Frederick Carter (1883 - 1967)

The Balance, c.1918


SKU: 3046

The original woodblock: 3 3/4 x 4 1/2 in. (9.5 x 11.5 cm) 

Print: 5 x 5 3/4 in. (12.5 x 14.5 cm)

framed with an original signed print of the same subject

Height – 11.5cm
Width – 9.5cm

1 in stock


Private Collection

Literature: catalogue in preparation by Richard Grenville Clark.

Proof impressions from Frederick Carter’s blocks are very rare, the few proofs printed during Frederick Carter’s lifetime having been solely for private use or for distribution amongst the artist’s personal friends. This imaginative design was drawn directly onto the prepared wood block by Frederick Carter; the block was then cut and worked in detail by either Carter himself or his assistant, W.M.R. Quick, to produce the finished wood engraving. 
Frederick Carter provided no specific explanation regarding the significance of the imagery in this engraving; however, it appears to symbolise the balance between the physical being of a woman and her ‘daimon’ – the ancient Greek concept of a divine spirit unique to every person which gives that person good luck or bad luck and which may represent their character.

We are grateful to Michael Campbell for assistance.

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Frederick Carter
1883 - 1967

Painter and etcher born in Bradford, Yorkshire. He abandoned an early career as a surveyor and engineer but studied art in Paris, 1904, Antwerp, 1909-10 and London 1908-11, where he learnt his etching techniques under Frank Short. He showed at the RA, ROI, NEAC and was elected ARE in 1912. His artistic life before and after the World War I was centred around the Fitzroy Street area of London, and the Dieppe restaurant in Dean Street. He became a mystic symbolist artist, involved with Aleister Crowley and worked on illustrations for D.H. Lawrence’s Apocalypse. He was also a friend of Austin Osmond Spare and helped with his theories of automatic drawing. From 1922 he taught etching at Liverpool School of Art and during the 1930’s he abandoned printmaking for writing but continued to paint until the late 1950’s. His work is in the collections of the BM and V&A. A retrospective exhibition was held at the 20th Century Gallery, Fulham, London, 1998. Richard Grenville Clark’s 1998 publication Frederick Carter A.R.G. 1883-1967. A Study of his Etchings catalogues the artist’s output and examines each period of his career and techniques.

We are grateful to Michael Campbell for the following note:

The intricate wood engravings of Frederick Carter have always been considered to be the artist’s greatest works. Their inspired designs brought him three successive gold medals for book illustration in the National Competition, South Kensington – the most prestigious award of his day. Frederick Carter developed an unique, almost calligraphic style of wood engraving – he would begin by drawing his original design in ink directly on to the wood block and then either he, or his assistant W.M.R.Quick, would carve away the surrounding wood, leaving only the lines of the original drawing standing proud to form the printing surface.

A great believer in the power of the subconscious, Frederick Carter had experimented with automatic drawing between 1915 and 1924, along with fellow symbolist Austin Osman Spare. He hoped that this might prove to be a means of releasing suppressed associations and images from the subliminal, through which he, like the early alchemists, might discover the essence of life itself.

Frederick Carter’s deep interest in alchemy and all aspects of the supernatural and the occult, led him to produce an esoteric symbolism which is apparent throughout his work. Nowhere is this displayed more clearly than in his works for The Dragon of the Alchemists. Frederick Carter provided little or no explanation regarding the significance of his imagery which combines symbols of established religion with those of mysticism and it is likely that he intended the meaning of many of his images to remain shrouded in mystery.

With thanks to


Frederick Carter (1883 - 1967)
A Danse – Jealousy, 1910-11
Frederick Carter (1883 - 1967)
Escape, circa 1915
Frederick Carter (1883 - 1967)
Perseus,, circa 1926
Frederick Carter (1883 - 1967)
The Babe of Fire, circa 1915
Frederick Carter (1883 - 1967)
Silence in Heaven, 1925
Frederick Carter (1883 - 1967)
The Balance, c.1918
Frederick Carter (1883 - 1967)
Babylon is Fallen