Gertrude Hermes

Fathomless Sounding


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Gertrude Hermes 1901–1983
Wood engraving on paper
Image: 381 × 251 mm
Purchased 1984

Catalogue entry

Gertrude Hermes 1901-1983

P77067 Fathomless Sounding 1932

Wood engraving 381 x 251 (15 x 9 7/8) on wove paper 546 x 421 (21 1/2 x 16 5/8 ); watermark ‘BRITISH EMBLEM | MADE IN ENGLAND' plus a rose motif; printed and published by the artist in an edition of 30
Inscribed ‘Fathomless Sounding 25/30' below image b.l. and ‘Gertrude Hermes.1932' below image b.r.
Purchased from the artist's daughter Judy Russell (Grant-in-Aid) 1984
Lit: Christopher Neve, Leon Underwood, 1974, pp.93-4

In 1926 Gertrude Hermes married Blair Hughes-Stanton (1902-81), having met her husband while both were students at Leon Underwood's private art school, The Brook Green School of Art, in Girdler's Road, London. Hermes was a student there from 1921-5 and Hughes-Stanton was there from 1923-5. A fellow student there, Carolyn Marion Mitchell (born 1903), had started making wood engravings c.1922 after seeing some woodcuts by Derain, and it was Mitchell's work that inspired Gertrude Hermes, Leon Underwood and Blair Hughes-Stanton to take up wood engraving shortly afterwards. Because these three artists worked closely together and shared an enthusiasm for the medium of wood engraving, their work in this field displays formal and technical similarities and reveals a measure of cross influences. Underwood wrote a collection of short verses about animals and birds and provided the wood engravings for a book entitled Animalia: Fibs about Beasts, published in 1926. One of the wood engravings entitled ‘Dolphins' (repr. Neve 1974, pl.54) is close in spirit and content to P77067. The subject matter of P77067 appears to be an imaginative composition of a whale spiralling through water above which is a diving sea-bird. In the same year that she cut P77067 Hermes produced a wood engraving of ‘Jonah in the Whale'. Also in 1933 her husband Blair Hughes-Stanton produced wood cut illustrations for D.H.Lawrence's The Ship of Death, published 1933, and one of the wood cuts was entitled ‘Whales'. Hermes returned to the theme of a large fish spiralling through water with other creatures poised at the top of the composition in her wood engraving ‘Undercurrents' 1938 (repr. Gertrude Hermes, exh. cat., Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1967, [p.19]), which depicts a large fish, seen in profile at the bottom of the composition, and naked male and female figures at the top caught in a vortex of swirling water.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, p.378

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