Hermes, Gertrude

(1901 – 1983)

Waterlilies, (the original block), 1930

SKU: 10363

The original woodblock

Size:
Height: 23cm
Width: 13.1cm

DESCRIPTION

Provenance:
Judy Russell; Simon Lawrence

Printed and published by the artist in an edition of 30 

Exhibited: Sanctuary, Artist-Gardeners, 1919-39, Garden Museum, London, 25th February – 5 April, 2020

Literature: Christopher Woodward, Sanctuary: Artist-Gardeners, 1919–1939, published by Liss Llewellyn, 2020

Llewellyn, Sacha, et al. Women Only Works on Paper. Liss Llewellyn, 2021, p. 37.

In his book A History of Wood Engraving (1978), Albert Garrett, the President of the Society of Wood
Engravers, described how in Water Lilies, Gertrude Hermes had solved in her own terms the language for
engraving a large circular plane that has gentle undulations. For most people, a waterlily leaf is a solid plane

but in the engraving Hermes sees it as a space plane solution’. Hermes, who was one of the most imagina-
tive and innovative wood engravers of her generation, drew much of her inspiration from nature. Trained

by Leon Underwood at his art school in Hammersmith, she captured all manner of natural forms observed
from the world around her – plants, animals, insects – with a rapidly flowing line. Transferring her preliminary
sketches onto blocks of fine-grained wood, her distinctive style combined great technical skill with a bold
sense of design. Described by the novelist Naomi Mitchison as a a magician ‚Äì or if you like priestess’,
Hermes’ unique achievement lay in the way she rendered nature as dynamic and living, the feeling of
movement giving the engravings an almost three-dimensional quality. By the end of the second world war’,
Garrett wrote, Hermes in engraving is what [Barbara] Hepworth is in sculpture’.

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THE ARTIST

Hermes, Gertrude

1901 – 1983

Gertrude Hermes attended the Beckenham School of Art (c.1921)
and the Brook Green School of Painting and Sculpture (1922),
where she met Blair Hughes-Stanton (1902’1981), whom she
married in 1926. 

Although they divorced in 1933, they collaborated on several
projects, including wood engravings for The Pilgrim’s Progress,
published in 1928. She also collaborated with her friends Naomi
Mitchison and Prunella Clough (1919’1999) to explore depictions
of feminine desire. 

The 1930s were a prosperous decade for Hermes, who exhibited
for the first time at the Redfern Gallery in 1932. She also showed
regularly at the RA from 1934, was elected a member of the LG in
1935, and in 1939 represented Britain at the Venice Biennale. 

In the late 1940s to early 1950s, she taught at the Central School
of Art, and became the first woman engraver to be elected a full
member of the RA in 1971 ‘ eventually receiving an OBE in 1981.

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