ETT HEM #3

The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. “The strokes come like speech.

“The emotions are sometimes so strong that I work without knowing it. The strokes come like speech.” Vincent Van Gogh

Welcome to my third and final instalment about Carl Larsson and his watercolours of the beloved family home; a place where he ‘experienced an indescribable delightful feeling of seclusions from the hustle and bustle of the world’.

Carl Larsson (1853-1919) was heavily influenced by William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement in the UK and over the years Karin and Carl transformed their humble abode and in the process created a lasting legacy for interior design in Scandinavia and beyond. Their charming, evocative and distinctive style in furnishings is still highly influential and inspiring homemakers today.

“If light is in your heart you will always find your way home.” Rumi

Whilst Carl, with some help from carpenters, made the furniture, carved the doors and cupboards, Karin was responsible for the textiles and tapestries at ‘Little Hyttnäs’ as well as the rugs.

The idea to paint pictures of the home was first suggested to Carl by Karin during a rainy summer in 1894 when she feared her husband would fall into depression. Inspired, he continued to paint all aspects of their house and lives within and outside it.

“A picture is a poem without words.” Horace

Following Carl’s acceptance of an invitation from the publisher Bonnier to print some of his watercolours, twenty-four of the paintings were reproduced in the now famous ‘Ett Hem’ book. Initially sales were slow in Sweden until a German version became an instant bestseller in Germany, selling 40,000 copies in three months.

Carl and Karin Larsson were said to have been overwhelmed by its success however Carl always felt that the pictures of his family and home ‘became the most immediate and lasting part of my life’s work. For these pictures are of course, a very genuine expression of my personality, of my deepest feelings, of all my limitless love for my wife and children.’

‘Ett Hem’ has never been out of print and has had over 40 print runs. Today the family home is owned by their descendants and open to tourists during the summer.

We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.” Winston Churchill

NB. I look forward to reading your thoughts about the posts in this series and I will respond upon my return to the UK later in the month.

ETT HEM #2

Before marriage and settling down, Carl Larsson started his artistic career when a teacher spotted his talent early on and encouraged him to apply for the Royal Swedish Academy of Arts. Although he had difficulty settling in, within a few years he was able to earn enough money to support his parents through drawings and cartoons sold to various papers.

A move to Paris in 1877 was equally challenging although he finally found peace and inspiration in Grez-sur-Loing … and here he met Karin Bergöö, his future wife. At last, he moved away from oils and painted some of his prominent paintings with watercolours.

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Breakfast under the big birch 1896

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Nameday at the storage house 1898

“No one is able to enjoy such feast than the one who throws a party in his own mind.” Selma Lagerlöf

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Brita as Iduna

“If I have managed to brighten up even one gloomy childhood – then I’m satisfied.” Astrid Lindgren

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Self-portrait 1906

“I want someone to remember I existed. I want someone to know I was here.” Frederik Backman

NB. This is the second in a series of three posts based around the famous Swedish artist Carl Larsson and his successful book of watercolours called ‘Ett Hem’/’A Home’ centred on his family home. As I’m still on an Easter break in Sweden and disconnected from most technology, comments are turned off for this post but will be on for the next and final one in the series.

ETT HEM

Once again, I am flitting away for my usual Easter break in the peace of the Swedish landscape; savouring the calm of forest, the beauty of the lakes and seas! I’ll embrace the opportunity to unwind, relax … as nature soothes my soul.

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Ett Hem. Carl Larson 1969 edition

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a series of posts to peruse. With no more calendars to hand, I’ve drawn inspiration from a book I found at my mother’s house. Called ‘Ett Hem’, here Carl Larsson documents the family home, its gardens and his family. I will feature paintings from the book, along with self-portraits of the artist, and these will be accompanied by, hopefully, uplifting and inspiring quotations.

