Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Robert Austin (1895-1973)   BIOGRAPHY

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Evening, 1939
Unmounted (ref: 8366)
Signed in the plate 
Print from cancelled plate
8 7/8 x 6 3/4 in. (22.5 x 17.2 cm)


Provenance: The Artist's Family

Literature: Campbell Dodgson, Robert Austin, exh. cat.,Twenty-One Gallery, London, 1930; Gordon Cooke, Drawings and Prints by Robert Austin, exh. cat.,The Fine Art Society, London, 2001 

Evening, a composition created during the early years of the war, is one of Austin's most accomplished engravings. The model praying was Eleanor Hudson, (Austin's student and mistress) a watercolourist, etcher and designer best known for her depictions of women at work during the Second World.  One of Austin's signature prints Evening might be seen as a pendant to the same sized image Girl on a Stairs which Austin produced in the early years of WW2.  Both compositions, which evolve around solitary figures in at the bottom and top of a stair case, enveloped by shadows and silence, convey a sense of mystery. The setting of Evening was The Chapel at Burham Overy Staithe, (Norfolk) where Austin had his studio when not working in London.  

photograph of Eleanor Hudson, circa 1940. 
The stairs are those of the Methodist Chapel in Burnham Overy Staithe, Austin's home in Norfolk. Praying appeared as a motif in several of Austin's wartime prints - for instance Easter Sunday, 1940.     

The Second World War virtually brought his printmaking to an end. Austin would take many months to complete a plate and the unsettling effect of the war forced not compromise but a halt to that activity. Besides, his teaching commitments with the RCA meant that he spent a lot of time travelling between London and the Lake District where the college had been evacuated. He made a few plates in the late 40's and early 50's but the wizening of his thumb prevented him from handling the burin effectively from 1951 onwards. When he retired from the RCA professorship in 1955 Austin no longer had access to a press and he stopped making prints until 1963 when three magnificent but very late etching were made. Peter Black, Robert Douwma Catalogue Twenty Nine, p 5

Robert Austin (1895-1973)

Printmaker and draughtsman, born in Leicester. He studied at the School of Art there and at the Royal College of Art, 1914-16 and 1919-22, winning the Rome Scholarship for engraving in the latter year. He taught engraving at the Royal College of Art, 1927-44, becoming Professor in the Department of Graphic Design, 1948-55. Showed with RWS, of which he was a member and President; RE, of which he was a member; and the RA, to which he was elected in 1949. Austin was a meticulous craftsman-engraver and a vigorous draughtsman, as his series of drawings of Women's Auxiliary Air Force and ballooning activities done during World War II shows. The Tate Gallery holds his work.

The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, organised an exhibition of his work in 1980.

More recently he was the subject of two shows at the Fine Art Society plc (2001 and 2002), the latter organised in conjunction with Liss Fine Art Ltd.

See all works by Robert Austin