Happy ending as Fry Art Gallery purchases illustrations of Aesop's Fables

  • 15 May 2007

The Art Fund has helped the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden, Essex to purchase five linocut prints of Aesop's Fables by one of the most important illustrators and printmakers of the mid 20th century, Edward Bawden.

Bawden’s colourful pictures vividly recount some of Aesop’s most well-known and loved tales: the Frog and the Ox; the Hare and the Tortoise; the Gnat and the Lion; the Frog, Mouse and Kite; and the Peacock and the Magpie. They were purchased at auction for £6,411 with a £3,141 contribution from The Art Fund, and additional funding from the Fry Art Gallery Society and the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund.

Edward Bawden’s linocuts, produced in 1970, playfully re-enact the fates and misfortunes of some of the animals in Aesop’s Fables. From the unfortunate lion who is stung on the nostrils by a gnat, to the overconfident hare beaten to the finish line by the slow but determined tortoise, Bawden captures each animal’s fate with distinctive colourful, bold designs and characteristic humour.

Bawden was a hugely successful printmaker, graphic designer, illustrator and painter. He was largely responsible for reviving the interest in the linocut – a printmaking technique derived from the woodcut in which a sheet of linoleum (sometimes mounted on a wooden block) is used for the relief surface.

The artist was born in Braintree, Essex in 1903, and after graduating from the School of Art in Cambridge (1918–22) and at the Design School of the Royal College of Art (1922–6) he worked for a number of publishers, producing a large number of book illustrations and cover designs, posters and advertisements, wallpaper designs, leaflets, catalogues and calendars, including commissions for Shell-Mex, Westminster Bank, Twinnings Teas, Fortnum & Mason and London Transport.

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