One of Sweden’s iconic artists, famous for the paintings of his home, Carl Larsson sadly and ironically was raised in extreme poverty. As young his father threw him, his brother and mother out into the street and thereafter he was raised in a squalid building with three families per room. This wretched start to life ensured he sought to build a loving, colourful home for his family and with the help of his wife, Karin, also an artist and designer, they redecorated the house –  Lilla Hyttnäs in Sundborn, Dalarna – given to them by her father. Carl Larsson captured in watercolours the life here with his eight children and wife in the famous book ‘Ett Hem’ (‘A Home’) – a book which ensured he never needed to fear poverty again.

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Windowsill with Flowers 1894-1898

“A childhood without books – that would be no childhood. That would be like being shut out from the enchanted place where you can go and find the rarest kind of joy.” Astrid Lindgren

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The Kitchen

“Drink your tea slowly, and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world, earth, revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing towards the future. Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.” Thich Nhat Hanh

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Cosy Corner 1894

“For, so long as there are interesting books to read, it seems to me that neither I nor anyone else, for that matter, need be unhappy.” Selma Lagerlöf

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Self-portrait 1895

“Where the spirit does not work with the hand there is no art.” Leonardo da Vinci

NB. Comments have been turned off for this and the next post but will be on for the final third post in the series.

AN ILLUMINATING ART

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I traveled through the centuries on my recent visit to the UK’s only Stained Glass Museum, located in Ely Cathedral. Over 1,000 examples of stained glass windows are held in their collection dating back to the 14th Century, although the craft is thought to have originated in the late 600s.

All topics are explored from the religious to everyday life, from science to farming, from nature to portraiture. The techniques vary enormously as new skills were introduced over time and the differences will be evident in the photos.  The concepts and trends changed dramatically during the centuries.

The introductory window above is a contemporary design entitled Inner Space (1979). This blended art and science and is an interpretation of electron photomighraph of hydra tissue (micro-organism). It illustrates many various techniques of modern design including texturing, acid-etching, tracing as well as traditional leading.

These three traditional -style windows are 600 years apart in age but look as striking and vibrant as ever. Furthest left is Geometric Grisaille (1200-1250s) which is a design expressing the simplicity of the Cistercian monastic ideal and aided the meditation for the monks. The middle panel, The Dawning of the Last Day (1871), is unusual in that it was designed by a clergyman in memory of his father and noticeably moved away from the Gothic Revival towards original motifs. The last of three, The Good Shepherd (1867), uniquely weaves together a painterly style of the figure with the gothic revival surrounds of the rich foliage.

The influence of the Arts and Crafts movement is evident in the window furthest left. Fathers of the Church (1904) depicts St. Augustine, Venerable Bede and St. Cuthbert. The next two windows were commissioned as part of the revival and popularity of stained glass windows in the 1800s and there was a push to return to the ‘True Principle’ of Gothic style windows. The Dance of Solomon (1856), formerly within Ely cathedral, is a lively panel, and one of four depicting St John the Baptist’s life, and martyrdom. The Arms of Queen Margaret of Anjou (c.1840) was designed by a heraldic scholar to blend the arms of 15-year-old Margaret who married Henry VI.

The Typography Panel (c.1930) was most likely a sampler created to demonstrate letter writing on glass, and the use of painted cross-hatching is clearly evident. To the right, this fish experimental piece (1950s) makes effective use of flashed glass and acid-etching within its two layers (to add depth) of pink and blue glass.

Angels are the common factor for these first two windows. Inspired by William Morris and his circle who hoped to rescue the decorative arts from commercialisation and industrial methods of production, the first window is one of two entitled Angel Musicians (1910-1912). It was influenced by famous late 19th-century designers when angel figures were typical of the Italianate style. The centre panel was created 400 years earlier and the Angel Musician (1440-80) shows a unique style of painting particular to the Norfolk area in the UK, which through its riches of the woollen trade produced the majority of stained glass windows at the time. The Annunciation of the Virgin (c.1340) is the oldest of the three panels and created in an era of illiteracy when religious education involved painted windows. It is the finest example of English glass painting of the ‘Decorated’ Gothic style.

