Studio: international art — 74.1918

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Recent Prints by W. Lee Hankey, R.E.

SOME RECENT PRINTS BY
W. LEE HANKEY, R.E.

CAPTAIN LEE HANKEY'S develop-
ment as an engraver has been full
of interest as it has been marked
always by experiment and advance.
He has etched in bold firm lines ; he has made
monochrome aquatints of quality ; he has been
one of the foremost exponents of the colour-
print from aquatint plates for the tints and
soft-ground etching for the contours; and
always he has expressed uncompromisingly
his own vision ; but it is with the intimacy
of the direct touch of the dry-point upon
the copper that he has found, perhaps, his
most characteristic expression. His manner
of handling the method is distinctive and
admirably adapted to his pictorial conception.
This is seen with particular charm in the
group of prints which he has produced within
the last two or three years. His period of
active service in the earlier part of the war
brought him in contact with various types of
French and Flemish peasantry, and in the
simple pathos of their humble, war-gripped lives
he has found pictorial material which has made
poignant appeal to his human, no less than to
his artistic, sympathy. With a peculiar tender-
ness of expression, therefore, he has used his
dry-point, visualizing his subjects with the
ample tonal sense of the painter rather than with
the etcher's suggestive reticence of line, albeit
linear definition, artistically unobtrusive, invests
the designs with essential vitality.

More than one of these prints has already
been seen in The Studio, notably Her Sole
Possession (March 1917), a young French war-
widow drawing comfort from the nestling of her
infant.

Now we reproduce some further typical
examples of this appealing phase of Captain
Lee Hankey's art. There is something beyond
artistic beauty in these prints : there is real
human emotion. In The Widow the artist has
concentrated himself on the utter sorrow
expressed in the toil-worn face of the bereaved
woman, with her sleeping baby held dejectedly
upon her lap, while the wistful look of the child
by her side seems to emphasize the poignancy
of this moment with the outlook of long, sad,
laborious years to come. Here the dry-point
work is remarkably rich and luminous. A

Flemish Mother is a charming contrast, for here
is hope expressive in the young woman's gaze—
a little anxiety, too, perhaps, for the husband is
doubtless in the firing-line ; but the delicious
baby on her knee is so much alive, and herein
is a solacing joy. The composition is engagingly
simple, the tender sentiment of the thing
convincing. Tant Difficile gives us a pathetic
glimpse into one of these humble little homes,
from which the bread-winner has been drawn
for soldiering, never probably to return. The
poor room, with its tell-tale of difficult life for
this young mother, has been realized, in all its
small detail, with true pictorial harmony. It
is characteristic of the artist that he appears to
love plump babies and small children, in all
their potent helplessness, even as Swinburne
loved them, with such a tender vitality he
depicts them, while delicately suggesting their
relative significance and the sheltering mother-
love. In French Folk, an aged peasant woman
seems to be trying to comfort, with her sad, wise
resignation, a young girl, maybe her grandchild,
to whom the war has brought a sorrow doubtless
that recalls an experience of her own in the
long ago. The face of this old wrinkled woman,
with all its expression of character and feeling,
is a remarkable study that Rembrandt himself
might not have disdained, and the aged hands
with the claw-like fingers, how truly they are
drawn ! Fading Light also gives us a beautifully
pathetic study of an old woman ; but the light
is going out of her life, and, as she lies on her
death-bed, with her hands powerless, she gazes
upward into some hopeful beyond, where there
can reach her no longer any tidings of the war,
that, with its horrors so near, has saddened her
last days. How living, how intimate the scene
is ! With what tender, loving draughtsmanship
the artist has realized it! A gladder beauty is
that of A Daughter of Spain, a print, indeed, of
charm, done presumably in the happy days of
peace, when the artist's " active service " was to
draw for delight's sake an attractive girl sitting
with easy grace in the sunshine of her native
warm South. Two other phases of Captain
Lee Hankey's art are also shown here. Sur
la Neige, with its delicate drawing of leafless
trees in a sunny atmosphere, reveals his sensitive
feeling for landscape ; while An Easter Egg,
done from four—or was it five ?—plates, shows
him quite at his best as a maker of artistic
colour-prints. Malcolm C. Salaman.
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