The Prints, Bookworks and drawings of Birgit Skiold (1923-1982), an interactive 'catalogue-raisonne' based on works in the BSMT collection

Lead Research Organisation: University of Gloucestershire
Department Name: Faculty of Media Art and Technology

Abstract

The project to develop an illustrated interactive 'catalogue-raisonné' of prints, bookworks and drawings by Birgit Skiöld (1923-1982) is based on the Birgit Skiöld Memorial Trust's large collection of work by the artist, and prints in the V&A Word & Image Department. An art-historian, an interactive media designer, and a printmaker with specialist knowledge of intaglio and drawing techniques applied to printmaking, strongly supported by a technical team of photographers and digital specialists worked for 12 months to research, photograph, design and develop an electronic catalogue of Skiöld's work. Other specialists who supported this work include the artist's printers, who were interviewed, a paper expert, an expert in lithography and museum archivists.
Previous research resulted in a working catalogue of editioned prints. As work progressed it became clear that existing knowledge based on exhibition catalogues (posthumous) and handlists was not sufficient, nor accurate. The artist's practice of generating artist's proofs, (with editions assigned, but not always produced), meant that many interesting works would be neglected if the catalogue of works was restricted to editions alone. The new catalogue includes fresh information about the editioned works and artist's proofs extracted from the artist's lists of exhibited works, references to proofing and editioning in the studio daybooks, correspondence and other records, and data from the prints themselves. Over 2,000 impressions have been studied, in the U.K and in Sweden. From the new evidence, it has been possible to revise the chronology of the artist's output and to extend knowledge about her work from c.1953 to the posthumously printed editions of 1983.

Arising from the investigation of her artistic origins, a picture has emerged of Skiöld's artistic development from her arrival in Britain in 1948 where she was to settle, and her subsequent studies in London, during the 1950s, and the establishment offamous studio, Print Workshop in 1957-8. Her connections to the French school, and the influence of French printmaking approaches as well as the innovative ideas on intaglio processes, emanating from Stanley Hayter's Atelier 17, are revealed. She knew Robert Erskine, who ran St George's Gallery Prints, London, and who encouraged an enlivened approach to appreciating and producing fine art prints at a time when the market was in need of revitalisation. Skiöld helped organise exhibitions for Erskine and showed her own work in key printmaking exhibitions during the 1950s and early 1960s. Skiöld's early contribution to printmaking culture was at a time of important revival and renaissance. Skiöld's husband, Peter Bird, an art historian and arts administrator, had researched Skiöld's biography and career in 1983-4. He collated catalogues of exhibitions, correspondence with other artists, pictorial records and other documents, and preserved the Daybooks belonging to Print Workshop, an important source not only on Skiöld but also on a fascinating era in printmaking culture, since many of the artists who worked at Print Workshop 1958 -1982 are mentioned. From cross-referencing these documents with other references in articles and reviews of the period, as well as the prints themselves, it has been possible to construct a better idea of Skiöld's output in the 1960s and 1970s, and its context. The chronological account has been helpful in explaining the development of her work, its themes and processes.

New work includes descriptions of the bookworks, publications, and drawings. Selected works held in other collections have been studied, in Britain, Tate Gallery, the British Museum and the British Library, London. Also, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum. In Sweden, the Kronberg and Skiöld family collections. The holdings at the Grafiken Hus, Sweden and the Moderna Museet, Stockholm will be added to the collections lists in due cours

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