As the world slowly emerges from Covid-19 lockdown, this rather different linocut might reflect how some of us were feeling, cooped up indoors? [Highlighted: Jun 2020]
Venus of Laussel was exhibited at the Reading Guild of Artists Twenty-first Annual Exhibition at the Municipal Art Gallery Reading. April 28 – May 26 1951. The catalogue describes the work as being a Chiaroscuro Lino Cut.
Chiaroscuro is an Italian term which means light (Chiaro) -dark (scuro) and refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest a 3-dimensional strong and dramatic effect. This technique was developed by artists during the Renaissance. This work is understandably sometimes described as a lithograph.
The title is derived from the small figure depicted in the top left corner of the image. The Venus of Laussel is a 46cm limestone bas-relief of a nude woman, painted with red ochre thought to be 25,000 years old and associated with the Gravettian Upper Paleolithic culture. It was discovered in 1911 by Jean-Gaston Lalanne at the commune of Marquay, south-western France.
Shortly after the Second World War, William McCance visited the Lascaux Cave in France, travelling with fellow artist, Reading University (and RGA) colleague Frank Ormrod which influenced a series of prints with anti-war sentiment.
William McCance first exhibited with the Reading Guild of Artists in 1949. At the time he was 'the successor of Robert Gibbings in charge of typography and book production at the Reading University, he was an artist of great talent and versatility...'. Born in Scotland 1894, McCance studied at the Glasgow School of Art, followed by teacher training. He was imprisoned during the First World War as a conscientious objector, an experience which is said to have influenced his work following the Second World War. Moving to London in 1920 he is known as one of the first Scottish artists to produce abstract work, influenced by Wyndam Lewis and the Vorticists. He also painted portraits and sculpted. He later became the Controller for the Gregynog Press in Wales, producers of limited edition books, before moving to Reading in 1943 to take up his position at the University of Reading. His wife and fellow artist Agnes Miller Parker, (whom he married in 1918) was an illustrator and print maker, and also a member of the RGA. Both exhibited for the last time with the Reading Guild of Artists in 1955, the year the couple separated. William remained a member for a further two years when he retired from the University and moved back to Scotland. Reading Museum held a solo exhibition of his work in 1960. William McCance died in 1970.