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Robert Gibbings

1889 - 1958

[Eastern Figure on a Donkey, Coastal Scene Beyond] by Robert Gibbings

[Eastern Figure on a Donkey, Coastal Scene Beyond]   1920

  Original wood engraving.
Signed and numbered in pencil.
Ref: Empson & Balston page x ref.19
S 90 x 214 mm; I 49 x 164 mm.
Excellent impression from the only edition of 25 signed and numbered proofs, though now exceptionally rare. Although referred to by Empson & Balston on page x of their comprehensive catalogue of Robert Gibbings’ wood engravings, no impression of this work was available to them for illustration. This is the sole impression of this engraving which we have been able to trace.

This is one of the six eastern subjects which Robert Gibbings made for the Imperial Tobacco Company Ltd. to advertise Matinée Cigarettes and which were his first commercial works. Rather than simple silhouettes, these striking images employ the device of the ‘vanishing line’ which many claim to have been invented by Robert Gibbings, prior to its use by Edward Wadsworth. The ‘vanishing line’ was a technique whereby Gibbings would omit with the dividing line between surfaces in bright white light or between darkened objects in shadow, leaving only the sharp delineating lines between expansive brightly lit areas and large masses of darkness contrasted against them. All further detail within each of those areas was then left to the viewer’s imagination, any further differentiating lines having ‘vanished’. This technique of abstraction was paralleled by Edward Wadsworth but it is beyond question that its discovery and development by each artist was entirely independent of the other. It was through his discovery of the ‘vanishing line’ as a wood engraver that Gibbings achieved his initial success and it is this device which has established his lasting fame.

Gibbings produced only a few ‘vanishing line’ wood engravings of this nature, moving towards a more conventional approach by the mid-1920's when book illustration became his principal aim. The early ‘vanishing line’ prints are the most sought-after of all of his works and signed proof impressions of them are now scarce.

On fine simile Japan paper with full margins and deckle edge. Excellent condition.