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Roundels have existed as a form of stained glass windows since their inception. The most modern is self-explanatory entitled Five Victorian Studios (1987). The opulent roundel of gold shows The Suicide of Charondas of Catanea (c.1530) and establishes the theme of justice as he broke his own laws and thereafter committed suicide. It was most likely produced in the Netherlands which was famous for its thousand or so small and exquisite roundels. The last of the three windows heralds from a church in Burgandy, northern France. St. Vincent on the Gridiron (c.1225-50) is part of a narrative by Gothic glass painters and depicts St. Vincent’s suffering for his faith as he is roasted on a gridiron.

These final three windows are from the very early days of stained glass window design. The central panel, Peasant Figure (c.1340-49), was once part of a large and important window in the Lady Chapel of Ely Cathedral and at one stage it would have been richly decorated. It is highly unusual for the mere figure of a peasant to be depicted in a glass window. Also rarely created were windows for patrons, which is the case of Donors of William and Matilda Cele (1350-1400) who ensured the survival of their name and contribution for 700 years and onwards. The bird in Bird Quarry is slightly older and produced in the 15th-century. These simple diamond shaped quarries were made in their thousands using white glass, glass painting and silver stain. They often depicted animals with amusing human motifs; here the robin is shown carrying a rosary.

Along one wall of the exhibition, there were mock-up models of stained glass studios showing the various stages of creating a window and some of these are pictured below.

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All photos ©Annika Perry

Credit for post title to The Stained Glass Museum guide which uses this as a chapter heading.

CREATIVE ENERGY

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Whimsy met fantasy, nature recreated by man stood next to the absurd, the beautiful rested close to the ethereal celebration of family. A journey of discovery ensued as I visited the Gardens and Arboretum of Marks Hall which hosted over 300 sculptures from across the UK. For once such a magnificent exhibition was near to me and with a childish delight of the unknown, I set off to explore…and found the most wonderfully surprising, original, colourful and creative work imaginable. It felt an honour to feast my eyes upon these sculptures and I left a few hours later in awe of the artists and inspired by the collective creative energy.

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The plaque accompanying this magnificent statue was written by the designer, Stephen Charlton and is a testament to his desire to share joy and happiness with the viewer through his work.

‘THE OFFERING
NO WORD SAID,
BUT WITH A SIMPLE,
GESTURE INSTEAD.
AN OFFER OF MY HEART,
LET’S BE ONE TOGETHER
– NEVER APART.’

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The magnificent and awe-inspiring ‘Freedom’ stands in the prime position looking across the lakes, a glorious celebration of being, ready to take flight. It’s majestic in execution and simply breath-taking in scope.

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This wonderful ‘Guardian Angel’ is made entirely from cedar wood and the photograph is deceptive of its size with the statue being thigh high. Its huge wings reach out as if to scoop you up into safety. Its creator, Ed Elliot declared that ‘sculpture is a language for me and I aim to create a memorable presence with my work. Finding the right environments for sculpture is crucial in finishing many pieces and making them sing’.

 

Animals featured too amongst the sculptures including a variety of birds, fighting hares as well as two beautiful willow horses, the light flickering across the material rendering it almost life-like. It was hard not to just reach out and touch the friendly creatures. Their creator Jane Foddy says that ‘willow is a natural product that bends in elegant curves. Willow sculptures cast intriguing shadows as the sun moves across the sky, which brings them to life and suggests movement.’

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Rounding the corner from the dark shade of a wood I entered the light of late summer afternoon and ahead in a beautiful golden circle, yellow flowers fluttered serenely in the light breeze. At the centre I spied a gleaming white statue of four figures and approaching it I realised I must meander through the maze cut through the flowers…how original and imaginative. Closer I spied the family unit of four enveloped in hugs, standing tall and stoic, looking bravely into the future.

 

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There was a variety of modern art sculptures dotted around the two and a half acre site; nature inspired many such as the glass and metal flowers, the metallic leaves of one is mirrored by the metal scooped windmill branches of another rotating creation which thrilled with its quiet ease of motion.

