Mabel Allington Royds

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Mabel Royds (1874–1941)[1] was an English artist best known for her woodcuts.

She grew up in Liverpool and studied art at the Slade School in London. At age fifteen, Royds was awarded a scholarship to attend the Royal Academy in London but instead decided on the Slade School where she studied under the tutelage of Henry Tonks.[2] After Slade, Royds moved to Paris where she trained with the painter and printmaker Walter Sickert.[3] She then went to Canada where she taught for several years at the Havergal College in Toronto.[4] In 1911, Royds settled in Edinburgh where she taught at the Edinburgh College of Art, then under the directorship of Frank Morley Fletcher, under whose influence she took up making colour woodcuts.[3] In 1913 she married the etcher, Ernest Lumsden, who also taught at Edinburgh, and together they travelled through Europe, the Middle East and India.[4]

Upon her arrival to the Edinburgh College of Art under the tutelage of Frank Morley Fletcher, Royds began creating colour woodcuts.[5] Fletcher taught classes on the traditional Japanese ukiyo-e printmaking process, but rather than having three people collaborate on a print (artist, artisan, printer), he taught the artists how to manage all three stages independently.[4] For many British artists working in this medium during the early twentieth century, it was Fletcher’s prints, teachings and writings responsible for leading the way.[4]

Artistic Process[edit]

Unable to afford traditional pear wood boards from which woodcuts were commonly made, she purchased breadboards from Woolworths on which to create her works.

Royds individualistic approach to her woodcuts – applying pigments to printing blocks using a brush rather than a roller – resulted in unique variations of each of her prints.[3] Additionally, Royds preferred to produce on demand, rather than creating limited edition runs, further ensuring a one-of-a-kind piece.[3] To prepare, Royds often created colored paper collages before her final drawing.[5] Although cherry wood was ideal, Royds usually used Woolworth’s 6d pastry boards – a cheaper alternative.[5] Despite using chopping boards that cost her only sixpence, Royds' prints remained professional and sophisticated, proving her mastery of the technique.[2] After carving the woodblocks, she printed impressions by rubbing the sheet with a Japanese barren.[5] In her later works, Royds would either eliminate the keyblock entirely or print it in multiple colors – creating direct relationships between the colors instead of having them separated by borders.[5]


Her most well known works include the Knife Grinders, Housetops, and the Boat Builders, all scenes of India created in around 1920–30. Her woodcuts of flowers, dating from around 1930 to 1933, including Cineraria, Honeysuckle and Columbine, are also well known.

Because Lumsden was not allowed to join the British army due to medical reasons, he instead served with the Indian army – allowing for extensive travel throughout India and the Himalayas, which would serve as inspiration for the subjects of many of Royds woodcuts throughout the 1920s.[5] Some India-inspired prints include scenes of children watching street musicians, women filling water vessels, and men tending to goat herds – a sample of tasks from everyday life there.[6]

Despite the inspirations from Royds’ extensive travel through other countries, she also enjoyed depicting the simple things that surrounded her home: children growing up, neighborhood animals, and flowers in bloom.[2] By the 1930s, Royds found a new subject in the many varities of flowers depicted in dazzling colors made with powdered color ground and a ready-made bought medium, rather than the traditional Japanese rice flour paste.[5] Between the years of 1933 and 1938, Royds created a vibrant and lively flower series – using contrasting colors and hard lines to guide the viewer’s eyes through the composition.[2] Whether at home or abroad, Royds’ subjects are derived from the often over-looked moments of everyday life.[2]

List of Works[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e "Mabel Royds". National Galleries Scotland. 
  3. ^ a b c d Museum label for Mabel Royds, Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh, Scotland: City Art Centre Edinburgh. 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c d Javid, Christine (2006). Color Woodcut International: Japan, Britain, and America in the early twentieth century. Chazen Museum of Art Catalogs. Chazen Museum of Art. p. 35. ISBN 978-0-932900-64-7. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Harvey-Lee, Elizabeth (1995). Mistresses of the graphic arts: famous and forgotten women printmakers c.1550-c.1950. North Aston: Elizabeth Harvey-Lee. 
  6. ^ "Mabel Royds". The British Museum.