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You are hereHarvey-LeeHomeHarvey-LeePrintmaking Techniques Harvey-LeeRelief Printing Introduction Harvey-LeeColour Linocuts

Colour Linocut

Although various artists have used the medium occasionally, it is most associated with Picasso in France, and in England with the Grosvernor School artists.

The Grosvernor School was set up by Ian MacNab and Claude Flight in 1925. Flight introduced linocut into the curriculum and by 1929 staff and pupils had inaugurated the first of their annual colourprint exhibitions at the Redfern Gallery, which continued throughout the 1930’s.

Flight considered linocut a completely new medium and an opportunity for artists to exploit vivid colours as an integral part of the design to express the dynamism of modern life. His own linocuts included ‘Speed’, a fast-moving London red bus, while Cyril Power made a number of memorable images based on the London Underground, escalators, lifts etc.

Other artists in the school used the same technique for decorative effect in less dynamic themes such as landscape.

In his textbook on linocut Flight wrote  “A key block is not essential; two, three or four blocks of almost equal detail can be used and strength obtained where necessary by superimposing one colour over another to gain the required depth of tone”.  The order of printing the blocks determined the eventual colours, for  “red over blue over yellow gives a different result to blue over red over yellow or yellow over blue over red, and so forth”.

Sybil Andrews (1898–1992): The Mowers. Four-Colour ‘Grosvenor School’ linocut, 1937. (305 x 353 mm)
Sybil Andrews (1898–1992): "The Mowers".
Four-Colour ‘Grosvenor School’ linocut, 1937.
(305 x 353 mm)

The Grosvernor School gave impetus to an interest in linocut in Australia when Australian students Dorrit Black, Ethel Spowers and Eveline Syme returned home.

Lill Tsudi was a Swiss exponent and Sybil Andrews took the technique to Canada when she emigrated to that country.

Most colour linocuts are printed from a succession of different blocks for each colour, superimposed in sequential printings. If the whole series of blocks is retained, further prints can be made at any time if desired.

Occasionally artists, such as Sybella Styles, use a ‘reduction’ system which employs only a single block, which is destroyed as the printing progresses, so that the entire edition must be printed from the outset. The design is completely worked out in advance, the largest colour area is printed first. Then areas of the block are removed leaving those that are to print in the next colour, and so on, until the full image is achieved. It is impossible to return to an earlier ‘state’ of the block as it is successively cut away.


Enid B Mitchell (Exhibited 1920–1930’s): At the Fair. Colour linocut, c1930. Printed from five blocks in blue, purple, orange, yellow and black inks. (108 x 108 mm)

Enid B Mitchell (Exhibited 1920–1930’s):
"At the Fair". Colour linocut, c1930.
(108 x 108 mm)

This colour linocut is printed from five blocks in
blue, purple, orange, yellow and black inks.


Gertrude Hermes (1901–1983)

Gertrude Hermes (1901–1983):
"Spring Trees".  Three-Colour linocut, 1957. 
(394 x 292 mm)

See also :

RELIEF PRINTING - An Introduction

Wood Engraving

Hand-coloured Woodcut
Chiaroscuro Woodcut
Modern Colour Woodcut
Colour Wood Engraving

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