Catalogue entry

Michael Rothenstein born 1908

P11083 The Giraffe 1985

Woodcut with hand colouring in watercolour 756 x 1126 (29 3/4 x 44 5/16), on two sheets of Somerset Cream 300 gsm paper 826 x 564 (32 1/2 x 22 3/16) and 829 x 632 (32 5/8 x 24 7/8); printed by Ann Westley and hand coloured by the artist; published by Argus Studio, not editioned
Inscribed ‘Michael Rothenstein' below image b.r.
Presented by Angela Flowers 1985

The following entry is based on written answers to questions in a letter to the artist of October 7 1987 and has been approved by him.

The edition of this print was ‘undeclared' and only four copies were printed by the artist's former assistant, Ann Westley, in his studio in Essex. The prints were all hand coloured by the artist.

The image recalls a visit to the Zoo in Rome on All Saints' Day 1983. The artist has described the scene: ‘Parents had bought rabbit and Mickey Mouse balloons for the kids ... real animals, rubber inflatable lookalikes, kids in bright colours, parents on holiday, everything alive in the sunlight and blowing in the wind! A giraffe reaches over the pit: a child in arms reaches out a bun.'

The central image of the child sheltering in the arms of an adult came from the memory of the artist's own son's fear on an early visit to a zoo.

The work evolved from notebook sketches from life and was preceded by two pastel drawings of the subject, of similar size, in the artist's collection. The zoo visit furnished images for three further woodcuts: ‘The Little Zoo', 1985, ‘The Macaw', 1985, and ‘The Balloon Seller', 1986.

The print was cut on one block which was subsequently cut in half and printed on two sheets, as the size of the press dictated. The sheets were later abutted. The print is unusual for being entirely coloured by hand. The artist writes:

I've only done a few large hand-coloured prints. The hand-colouring gives a freedom of colour-feeling I find impossible in editioning. The strong blacks frame the colour areas a bit like leading in a stain-glass window. The power and rigidity of the black line, the fluidity and transparency of the watercolour gives a very distinct form of expression that avoids the repetitious block-cutting of editioned colour.


The hand-colouring is different in each version of the print.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, p.453