Frederick Etchells

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Frederick Etchells (14 September 1886 – 16 August 1973) was an English artist and architect.

Frederick Etchells
Born(1886-09-14)14 September 1886
Died16 August 1973(1973-08-16) (aged 87)
Folkestone, England
EducationRoyal College of Art
Known forPainting, Architecture, Book Publishing, Church Restorations
MovementVorticism, Omega Workshops, Group X


Armistice Day, Munitions Centre by Frederick Etchells

Etchells was born in Newcastle upon Tyne. His early education was at the London School of Kensington, now known as The Royal College of Art where he studied on the Architectural course under Arthur Beresford Pite (1861–1934) and two years under William Lethaby,[1] which brought him into contact with the Bloomsbury Group.

He was a contributor to the Omega Workshops, but was one of those breaking away with Wyndham Lewis;[2] this breakaway began the Rebel Art Centre, with the Rebel Art Movement, somewhat akin to the Dadaists in Paris. The Rebel Art Movement transformed into the Vorticists several of his illustrations appeared in the issues of the literary magazine BLAST of which there were only two issues. There was a Manifesto, which not all of the artists involved signed up to; Etchells himself excluded his name from the manifesto. However William Roberts later painted Etchells holding the copy of BLAST in his work "The Vorticists at the Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel, Spring 1915".[3] Roberts wrote to Etchells wanting to confront Lewis about his prominence in the authorship of the magazine, to which Etchells declined since he no longer wanted anything to do with it.[4] He, unlike many of the others from the Vorticists, remained acquainted with Roger Fry.[5]

In his architectural practice, Etchells produced some modernist buildings, the most well known of which are his designs for 232–4 High Holborn, London (1929–30) for the advertising firm WS Crawford Ltd., a commission he had obtained through his friend Ashley Havinden (1903–73) who was the company’s art director from 1929. This was the first fully modernist office building in central London. Its clean façade was matched by a modern interior, complete with built-in furniture and stainless steel. Etchells's main responsibility was the façade.[6][7]

Etchells's most significant work is his translation of Le Corbusier's Vers une architecture known in its English title as Towards a New Architecture: This has now been re-translated by John Goodman in his version Toward an Architecture 2007. Etchells later translated another book of Corbusier's Urbanisme, which in its English translation became The City of Tomorrow. He gradually moved into architecture after a period of book publication, with the Haslewood Press.[8] Later he became a church and conservation architect. He had close associations with John Betjeman who wrote his obituary.[9] Betjeman was a tenant in one of Etchells's flats in Mayfair, this was during the period when Betjeman was a journalist with The Architectural Review. One of his restorations was St Andrew's Church, Plymouth; he also restored St George's Church, Donnington, West Sussex after a fire in 1939,[10] and St James's Church, Abinger Common, Surrey in 1950 after bomb damage during World War II.[11]

He contributed articles to the journal The Studio., though often anonymously and to Artwork.[12]

He was an active member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB)[9] and a founding member of the Georgian Group.

In the 1930s Etchells purchased a weekend cottage in West Challow then called Holme Lea, a Queen Anne property. He lived there between 1939 and 1944, having moved out of London. During that time he acquired and renovated a second smaller house in West Challow into which he, his wife and daughter moved in 1944.[13][14]

He was married to Hester Margaret Sainsbury[15] who was a book illustrator, painter and artist known for her performances to music.


  1. ^ Christopher Frayling, The Royal College of Art: 150 Years of Art & Design (1987).
  2. ^ Bell, Q. and Chaplin, S. (1964). “The Ideal Home Rumpus”. Apollo: vol.80, no.32, October: 284-91.
  3. ^ William Roberts (1961–2)The Vorticists at the Restaurant de la Tour Eiffel: Spring, 1915. Tate Gallery, London Reference T00528.
  4. ^ Dickson, Malcolm. Etchells (1886-1973), 2005. Architectural Association Library. Interview with Susan Wyatt.
  5. ^ Roger Fry curated, in October 1917 Exhibition of Works Representative of the New Movement at the Art Mansard Gallery, and included a work by Etchells.
  6. ^ British Listed Building: 233, High Holborn, Camden Description: 233, High Holborn Grade: II Date Listed: 11 August 1971 English Heritage Building ID: 478249
  7. ^ "Crawford's, nos. 232-34, High Holborn, London". The Architectural Review. 69: 51. 1931.
  8. ^ Tucker, P (1990). Haslewood Books. The Books of Frederick Etchells & Hugh Macdonald. Oxford Hanborough Parrot.
  9. ^ a b Betjeman, John (1973). "Obituary". The Architectural Review. 154: 271,273.
  10. ^ Nairn & Pevsner 1965, pp. 208–209.
  11. ^ Nairn & Pevsner 1971, p. 85.
  12. ^ Etchells, Frederick (1924). "The Ubiquity of Lettering". Artwork. 1 No 2 (October): 110–2.
  13. ^ Dickson, Malcolm. "Frederick Etchells". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ 1939 Electoral Roll, Berkshire West Challow
  15. ^ Philip, Neil. "Oriental delights". Adventures in the Print Trade. Retrieved 6 December 2014.