An exhibition of prints and drawings by Royal Academician, Robert Austin (1895-1973) opened at the Royal Academy of Arts
this Spring. The prints that Austin produced in the 1920s and 30s were among the most admired and collectable of the period. He was unusual in making original engravings in the tradition of German masters from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries such as Martin Schongauer and Albrecht Dürer. Austin found inspiration in the everyday to craft timeless images of figures, landscapes, animals and still-life, imbued with a quiet perfection.
The display contains some of his finest prints, ranging from the elegant simplicity of Deer (1929) to the intensity of Woman Praying (1927) and the cinematic Girl on Stairs (1937). Alongside these, a group of drawings and watercolours demonstrate Austins wonderful facility as a draughtsman, while a selection of posters, book illustrations and banknote designs reflect the breadth of his artistic activity. The majority of the works on display are on loan from the artists family.
As a student of Frank Short, the great teacher of printmaking at the Royal College of Art, Austins talent earned him the prestigious Rome Scholarship in Engraving in 1922. On his return to England, Austin took up a teaching post at the RCA in 1926. He became Professor of Engraving in 1946 and continued to teach there until 1955. Austin was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1939 and a full member (RA) in 1949. His achievements were further recognised by his election to the post of President of both the Royal Watercolour Society (1957 - 1973) and the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (1962 1970). Despite these honours and the technical and artistic accomplishment of his prints, Austins work is not widely known today. This exhibition offers an exciting opportunity to reappraise his place in twentieth-century British printmaking.