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William Wilson

1905 – 1972

St. Monance by William Wilson

St. Monance   1937

  Original line engraving.
Signed and dated in pencil.
S 250 x 300 mm; P & I 235 x 283 mm
Original William Wilson line engraving.

William Wilson’s masterpiece of line engraving, St. Monance was engraved in 1937 when Willie Wilson was as the height of his powers as an original line engraver and before his attention was turned towards the creation of stained glass. A truly superb signed proof impression printed by the artist himself on antique laid paper.

An exceptional example of this stunning work. Rare. St. Monance is one of William Wilson’s largest and most elaborate original line engravings.

Wilson’s superb line engravings of this nature display outstanding draughtsmanship and a highly distinctive manner influenced by the engravings of Jean-Émile Laboureur and the work of Stanley Spencer, which Wilson much admired.

The highly stylised line engravings of William Wilson are fast becoming the most sought-after Scottish prints of the period. Born in Edinburgh, William Wilson was working as an apprentice at the stained-glass firm of James Ballantyne & Son when he began attending evening classes at Edinburgh College of Art, and it was here that he first acquired the techniques of printmaking. Wilson travelled throughout Europe at every opportunity in search of subjects for his plates.

In 1932, his firm allowed him to study at the College of Art full-time. He became friends with the etcher and engraver Ian Fleming, who passed on aspects of the knowledge of printmaking which he had acquired under Charles Murray. Awards soon followed, including a scholarship which allowed him to study engraving at the Royal College of Art in London. In 1935, whilst in London, he met Edgar Holloway and in early 1936 the two men rented a cottage together in Essex, where they installed a printing press. Wilson and Holloway travelled together in Europe often over the next two years, but in 1937 Wilson returned to Edinburgh where he opened his own stained glass studio. Wilson now largely relinquished the art of original printmaking, which was no longer proving remunerative, turning almost all of his attentions to his new business – he was to become the leading exponent of contemporary stained-glass in Britain.

Wilson sanctioned new editions of around twenty of his etchings to be printed by his friend Edgar Holloway in the 1970’s, these were not signed by Wilson himself and do not compare in quality to the original editions of the 1920’s and 1930’s. The impression of St. Monance offered here is a proof from the original 1937 printing, signed in pencil and dated by William Wilson himself.

An impression of this engraving is in the permanent collection of the National Galleries of Scotland.

On antique laid paper, probably taken from an old ledger, with full margins. Generally very good original condition – the sheet has evidence of an old vertical crease which slightly disturbs the printing at the base, some small marks and evidence of handling verso.