Brewer's Known Woodcuts
Brewer was one of the very last British artists to make color woodcuts. They first appeared at the Society of Graphic Art exhibition in 1939. Presumably, he had begun to make them some time before. Color woodcuts are by no means easy to produce, but there is no sense of the beginner in the earliest ones.
Perhaps Brewer knew the work of John Platt and his book, Colour Woodcuts. Platt was by then the leading British color woodcut artist, after all. Platt wrote the introduction to his book in December 1937. The changes of tone he introduced were similar to the ones that appeared in Brewer's work just two years later.
It would be a mistake to underestimate Brewer. His sense of color was acute, and when it comes to his woodcuts, the reminders of artists as diverse as Oscar Droege, Francis Towne, and John Sell Cotman are all to the good. There is an undoubted touch of Jean Harlow's Hollywood in "Lake Como (The Pergola)." It is not just elegant froth; it's consummate froth. Most British color woodcut artists would have avoided such pale tones to avoid any comparison with watercolor. Even more original is the use of shape in "Mont Blanc." No other color woodcut artist was working in this way, but it is similar to Platt's way of building up images from pieces of tissue laid over each other—one that he taught to his students.
A woodcut like "Mont Blanc" and "Lake Como (The Pergola)" might have represented Brewer's way of moving away from the etching tradition towards work that appeared to be modern. Collectors of Brewer's etchings may well be bemused by his change of manner, but the fact that he could change and beat other British color woodcut artists at their own game says a good deal about his standards of workmanship.
It may not always appeal, but Brewer's professionalism is just as impressive as the distant grandeur of his mountains. John Platt advised would-be color woodcut artists to study the work of great masters like Hokusai and Utamaro. It was to Brewer's credit that he didn't.
Excerpted and adapted with permission from the Modern Printmakers blog: