Country of context
John Hall Thorpe
John Hall Thorpe was born in Victoria 29 of April 1874. He was apprenticed in Sydney to John Fairfax and Sons where he learnt drawing and wood-engraving. In 1891 he became the first staff artist of the Sydney Daily Mail and occupied that position until 1901. During these years he exhibited paintings with the Society of Artists and in 1897 produced a few etchings.
In 1902 Hall Thorpe went to London and worked as an artist for several newspapers; he continued his studies at Heatherley’s and at St. Martins School of Art.
Although the bulk of Hall Thorpe’s coloured woodcuts date from the early 1920s, his first examples in the medium were produced by 1919. The context of the works from this period was very much one of interior ‘house decoration’ and ‘gaily coloured’ vases of flowers predominate. The mood is perhaps typified in Thorpe's article “On Colour in the Cottage” (Studio Year Book, 1919).
Apart from Thorpe’s widespread decorative appeal at the time, which no doubt was magnified by the artist’s own advertising and promotion, the woodcuts were favourably regarded by critics and to some extent the artist achieved an international popularity.
In a Studio publication Modern Woodcuts and Lithographs (1919), a reproduction of the woodcut The Wise Men by Thorpe is included in a selection of works by artists such as Frank Brangwyn, Lucien Pissarro, C. A. W. Nevison, Edward Wadsworth, Robert Gibbings and William Nicholson; the woodcut is noted for its ‘bold silhouette’ and a comparison with Robert Gibbings’ Albert Bridge, Chelsea reveals a remarkably similar approach, both in the use of silhouette and tonal gradation — the studios of both artists were neighbouring in Redcliffe Square.
In London, Hall Thorpe exhibited at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of British Artists and held a one-man exhibition at the Kensington Fine Arts Society Gallery in May 1918. Interestingly, several of his woodcuts were produced under American copyright. His woodcuts are represented in the collections of: Victoria and Albert Museum, London; British Museum, London; Australian National Gallery, Canberra; Art Gallery of New South Wales; Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Victoria.