Tag Archives: Edward Johnston

Graily Hewitt – some little seen works

CIMG2526Graily Hewitt was one of the first students to be taught calligraphy by Edward Johnston at the beginning of the last century and did a great deal to advance the knowledge and practice of gilding using gesso and leaf gold. In fact he wrote the ‘Illumination’ section in Johnston’s book – Writing, Illuminating and Lettering, as well as writing his own book Lettering for Students and Craftsmen, published in 1930. Graily Hewitt taught at both Camberwell School of Art as well as the Central School, continuing at the latter until the 1920s and 1930s.

 

 

CIMG2528Graily Hewitt did a great deal, indeed it could be said was crucial, in the revival of gilding on gesso. He wrote out the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam using a different gesso recipe for each page. This was bound into a small volume, and with it he gave details of the recipes and the results in another volume. Both are now in the British Library.

 

CIMG2529The examples of his work here are the ‘Christmas cards’ he sent to one of his pupils, ‘the Doctor’. Each is written on parchment, sheepskin, and are in black and red only. However most, as with this one on the right, are striking! It is surprising how often something simple is the best solution and black and red work so well together.

 

 

 

 

CIMG2530These pieces were written by Graily Hewitt in his twilight years – he died aged 88 on 22nd December 1952 – and was writing up until his death. Although the lettering is strong, not all of it, in my view, is totally successful – the ‘h’ and ‘e’ overlap on the right being a case in point. I would suggest that it brings a density to the design which is not balanced elsewhere, although it does avoid a too long line, which may have been the intention.

 

 

 

CIMG2531However, other designs and letter combination are just delightful. The balance of this lightweight cross on the right and the text, resulting in a shield-shape is particularly pleasing.

 

 

 

 
CIMG2532And the placing of the red dots making a tastefully decorated cross with the tail of the ‘g’, in this piece that I used in my free online newsletter, neatly balances the red letter ‘w’ on the first line. You can also see Graily Hewitt’s neat and legible handwriting at the bottom.

 

I intend to write more on Graily Hewitt in a future blog and newsletter.

 

 

 

 

London Tube Typeface

Balham StationThe London Underground has a very distinctive and unifying look with the names of the stations, directions, and the distinctive roundel. This is due to one man, and he was the calligrapher Edward Johnston. Johnston could be said to have been the father of modern calligraphy working in the first half of the last century. In 1913 the Underground’s publicity manager, Frank Pick, commissioned Johnston to design a company typeface; his brief was for ‘bold simplicity’ and the design was finished in 1916.

Johnston UndergroundJohnston designed just one weight of type, and this was based on the very calligraphic proportions of 7 pen nib widths of Roman Capitals, with the proportions being the same and letters i and j having diamond dots. However, there is no weighting (thicks and thins) to the strokes in that they are monoline, and it was a san serif design. Johnston was very particular about his designs and apparently when one of his students offered to create a bold weight, Johnston blanked him for many years.

Tube logoThe London Underground roundel appeared in 1908 as a red disc and a blue bar. Edward Johnston took the roundel and developed it into the design that is used on stations today with the name horizontally across the centre.

 

 

 

Logo 1025From 1919 Johnston’s bull’s eye roundel was used on publicity, the outsides of stations and platform nameboards. He went back to the design and gave exact guidelines for the proportions.

 

 

London TransportJohnston was asked again to design the London Passenger Transport Board under the name of London Transport in 1933. This sign was used on all vehicles, signs and publicity.

It isn’t too surprising how a strong design such as this has lasted through the decades.

 

 

Masters and Apprentices

Masters and ApprenticesThe Lettering and Commemorative Arts Trust’s exciting new shop and gallery space at Snape Maltings in Suffolk has a new exhibition – Masters and Apprentices. It emphasises the importance of passing on skills, and focuses on the seven letter carving apprentices funded through the Trust, as well as four generations of Masters, tracing their skills back to Edward Johnston and the British Arts & Crafts Revival.  The exhibition is on until 29th June 2014. A fully illustrated catalogue is available.

Masters and ApprenticesThere are few, if any, recognised qualifications for letter carving, yet it is one of the oldest of skills, going back to ancient times. Throughout history trainers working in letter carving have been passing on the skills and knowledge to trainees, yet due to that lack of qualifications, it is impossible to tap into government funding to learn the craft.

 

Masters and ApprenticesLCAT have done extremely well to have put seven apprentices through training, and the work of some of these and their masters is on show in this exhibition. The exhibition’s curator, Gary Breeze, has emphasised skills transfer from Edward Johnston, who many regard as the father of modern calligraphy, working at the first half of the last century, and who was a great influence on his one-time student and then colleague and friend, the sculptor, letter carver and letter designer Eric Gill. David Kindersley trained and worked with Eric Gill, and also trained many others including his wife, Lida Cardozo Kindersley.

Photographs by David Holgate