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F.L. GRIGGS Visions of England

Visions of England

Chippenham Museum, 29 March – 24 June 2018 – FREE ENTRY

This spring Chippenham Museum is hosting a touring exhibition from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford celebrating the work of F. L. Griggs (1876–1938).  This is on display in their new gallery on the ground floor.

While Griggs trained initially as an architect in the Arts & Crafts tradition under C. E. Mallows, it is as a draughtsman and printer-maker that he is best known. From 1912 he produced the technically brilliant etchings which resulted in his election to the Royal Academy in 1931. These combined meticulous accuracy with a poetic sensibility, informed by his love of medieval architecture and his affinity for the work of Samuel Palmer and J. M. W. Turner.

Griggs’s artistic career was assured in 1900 by a commission from Macmillan to illustrate their guidebook series Highways and Byways. Beginning with his native Hertfordshire (1902), he completed eleven further volumes, among them that devoted to Oxford and the Cotswolds (1905). Places that he originally encountered as an illustrator often subsequently provided him with inspiration for his own topographical & imaginative work.

Griggs’s experiments with etching began in 1895 but it was not until 1912, the year of his conversion to Roman Catholicism, that he created his first mature works in the medium. Thereafter, it remained his primary means of artistic expression. He increasingly lamented England’s lost identity as a result of the Reformation of the sixteenth century, the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth, and the modern dissolution of community, accelerated by the horrors of the First World War, of the twentieth. His work, wrought in the face of rapid social change, offered refuge, resisting change by reforming the past through imagination and memory. In both celebrating the glories of a reconstructed medieval world and lamenting its passing, Griggs’s visions of England are by turns consoling and disquieting.

With consummate technical skill Griggs subjected his etching plates to successive revisions, infusing his favoured motifs – the church, the farm, the street, and the bridge – with spiritual significance. In this he drew not only upon his intensely personal response to the natural world and English history, but upon the Romantic tradition, especially the example of Samuel Palmer. Indeed, through the V&A’s 1926 Palmer exhibition, Griggs was instrumental in introducing Palmer to a new generation of artists.

Among them was Robin Tanner (1904–1988), a selection of whose work is on permanent display at Chippenham Museum and Heritage Centre. Tanner cited Griggs’s work, with its ‘marvellous realization of stone and water, foliage and sky, and intense feeling for Cotswold England’ as fundamental to his own development as an artist. Three uncancelled etching plates by Tanner, from the Ashmolean, are also included in the exhibition.

The Ashmolean’s collection of Griggs’s work is unrivalled and this exhibition displays over 30 examples spanning his career, including volumes of Highways and Byways, etchings, fascinating preparatory drawings, and superb watercolours. It is supplemented by generous loans from private collectors.

Cllr. Sandie Webb, Leader of Chippenham Town Council said;
“We are delighted to be hosting this beautiful exhibition at our museum in Chippenham. The development works which have created the new gallery spaces enable us to show exhibitions from major galleries such as the Ashmolean in Oxford.”

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