Roger fry

Bright, beautiful and deceptively simple: the art of the linocut

In the 1920s the linocut broke out of the schoolroom and on to gallery walls. Here was a democratic new art form, perfect for the times with its lowly materials — a piece of old linoleum flooring for the block, while the best tools, according to the artist Claude Flight, were an old umbrella spoke for cutting and a toothbrush to rub the back of the paper. The finished prints, Flight hoped, would be cheap enough for working-class pockets. Above all, the bright, dynamic images themselves, often depicting scenes of contemporary life — busy streets, the London Underground, skating, the first motor races — captured the mood of the age.

Nina Hamnett’s art was every bit as riveting as her life

Nina Hamnett is in vogue again. She is the subject of a new pocket biography, no. 7 in Eiderdown Books’s Modern Women Artists series, and her first ever retrospective is now open at Charleston Farmhouse’s gallery space. I confess I didn’t know much about her before this resurrection, but she is now one of my favourite 20th-century artists. In this bucolic gallery space, where cows can be heard bellowing, her portraits are at last hanging together, like a cocktail party finally regrouped. The colours are subtle, beautiful without being decorative; as the co-curator Alicia Foster explains, Hamnett’s use of colour is ‘meaningful, incisive’. Her circus paintings are thick with atmosphere,