A story of a set of Baynard Press School Prints
I am pleased to present a guest news post from Elizabeth in Canada:
It was such a thrill today to receive an email from Katy and photos of my four “Baynard” prints soaking in their baths of water. The prints have made a long journey from the bottom of a dusty dresser drawer in a basement in Toronto, Canada to Katy’s Art on Paper gallery workshop in England.
The following story of a set of Baynard Press School Prints is one that would suit the Antiques Roadshow, and if they had come to town before I found Katy, I probably would have brought these prints along for an appraisal!
But let me back up a bit and start at the beginning of the story. I said “my” prints but the prints actually belong to my good friend and neighbour, Phil Balsam.
One snowy afternoon not so long ago he got out this roll prints to show me, because he knows that I like old stuff (so does he) and because he was in the middle of clearing out some space in his basement. Phil told me that he had no idea what the prints were because he had acquired them by accident. Many years ago Phil had been out for a walk when a man came out of his house with a bunch of rolled up paper in a box. Phil asked the man what was in the box and the man said that they were prints and then immediately asked Phil if he wanted them. Phil said “sure”. That was the entire exchange! Phil brought them home, had a quick look at them and put them in a drawer where they remained rolled up for two decades.
When Phil and I unrolled the prints together to take a closer look, we could instantly see that they were something special. The art work looked so beautiful, and I thought I recognised the style of one of the prints (it was the Lowry with his stick people). Leaning over and squinting I could just make out the name Baynard Press in tiny letters at the bottom, but that meant nothing to me. I told Phil that I would go home and look them up and try to see what we had found. Phil encouraged me to take them home with me then and there. Not only was he eager to clean out his basement, he also knew that there is nothing I like more than a good research project to work on! Phil has insisted on giving them to me, just as I insist that they are still his. We are good old friends and both agreed that they should carry on their adventure.
That evening I spent many happy hours unrolling the prints and admiring them. I also counted them – 23 in total! An online search soon led me to all sorts of information about the Baynard Print series and I became fascinated by the post-war effort of Brenda Rawnsley and her husband, Derek, to bring quality art to the classrooms of Great Britain. I also discovered that these prints are quite sought after. The next day I had afternoon tea with Phil, as we often do, and told him the prints seemed like they had an interesting history and a value and Phil encouraged me to see if I could find a way to sell them.
I sent out emails to a number of places including Art on Paper, who replied promptly with a warm email and we quickly developed a rapport. This soon led to a facetime call with Phil and I in Toronto and Katy on Portland in Dorset, UK. Despite a few technical hitches, we had a preliminary inspection of the prints together. It was hard to manage the screen and the prints, some a bit delicate and all curled up after all this time. Katy shared with us some information about paper restoration and we had a nice chat!
It turns out Katy also likes an adventure and we all decided to go on a journey together with these prints. Katy will restore the prints and I will write some blog posts and Phil will hear of the adventures and drink tea with me and Katy (virtually) whenever possible.
One of Phil’s many talents is as a composer. He wrote the music for Jim Henson’s well-known series ‘Fraggle Rock’. I mentioned this to Katy not sure if she would know what it was, but it turns out that the Isle of Portland used to be called ‘Fraggle Rock’ by some of the locals! Just one tiny coincidence showing how despite the world being a big old place, there is space and opportunity for all sorts of connections.
The School Prints were not in perfect condition – some worse than others. Some were in quite good condition. Others were torn in places, and stuck up in other instances with tape which had stained the paper. We know that there are other school prints available, probably in better original condition than these ones, but they don’t come with the extra history of mysterious world travel, fraggle rock, and companionship over cups of tea.
Four of the school prints are in the process of being tidied up and made presentable and will be available on the website soon:
Mare and Foal, John Skeaping, SP1 (sample copy)
The Winning Side, James Boswell, SP35
The Bird, Georges Braque, SP27
The Band, Raoul Dufy, SP25
Others to follow in the near future – we’ll let you know their progress!