Gerald Spencer Pryse

1882 - 1956

see works by this artist




Gerald Spencer Pryse was one of the leading protagionists of lithography as an original art form during the first part of the twentieth-century. As a founding director of The Neolith Spencer Pryse helped to encourage the appreciation of original lithography as a fine art prior to the formation of the Senefelder Club in 1908. The Neolith was a quarterly publication containing original prints by the foremost artists of the time, along with poetry and essays - all of which were printed lithographically. The Senefelder Club effectively took over the role of The Neolith and G.S.Pryse himself became a member in 1913.

At the beginning of the First World War, Spencer Pryse worked as an army despatch rider with the Belgian Government, during which time he witnessed the fall of both Ostend and Antwerp. He recorded these events in a group of lithographs which he proposed to issue in a series entitled Autumn Campaign in 1914. Gerald Spencer Pryse noted that his lithographs were “an exact record of particular events, not embellished in any way” - as such, they represent a fascination pictorial record of the events of the war. Although never formally released as a series, these lithographs were published in one small edition (20 to 25 impressions of each).

Gerald Spencer Pryse applied to become an Official War Artist on a number of occassions during the course of the First World War, but despite his influential connections, his socialist ideals and his accomplished achievements in battle as a soldier resulted in his application being sidelined on every occasion. He was, however, granted a sketching licence in March 1917 which allowed him to record the events of war without fear of being arrested as a spy.

Although Gerald Spencer Pryse came from a wealthy family and received a private education, he was orphaned when young and was denied the inheritance anticipated from his uncle when his uncle remarried. As a young man he could not afford to pursue a training in oil painting and took up lithography instead. He became an ardent supporter of the fledgling Labour party and went on to produce numerous original lithographs as a poster artist, many of which were used as propaganda for his political ideals. Perhaps because of his political sentiments, much of Gerald Spencer Pryse’s art disappeared from the public eye during the bulk of the last century and it is only in recent years that occasional scarce examples of his highly accomplished work as an original lithographer have come to light.