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Beard-pullers linocut

Object number: ROMGH.1999.359

Type: Printing block

Technique: Engraved

Material: Linoleum

Width: 17.3cm | Height: 32.5cm

Production date: 1920 - 1968

 Yes you can     No you cannot
Use the same Celtic patterns in your art and craft work Yes
Use this design for commercial purposes without the permission of the Copyright holder No
Commercially reproduce this object without the permission of the Copyright holder No

One of the fascinating things about zoomorphic designs is trying to work out which individual parts of the body have been interlaced. Here there are two pairs of men facing each other. Viewed from the top down, their forelocks are interlinked, then their beards, and then their arms and legs. Bain has adapted the design from a similar illustration in the St Matthew’s monogram page in the Book of Kells. The motif was used repeatedly by him and his students.

Bain first became interested in the engraving qualities of linoleum in 1907, when he had a temporary teaching post in Kirkcaldy. Several of his students had older family members in the lino trade, a major employer in the town. They brought in thick pieces for him to experiment with. He found it easier to cut than wood and its lack of grain meant that the ink printed more evenly from its smooth surface. By 1911 Bain was encouraging his pupils to use it.

An article in the journal ‘Printing’ describes his work in great detail. A number of internationally famous artists have subsequently used the process, including Pablo Picasso and M C Escher.

See: The Book of Kells, TCD MS58 folio 34r, Trinity College Dublin (detail centre right)
and  Bain’s article My  New Process of Lino Engraving published in the journal Printing  June 1934

See Bain's Celtic Art, Methods of Construction page 115, Plate 14

Author: Diana Cobden

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