whom would become artists. At first the couple lived in a flat in Hammersmith, but soon moved to a Georgian house in Great Bardfield, Essex, only a few miles from Braintree, where Bawden was born. Following his move to the country he began to paint more, in addition to his commercial design work, developing his watercolour technique. Most of his subjects were of scenes around Great Bardfield. He held an exhibition of his Essex watercolours at the Zwemmer Gallery in 1934, and another show of his paintings was held at the Leicester Galleries in 1938.
In 1938 he collaborated with John Aldridge, who also lived in the village, on a range of wallpapers, intended to be printed commercially, but from lino blocks handcut by the designers. The project left little other time for other work during the year, and war intervened, before the papers could go into production.
During the Second World War, Edward Bawden served as official war artist, first with the British army in France, and then, following the army's evacuation from there, in the Middle East. Already in France before World War II was declared, Bawden recorded defences being prepared at Halluin, then witnessed the bombing of Armentières and the evacuation from Dunkirk. He was posted to North Africa as a War Office Artist on a full-time War Artists' Advisory Committee contract. Bawden painted landscapes and portraits in Libya, Sudan, Cairo, Eritrea and Ethiopia, reaching Addis Ababa in May 1941. At the start of 1942, he travelled with Anthony Gross to Palestine and Lebanon. After making a series of studies of the Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq he was recalled to London. When the ship he was travelling on was torpedoed and sunk, Bawden was held prisoner in a Vichy internment camp in Casablanca for two months before the camp was liberated by American troops. Back in Britain he did portrait work at the Military Hospital in Colchester and in Scotland, with Polish forces training there. He returned to Iraq in September 1943, as a Ministry of Information artist to work in Baghdad and Kurdistan before he joined the Middle East Anti-Locust Unit on its trek to Jeddah. After Jeddah, he returned to the Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq, before entering Iran to portray supply shipments to the Soviet Union. Bawden returned to England in 1944 and for a short while, painted at Southampton docks before departing for Yugoslavia, by way of Rome. Unable to enter Yugoslavia he went to Ravenna, then Greece, Austria and Florence before travelling back to England in July 1945.
Bawden lived in Great Bardfield, Essex from the 1930s to 1970. While living at Bardfield he was an important member of the Great Bardfield Artists. This group of local artists were diverse in style but shared a love for figurative art, making the group distinct from the better known St Ives art community in Cornwall, who, after the war, were chiefly dominated by abstractionists.
In 1949 Bawden provided illustrations for the book "London is London – A Selection of Prose and Verse by D. M. Low".
During the 1950s the Great Bardfield Artists organised a series of large ‘open house’ exhibitions which attracted national press attention. Positive reviews and the novelty of viewing art works in the artists own homes (including Bawden's Brick House) led to thousands visiting the remote village during the summer exhibitions of 1954, 1955 and 1958. As well as these shows the Great Bardfield Artists held several touring exhibitions of their work in 1957, 1958 and 1959.
After the death of his wife in 1970, Bawden moved to the nearby town of Saffron Walden, where he continued to work until his death.
He died at home on 21 November 1989, aged eighty-six.
Teaching, appointments and awards
Having briefly taught design and book illustration at Goldsmiths, University of London from 1928–1931, Bawden then went on to teach at the Royal College of Art from 1930 - 1963 (minus the War years). In 1968, Bawden became a tutor at the Royal Academy Schools and Senior Lecturer at Leicester College of Art and Design.
Among his numerous appointments and awards that came later in his career are:
- 1946 – Awarded CBE (Commander of the British Empire)
- 1947 – Associate of the Royal Academy
- 1949 – Appointed Royal Designer for Industry (RSA)
- 1949/50 – Appointed guest instructor for the Summers of 1949/50 at the Banff School of Fine Art, Canada
- 1951 – Appointed Trustee of the Tate Gallery (1951–1958)
- 1956 – Elected Royal Academician
- 1962 – Appointed Honorary Associate of Manchester College of Art
- 1963 – Appointed Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art
- 1964 – Awarded Silver Medal by the Society of Industrial Artists
- 1970 – Received Honorary Doctorate from the Royal College of Art
- 1974 – Received Honorary Doctorate from Essex University 
- 1979 – Made Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers
Writings by Bawden
- Life in an English Village (King Penguin Books no 57) (1949, Penguin Books)
- The English Scene (1952, Sheneval Press)
- Hold Fast Your Teeth (1963, Routledge and Keegan)
- Edward Bawden, war artist, and his letters home, 1940-1945 edited by Ruari McLean. 1989, Scolar Press, Aldershot, in association with the Imperial War Museum.
- Malcolm Yorke, Edward Bawden & His Circle (2007), p.15-18
- "Bawden Chronology", Cecil Higgins Art Gallery and Museum Retrieved on 2009-06-09.
- "Bawden Chronology"
- Skipwith, Payton. "The Curwen Press: Illustrators against commercial ugliness",Apollo (magazine), 2008-01-01. Retrieved on 2009-06-09.
- Richards 1946, p.10
- Fry Art Gallery website
- Fray Art Gallery website; New English Art Club website
- Richards 1946, p.9
- Richards 1946, p.12
- Art from the Second World War. Imperial War Museum. 2007. ISBN 978-1-904897-66-8.
- Brain Foss (2007). War paint: Art, War, State and Identity in Britain, 1939-1945. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0-300-10890-3.
- Imperial War Museum. "War artists archive:Edward Bawden 1939-1944". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 22 October 2013.
- University of Essex. "University of Essex Calender/ Honorary Graduates". University of Essex. Retrieved 19 September 2013.
- Richards, J.M. Edward Bawden. Penguin Modern Painters. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
- P. Skipwith, One Lump or Two, Tea, Twinings and Edward Bawden (2010. Mainstone Press, Norwich)
- Skipwith, P : Entertaining à la Carte, Edward Bawden and Fortnum and Mason (2008. Mainstone Press, Norwich)
- Malcolm Yorke, Edward Bawden & His Circle The Inward Laugh (rev. ed. 2007)
- Powers, A & Green, O: Away we Go! Advertising London's Transport, Eric Ravilious & Edward Bawden (2006. Mainstone Press, Norwich)
- Brian Webb and Peyton Skipwith, Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious Design (2005)
- Jeremy Greenwood, Edward Bawden - Editioned Prints (2005. Wood Lea Press)
- Edward Bawden, Travels of a War Artist 1940-45 (1983. Imperial War Museum)
- Douglas Percy Bliss, Edward Bawden (1979. Pendomer Press)
- Ruari McLean, Edward Bawden A Book Of Cuts (1979)
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