To celebrate the work of British printmaker Gertrude Hermes who died in 1983, this month's Featured Work is 'Monarch of the Glen' a linocut print made in 1964.
Widespread throughout the Scottish Highlands and instantly recognised by its distinctive antlers, the red deer stag takes centre stage in this print by Gertrude Hermes. Taking advantage of the cutting technique of linocut, she depicts the stag's elongated antlers, contrasting them against a lighter background. Hermes's proud stag is part of a noble tradition of paintings of the 'Monarch of the Glen', most famously the 1851 oil painting by Sir Edwin Landseer (1802–1873). A comic novel with the same title written by Scottish writer, Compton Mackenzie, was later published in 1941.
Renowned for her innovative wood engravings, prints and book illustrations, Hermes worked primarily in linoleum and wood to achieve varied and often sophisticated effects that demonstrated her technical dexterity in printmaking.
Gertrude Hermes was born in Bromley, Kent in 1901. First a student at Beckenham School of Art (1919–20), she then studied at the London art school established by the British sculptor, Leon Underwood, in the 1920s. During this period Hermes established a reputation as a leading wood engraver, taking animals, children and scenes from nature as her most common subjects.
In the 1930s Hermes received numerous commissions to engrave book illustrations, including many of the Penguin Illustrated Classics, notably The Compleat Angler by Isaak Newton in 1938. In the following year, she was one of seven engravers chosen to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale. During the Second World War, Hermes moved to Canada where she worked as a technical draughtsman in aircraft and shipbuilding factories. On her return to England in 1945, she began to make linocuts and woodcuts, incorporating more colour into her work. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Painters-Etchers and Engravers in 1951, but it was not until 1963 at the Metropole Art Centre in Folkestone, that she had her first solo exhibition.
From the 1960s, Hermes's work was increasingly exhibited, notably a retrospective exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1967; and an exhibition at the Royal Academy, London, in 1981 to celebrate her 80th birthday, which introduced her work to a new audience. Hermes was awarded an OBE in 1981. Despite suffering from ill health in later years, she continued to exhibit work at numerous shows in England before her death in 1983.