‘The Black Country subjects interpreted through drawings, watercolours, woodcuts and lithographs form the largest distinct group within Wadsworth’s work as a whole. While travelling between Liverpool and London in 1918, he was sufficiently arrested by the scenery around Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley and Leeds to return on foot in the first half of 1919 in order to sketch his impressions; these were then developed into the highly finished compositions shown at the Leicester Galleries in 1920. The exhibition met with enormous acclaim, one critic describing the studies of Ladle Slag as attaining the level of sublimity to be found in “the ruins of Karnac at night, the Mountains of the Moon …” (B. Wadsworth, p.91), while the ‘Observer’s’ critic P. G. Konody wrote rather more penetratingly about how Wadsworth brought from Vorticism into representational art “a severe sense of form and rhythm, a logic of organisation, that are not found in the work of artists depending entirely on visual impression. These qualities enable him to distil art of the highest order out of material that to the ordinary painter would be not only unpromising but positively forbidding” (‘Edward Wadsworth, The Black Country’, Ovid Press, London 1920, and B. Wadsworth, p.91).
Wadsworth executed two lithographs, ‘Ladle Slag, Old Hill 1’ and ‘2’, both purporting to exist in editions of 40, which are closely related to the drawings exhibited in 1920, together with a third subject, ‘Industrial Landscape’ (Sycamore Collection catalogue, Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, 1988, no. 213). The British Museum’s print is connected with the watercolour illustrated as plate IX in the selection printed by the Ovid Press in 1920, following the success of the exhibition. The drawing was purchased at the exhibition by Sir Michael Sadler, Vice-Chancellor of Leeds University, and is now in the university’s collection. The Victoria and Albert Museum owns two impressions of this image, one printed on cream paper, the other on Japan and dated 1920 and numbered “14/40”. One further lithograph belongs with this group, although it is not of a Black Country subject: ‘Quarry: Cornwall’ emerged from a summer holiday Wadsworth took in Newlyn in 1920, returning to London on foot. The Victoria and Albert Museum owns an impression presented by the artist.’
Frances Carey & Antony Griffiths, ‘Avant-Garde British Printmaking 1914-1960’, BMP, 1990, no.14.