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prints 1909

In 1909 Gwen Raverat was 24 and had been at the Slade School of Art for a few months. Her cousin Bernard Darwin's new wife Eily, a talented Irish designer who had worked with Yeats, encouraged Gwen to pursue wood-engraving and gave her advice on how to cut a wood-engraving block. Keen to get going Gwen made her first print by cutting on softwood with a knife. Her earliest recorded woodcut took its inspiration from the Beaumont & Fletcher comedy, The Knight of the Burning Pestle. Herbert Furst observed, "it is a piece of wood chopping such as one would expect from a talented English boy." But in each print that followed we can see Gwen's persistence to harness the expressive power of the medium and to release the lyrical quality of the line.

By the end of the year she had cut 21 wood blocks, 14 of which were illustrations for broadside ballads which were single sheets of inexpensive paper printed on one side, often with a ballad, rhyme, news and sometimes with woodcut illustrations. They were one of the most common forms of printed material between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly in Britain, Ireland and North America and are often associated with one of the most important forms of traditional music from these countries, the ballad.

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