Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947) Swings Linocut printed in yellow ochre, viridian, reddish brown and cobalt blue, 1932, an excellent impression, on buff oriental laid, signed, titled, dated and numbered 11/50 in pencil, with margins, 242 x 266mm (8 3/4 x 10 1/2in)(B)
Lot 94
Ethel Spowers
(Australian, 1890-1947)
Swings
Sold for £40,000 (US$ 66,329) inc. premium
Lot Details
Ethel Spowers (Australian, 1890-1947)
Swings (Coppel ES 22)
Linocut printed in yellow ochre, viridian, reddish brown and cobalt blue, 1932, an excellent impression, on buff oriental laid, signed, titled, dated and numbered 11/50 in pencil, with margins, 242 x 266mm (8 3/4 x 10 1/2in)(B)

Footnotes

  • The following section is devoted to the Australian exponents of the Grosvenor School, Ethel Spowers and Dorrit Black. We are delighted to present a collection of woodcuts and linocuts that spans Spowers's almost entire printmaking career, from the early woodcuts of 1924 to her iconic linocuts of the late '20s and early '30s inspired by the Grosvenor School aesthetic.
    Spowers trained at the National Gallery Art School in Melbourne and achieved an early reputation for her charming children's book illustrations. From the mid-1920s she began to experiment with printmaking, working both with wood and linoleum blocks. Val de Grâce, Paris (lot 95) is most likely Spowers's first colour print using the Anglo-Japanese technique of brushing the blocks with a mixture of powdered colour and rice paste. Due to the individual application of pigment directly onto the block, colour and tonal density vary between impressions. Similar in technical accomplishment, Melbourne from the River (lot 96) is an exceptional impression, "remarkable for [its] grace and simplicity". The striking perspective and compositional elements are echoed in the later The Island of the Dead, circa 1927. The early linocuts date from around 1926 and are largely concerned with themes drawn form the nursery and childhood. The Bee (lot 97), The Bamboo Blind (lot 98) and The Noisy Parrot (lot 99) are excellent examples of the delicacy and warmth of tone that characterise Spowers's work of the period.
    Inspired by Claude Flight's modernist manifesto in Lino-Cuts: A Handbook of Linoleum-Cut Colour Printing, published in England by The Bodley Head Ltd., 1927, Spowers arrived in London and the Grosvenor School of Art in late 1928 and trained under Flight until March 1929. Flight's influence on the Australians was technical as opposed to thematic. Both Spowers and Black were less attracted to the machine age aesthetic and more focused on colour harmonies and rhythmic execution.
    Following her return to Australia, Spowers's work reflects the dynamic geometrical patterns and opposing rhythms of the Grosvenor School. Wet Afternoon (lot 103), the first print executed after her return, exemplifies this new direction. In Wet Afternoon and The Rain Cloud (lot 104), Spowers transforms everyday scenes into dynamic and distinctly modern motifs, built in strong rhythms, bold colour, and simplified geometric shapes. This rigorous reduction of the composition to flat and decorative colour and shapes marks her best work.
    In the early 1930s, she revisited her images of childhood, this time imbued with a playful formalism and vitality. The six children flying around, holding the ropes of The Giant Stride (lot 106) represent the exuberance of rapid motion. Swings (lot 94) and Fox and Geese (lot 105) preoccupied with similar themes are a testament to Spowers's great draughtsmanship.
    Spowers was instrumental in the dissemination of Flight's modernist ideas in Australia. She introduced the Australian audience to the work of Flight and his other pupils by incorporating them in the annual exhibitions of the Arts and Craft Society, and acted as Flight's unofficial Australian agent. By the same token Flight regularly included the work of his Australian protégés in the mixed shows that he put together for museums and galleries across Britain and beyond.
    Dorrit Black preceded Spowers and Syme at the Grosvenor School. She studied in London during 1927 before going on to Paris to reinforce her understanding of the modern movement by working at the Cubist-influenced ateliers of André Lhote and Albert Gleizes. Her work is rarely seen on the market. The Eruption, 1929-30 (lot 107) imbued with an arresting Art Deco angularity and expressionism provides a fitting end to a sale devoted to experimentation and the modernist aesthetic.
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £50,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £50,001 to £1,000,000 the Hammer Price
12% from £1,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

Payment in advance: by cash, check with banker's card, credit card, bank draft or traveler's cheque.

Payment at collection: by credit or debit card.

Credit card charges: a surcharge of 2% is applicable when using Mastercard, Visa and overseas debit cards.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Contacts
  1. Tanya Grigoroglou
    Specialist - Prints
    Bonhams
    Work
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 207 468 8212
    FaxFax: +44 20 7447 7439