John Edgar Platt


Red Chestnut no. 1

color woodblock print, pencil numbered and title in the bottom margin at left, 18/150 RED CHESTNUT, and signed at right, John Platt, ca. 1927

16 3/8 by 9 5/8 in., 41.7 by 24.3 cm

From 1923-1929 Platt was the Principal at Leicester School of Art, where he made it a priority to offer an education in art with real-world applications in various industries. He also invited Urushibara Yoshijiro (Mokuchu, 1888-1953), to demonstrate Japanese-style printmaking. Urushibara was a pivotal figure in Britain at the time; he had been sent to London to demonstrate woodblock printing at the Anglo-Japanese Exhibition in 1910 and managed to stay by taking a position at the British Museum mounting and restoring Asian paintings. Urushibara (who also taught Walter J. Phillips), Fletcher and Platt, are credited with advancing the technical proficiency of woodblock printmakers in Britain, and by extension, to Europe and America. Their collective efforts were crucial to the development of the international color woodblock printing.

This composition (arguably one of Platt's finest), with dramatic foreshortening of the chestnut leaves providing stealthy cover for a black cat preparing to pounce from his perch on the broken tree branch, calls to mind another composition of a stalking cat by the Japanese artist Takahashi Shotei (Hiroaki, 1871-1945), Black Cat and Tomato Plant, published by Fusui Gabo in a limited edition of 100 impressions in 1931, four years after Platt exhibited the print at the 12th annual exhibition for the Society of Graver-Printers in London.

According to Hilary Chapman, the design was issued in two version, the first (no. 1) printed in February 1927 in an edition of 68 with blue sky, clouds, treetops and telephone poles; and the second (no. 2) printed in an edition of 150 without the blue or any details in the background. This impression, numbered from an edition of 150, with brilliant blue sky the telephone poles, appears to be in all details the same as the first version. Perhaps the impression lacking background details illustrated in the catalogue raisonné is not a second state but a variant impression.

The Victoria & Albert Musuem in London has the four-double sided woodblocks for this print in their collection. Each side of one block was used for two different colors, to complete the design required 23 different impressions.

Geoffrey Holme, ed., Modern Woodcuts and Lithographs by British and French Artists, 1919, p. 32
Hilary Chapman, A Catalogue of the Colour Woodcuts of John Edgar Platt, 1999, no. 14
(inv. no. 10-5515)

price: $5,800

John Edgar Platt

Shotei, Black Cat and Tomato Plant, 1931


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site last updated
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