Robert Gibbings

British, b.1889, d.1958

St Brendan and the Sea Monsters

  • 1934
  • Wood engraving
  • Gift of Rosalie Archer, 1975
  • Estate of Robert Gibbings and the Heather Chalcroft Literary Agency
  • 175 x 135mm
  • 90/18

Robert Gibbings was an early convert to wood engraving and quickly appreciated its qualities. He once wrote:

Discipline in art: was that what I’d come to London for? Impressionism was what I thought I was after. I couldn’t think what all this hard labour on wood was about. There was no tradition at the time; it seemed a lot of finicky gouging to get a few lines that might have been obtained more easily with a pen or brush. But slowly a love of the wood came upon me. I began to enjoy the crisp purr of the graver as it furrowed the polished surface. I began to appreciate the cleanness of the white line that it incised: even the simplest silhouettes had an austere quality, a dignity, that could not be achieved by other means. Clear, precise statement, that was what it amounted to. Near enough wouldn’t do: it had to be just right.

The Golden Age 18 December 2015 – 1 May 2016

An illustration from 'Beasts and Saints', translated by Helen Waddell, published by Constable, 1949.

Listen to the passage that inspired this work, read by Elric Hooper.

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work