Edmund Blampied British 1886-1966
Edmund Blampied was one of the most eminent artists to come from the Channel Islands yet he received no formal education in art until he was 15 years old. He was mostly noted for his etchings and drypoints published at the height of the print boom in the 1920’s, but was also a lithographer, caricaturist, cartoonist and book illustrator.
Blampied was born on a farm in the Parish of St. Martin in the island of Jersey on 30th March 1886. He left school at the age of 14 and went to work in the office of the town architect in St. Helier, the capital of the island. Some of his sketches were noticed at an agricultural show in 1902 by Mlle Josephine Klintz, a woman who ran a local private art school, and she gave the young Blampied his first formal lessons in art and introduced him to watercolours. His caricatures of local politicians brought him to the attention of a Jersey businessman who offered to sponsor Blampied at art school in London, provided he tried to get a scholarship. In January 1903, aged 16 years old and barely able to speak English, Blampied left Jersey for Lambeth Art school. He duly won a £20 London County Council Scholarship for 2 years to continue his studies at Lambeth, and joined the staff of The Daily Chronicle to earn some extra money. In 1905 he transferred from Lambeth to the LCC School of Photo-engraving and Lithography at Bolt Court. After finishing his scholarship it is believed that Blampied continued to work at The Daily Chronicle while studying at Bolt Court in the evenings where he learned etching under Walter Seymour.
In 1911 Blampied started out as an independent artist and gained commissions to provide drawings for Pearson’s Magazine, The Sketch, The Sphere and The Graphic, as well as illustrating presentation editions of The Money Moon by Jeffrey Farnol (T. Fisher Unwin, 1914) and The Way of an Eagle by Ethel M. Dell (Sampson, Low Marston, 1916). He married Marianne van Abbé, the sister of Dutch-born artists Salomon and Joseph van Abbé, in 1914.
Blampied’s early etchings were shown at the first and highly influential “Modern Masters of Etching” exhibition at the Leicester Galleries of Ernest Brown & Phillips in 1915 who later published his first prints. Their issue was delayed until after the war while Blampied returned to Jersey to join the island Militia. During the war he continued to work extensively for book publishers, especially for Thomas Nelson and Sons, for whom he illustrated many children’s books. Soon after his return to London in 1920 he held his first exhibition of etchings and drypoints at the Leicester Galleries. He was elected an associate of the Royal Society of Painter Etchers and Engravers in 1920 and to the full membership in 1921. In the same year he started to experiment with lithography and took evening classes with Archibald Hartrick at the Central School of Arts and Crafts. The School submitted two of Blampied’s lithographs with the work of other students to the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris in 1925. The School won a Grand Prix for its works on paper and Blampied was one of 12 students who were awarded Gold Medals.
While developing his reputation as an etcher and lithographer in the early 1920’s Blampied continued to work extensively for magazines and contributed political cartoons and decorative drawings regularly to The Bystander as well as designing book jackets for Hodder & Stoughton, Herbert Jenkins and T. Fisher Unwin. In 1927 Blampied gave up his commercial work to travel in southern Europe and north Africa, and some of his drawings from this period were bought by Martin Hardie for the Victoria & Albert Museum and Eton College.
In 1931 Blampied returned to book illustration to design a fine edition of Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes by R.L. Stevenson for The Bodley Head. An exhibition of caricatures and cartoons in 1931 called “Blampied’s Nonsense Show” brought out his love of the absurd and led to his only book, a collection of cartoons obscurely entitled Bottled Trout and Polo (1936). Blampied returned to work for magazines in 1933 with a weekly series of illustrations in ink and sepia wash of British life for The Illustrated London News and continued with occasional cartoons for The Sketch between 1935 and 1938. In 1938 he was elected to the Royal Society of British Artists.
The Blampied Edition of Peter and Wendy was published in 1939 by Hodder & Stoughton and is one of the finest illustrated editions of this book. But by the time it was published Blampied had returned to live in Jersey and remained there throughout the war. During the German occupation of the Channels Islands he designed new currency notes and stamps for Jersey. He remained in island after the war and worked mostly in oils and watercolours except for a series of silhouettes in 1950 and a few etchings in 1958. He died in his beloved island of Jersey on 26th August 1966, aged 80 years.
Dodgson, Campbell (1926). A Complete Catalogue of the Etchings and Drypoints of Edmund Blampied. London: Halton and Truscott Smith.
Salaman, Malcolm (1926). Modern Masters of Etching No. 10 Edmund Blampied. London: The Studio.
Salaman, Malcolm (1932). The lithographs of Edmund Blampied. Print Collector’s Quarterly 19 (4): 298 -319.
Syvret, Marguerite (1986). Edmund Blampied. London: Robin Garton.
Arnold, A. & Appleby, J. (1996). A Catalogue Raisonné of Etchings, Drypoints and Lithographs of Edmund Blampied. Jersey: JAB Publishing.
© Andrew Hall February 2006