Joseph Webb’s etchings are amongst the most sought-after of his generation. With the support of the Art Fund and the V&A/MLA Purchase Grant Fund, the School of Art Museum has recently acquired a collection of 43 prints and drawings from the artist’s estate represents three decades in the career of a remarkably versatile printmaker. This adds to the 12 prints already in our Collection, purchased from galleries and the artist himself, in the early 1930s.
Born in Ealing and studied in London, Webb won a scholarship to Hospitalfield in Arbroath where, in 1927, he took up etching. In 1929, the year he was elected ARE, Webb visited F. L. Griggs, the principal contemporary influence upon his work. Webb was soon to be exhibiting in London, Chicago, New York and Paris.
The recent Collection comprises many unique and rare impressions, some shown at his solo exhibition at Colnaghi’s (1933) and the touring Memorial Exhibition (1966). Falls of the Clyde was his first etching. Drawings for the iconic densely-etched plates Rat Barn, Shepherd’s Haven, A Master’s House and Lincoln–Sunrise typify the all-pervading spiritual significance with which Webb imbued his subjects: these accompany touched proofs of Streamend and Tannery, whilst Glory Hole, Lincoln and Harrow-on-the-Hill demonstrate a topographical (Webb hoped more commercial) approach.
The lithographs Sermon on the Mount and Holy River are from only a handful of impressions made. Great Keep, Pembroke is one of two impressions pulled before Webb significantly altered the plate to form The Great Bridge. Such collections surveying individual artist's careers present great potential for research, teaching and display. It significantly enriches the Museum’s holdings of the Etching Revival from Whistler to the 1930s, and may be used to demonstrate how Webb’s subject and technique developed over a sustained period.