HUGHES-STANTON, Blair Rowlands

1902 - 1981

Born at Kensington, London on 22 February 1902, second child and only son of the four children of Royal Academician, Sir Herbert Edwin Hughes-Stanton, who added Stanton to his surname, and his wife Elizabeth (Bessie) Cobden née Rowlands, who married at Marylebone, London in 1898. At the age of 13 he joined the Royal Navy training ship H.M.S. Conway but six years later, on the advice of his father, joined the Byam Shaw School of Art 1919-1922 and the Royal Academy Schools 1922-1923. He attended evening classes at Leon Underwood's newly established Brook Green School of Painting and Sculpture at Hammersmith. Underwood’s remained the dominant influence on him and in 1923 the American wood engraver Marion Mitchell, introduced him to wood engraving, which set the direction of his life. Other pupils included sculptor Henry Moore and Gertrude Hermes whom he married in 1926 and they had two children, Judith (born 1927) and Simon (born 1928). In 1928 his Hammersmith flat became flooded when he rented a cottage at Hacheston, Suffolk where Henry Moore spent part of his honeymoon with Ida Radetsky in a tent in the garden. In 1930 Hughes-Stanton and Hermes, along with William McCance and Agnes Miller Parker, were appointed in various capacities to the artistic and business management of the Gregynog Press. In 1930 began an affair with Ida Graves [q.v.] which he celebrated with his work 'Rebirth' and relations were strained with some of the board at Gregynog who felt that Hughes-Stanton's wood engravings were too erotic, and his personal conduct was upsetting Margaret and Gwendoline Davies who owned the press. About this time Hughes-Stanton produced his best works wood engravings for ‘Comus’ by John Milton in 1931, ‘Erewhon’ by Samuel Butler in 1932 and ‘The Revelation of Saint John the Divine, Four Poems’ by Milton and ‘The Lamentations of Jeremiah’, all of which appeared in 1933. In March 1932 Hermes left Hughes-Stanton and moved back to London, where she stayed with Leon Underwood and later divorced him. Hughes-Stanton left the Gregynog Press in September 1933 and Blair and Ida moved to Higham on the Essex/Suffolk borders from where Blair founded the Gemini Press and in 1934 the press produced ‘Epithalamion’ by Ida Graves, with 23 full-page wood engravings by Hughes-Stanton; the book is a celebration of their physical and spiritual wedding, even though they were unable to marry. They later moved to a late mediaeval timber house in Stratford St Mary, Suffolk which they spent many years restoring. By 1939 their relationship was almost at an end and in 1940 he joined the Royal Engineers serving in the Middle East and then transferred to Greece, where he was captured when a prison guard in the temporary P.O.W. camp at Corinth shot him in the throat and skull when he strayed too close to the wire. His injury incapacitated him as he moved to a series of camps in Germany, and he was finally repatriated in August 1943. Hughes-Stanton had already started teaching at the Westminster School of Art before the war, and he now became more and more reliant on teaching, at Colchester School of Art 1945-1947, Saint Martin's School of Art 1947-1948 and the Central School of Art and Design and even in his seventies he was teaching at Winchester School of Art. He had very few commissions during this period, and the engravings for his best-known book from this period ‘The Confessions of an English Opium Eater’ by Thomas de Quincey (Folio Society, 1948 and 1963) had been engraved in the early 1930’s for the Fanfrolico Press. Hughes-Stanton left Graves in 1950 and took refuge with Gertrude Hermes and in 1952 he married Anne Ross, a former student, with whom he had two daughters, Penelope (born 1954) and Chloë (born 1955). He died at Kings Lynn, Norfolk on 6 June 1981, and his ashes were scattered on the River Stour, Suffolk by his two friends from the local public house. Although he did some work in oils and spent a great deal of time experimenting with linocuts in his later years, Hughes-Stanton's artistic production consists mostly of wood engravings.




Works by This Painter