3.1.9 Edgar Holloway

  • Born 1914, died 2008
  • Guild member 1950-1989 (closure)
  • Etcher, painter, designer, cartographer

Life

Portrait by Bernard Mitchell, 1996

Holloway was born at Mexborough, South Yorkshire. Aged 10, encouraged by his father, a miner-turned-printseller, he was enrolled on a correspondence course for which the renowned etcher Edward Bouverie Hoyton served as a consultant. He left grammar school at 13 on condition that he would continue his education at Doncaster school of art, where he attended evening classes only. That same year, his first published drawing appeared in a local newspaper.

As a youth and well into adulthood, he suffered from sporadic outbreaks of psoriasis, which made him self-conscious and anxious for approbation. A lack of formal education notwithstanding, he achieved critical acclaim while still in his teens, numbering TS Eliot, Stephen Spender and Herbert Read among the personalities whose essence he captured on copper and paper. After the collapse of the print market, which led him to sell his plates for scrap, he continued to build a career that spanned eight decades by responding to economic and technological change. A practical yet sensitive man, his theory was to have no theories.

Life drawing aside, he was largely self-trained. He gleaned what he knew about printmaking from library books and from the prints surrounding him in his father’s shop. A copy of Ernest Lumsden’s The Art of Etching became his Bible. From it, he learned that the proper way to etch was to emulate the masters – Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Castiglione – as well as following the examples of James McNeill Whistler, William Strang and Augustus John.

By the age of 20, Holloway had gained the favour of some of the key figures of the “etching boom”, among them Campbell Dodgson, then keeper of the department of prints and drawings at the British Museum, where his work was exhibited. His one-man exhibitions in London met with critical acclaim, and he also featured at the Victoria and Albert Museum and other major national institutions. He had gained the respect of established printmakers, including John Copley, Muirhead Bone and Joseph Webb, and became a close friend of the artist William Wilson. Building on this early success proved difficult, however, as the once thriving market had begun to shrink. While commissions were scarce, Holloway remained active in the Society of Artist Printers. In 1947, he was made a member of the Royal Society of British Artists.

By 1941, he had come under the influence of Eric Gill’s writings, in particular his contention that art be held to an absolute standard of usefulness. Holloway converted to Roman Catholicism and, in keeping with Gill’s teachings, turned to graphic design as a rewarding outlet for craftsmanship. His skin condition barred him from military service, but he chronicled the second world war in a series of drawings depicting a devastated London, where he then lived and worked as a school-teacher. In 1943, needing rest and renewal, he visited Capel-y-ffin. There he met Gill’s former model, Daisy Monica Hawkins, whom he married after a six-week courtship. For the support of his wife and growing family, Holloway could rely on a steady stream of commissions for lettering, cartography and dust-jacket designs for Britain’s leading publishers.

Capel-y-ffin watercolour

In 1948, on a visit to Ditchling, Holloway was taught wood engraving by Philip Hagreen. The next year, he settled in Ditchling and, following a period as a postulant, in 1951 he joined the Guild. During this period much of his work was graphic design, especially book covers, and cartography. He was eventually made chair of the Guild, a position he held until the Guild closed.

By the late 1960s, when photo-typesetting superseded the demand for hand lettering, he returned to etching and painting, expressing himself in more fluid lines and bolder colours. The revival of interest in his work began with a well-received exhibition in London in 1979, the first of a series of one-man shows that extended into this century. After the death of Daisy Monica, he married the artist-printmaker Jennifer Boxall, with whom he also exhibited. In 1991, he at last enjoyed the official recognition of his peers, who elected him a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers. Almost 60 years earlier, he had missed out by a single vote, his youth speaking against him.

Two of many etched self-portraits

Further information

Links

Books

  • Edgar Holloway Centenary Exhibition – The Art of a Lifetime
  • Edgar Holloway, R.E. A Retrospective Exhibition. Ashmolean Museum. Oxford 1991
  • Capel-y-finn to Ditchling – Watercolours and Drawings by Edgar Holloway
  • The Etchings and Engravings of Edgar Holloway – Robert Meyrick