George Washington Bridge, 1967/68
Edwin La Dell ARA (1914 - 1970)
RA Collection: Art
Nocturnal view of the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan, looking across the Hudson river to New Jersey. The print was made by Edwin La Dell following a trip to New York in 1967-8. This trip inspired La Dell’s final series of twelve prints (comprising ten lithographs and two etchings), which embrace the energy and colour of New York in a way which contrasts with the more pastoral work La Dell produced earlier in the 1960s. The series is often described as La Dell’s finest work, and as fellow printmaker Chris Orr RA has noted, it demonstrates ‘a wonderful sense of renewal at a point when one might expect him to be on the retreat’.
La Dell was a key figure in the development of colour lithography in Britain, and did much to establish the teaching of lithography at art schools (particularly the Royal College of Art) and was involved in numerous projects aimed at making fine art prints accessible to a wider audience. Lithography, a medium discovered by Aloys Senefelder in 1798, works on the principle that grease and water do not mix. The artist draws on a stone or metal plate using greasy lithographic chalk, ink, or wash. The surface is moistened, and the water is repelled from the greasy parts. The surface is then rolled with ink, which (being greasy) clings to the drawn areas. The initial drawing design is thereby transferred from the surface onto paper in a press. In the case of colour lithographs such as George Washington Bridge, each colour is printed from a separate plate or stone, and new tones are introduced by overprinting.
George Washington Bridge is perhaps the boldest of the series in its design: large purple and brown blocks of colour are traversed by the sinuous lines of the bridge and red and yellow specks of light. In this way the print exemplifies La Dell’s mastery of the contrasts available in the medium of lithograph: between light and dark, high and low tones, and drawn lines brushed areas.
The New York series was never formally published, although six prints from the set were seemingly sold by the publisher Editions Alecto in editions of twenty-five or fifty. This particular impression of George Washington Bridge is an artist’s proof. In 2002-3 the artist’s family presented a number of La Dell’s prints (including this one) to the RA. These were featured in an exhibition of his work in 2004.
440 mm x 605 mm
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