 

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Other sculptures took on a more abstract form, mimicking the tall trees around as well as one displaying an everyday bird bath which is ingeniously unique and quaint.

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I paused in front of the giant portal made from rusty steel; visions of numerous viewings of ‘Stargate’ come to mind. Did I dare pass through into the next dimension? Tickled with excitement I stepped beneath the circular arch – of course, I was still here, nothing had changed but for a moment the possibility thrilled me and then it occurred to me, that by visiting I had changed, new thoughts were born, energy was refreshed.

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This ginormous stained glass mosaic ball was stunning in its breadth of creation, ideas and colours which came vibrantly to life and was a most unusual form of stained glass artwork I’ve come across.

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Quirky, fantastically absurd and eye-catching summed up this astonishing creation of the fork and the conker. It stopped everyone in their tracks as the rule book of the norm, the expected was thrown out and a new reality recreated for us.

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Two personal favourites of my visit were of a smaller size. The wave totem was made of ceramic stoneware with in-glaze images of photographs from olden days. It was a terrifically atmospheric work, reminiscent of another era whilst using the art from across the Atlantic.

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The Rustic Oak Tree was galvanised steel formed into a perfect oak tree and placed on the autumn colours of a display board. Here the artist, Chris Townsend wanted to ‘challenge sculptural space’. He added that ‘in public places, beautiful objects can intrigue, calm and inspire. Some simply bring on a smile…”

All the sculptures at Marks Hall certainly achieved that, smiles all round, conversation flowing as discussions ensued, spirits revived on a beautiful late summer sunny day.

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I hope you enjoyed your ‘tour’ of the exhibitions and thank you for reading and viewing. Do you have any favourites of the sculptures I posted? Have you had the opportunity to visit any sculptures shows during the summer (or for some winter). I look forward to reading your thoughts and comments.

ON SOLITUDE AND LIFE

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This is the last in a series of Bert Håge Häverö (Swedish artist 1932-2014) paintings which I will feature during my holiday break this Easter. These delightful photographs were taken from our company calendar which we gave out to customers many years ago. Never having the heart to throw our copy away I came across this recently and wanted to share the beauty he saw of the Swedish landscape and people. Accompanying the paintings will be various quotations /sayings/poems that have inspired me or touched my spirit.  Comments have been turned off for this post.

 

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‘When I am feeling dreary, annoyed, and generally unimpressed by life, I imagine what it would be like to come back to this world for just a day after having been dead. I imagine how sentimental I would feel about the very things I once found stupid, hateful, or mundane. Oh, there’s a light switch! I haven’t seen a light switch in so long! I didn’t realize how much I missed light switches! Oh! Oh! And look — the stairs up to our front porch are still completely cracked! Hello cracks! Let me get a good look at you. And there’s my neighbor, standing there, fantastically alive, just the same, still punctuating her sentences with you know what I’m saying? Why did that bother me? It’s so… endearing.’

Amy Krouse Rosenthal (1965-2017)

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‘Reading it that evening was like having someone whisper to me, in elongated Germanic sentences, all the youthful affirmations I had been yearning to hear. Loneliness is just space expanding around you. Trust uncertainty. Sadness is life holding you in its hands and changing you. Make solitude your home.’

Rachel Corbett on Rainer Maria Rilke

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PERFECTION / IMP OF AN IDEA

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This is the second of three posts on Bert Håge Häverö (Swedish artist 1932-2014) paintings which I will feature during my holiday break this Easter. These delightful photographs were taken from our company calendar which we gave out to customers many years ago. Never having the heart to throw our copy away I came across this recently and wanted to share the beauty he saw of the Swedish landscape and people. Accompanying the paintings will be various quotations /sayings/poems that have inspired me or touched my spirit. Comments have been turned off for this post.

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‘I am lying on a hammock, on the terrace of my room at the Hotel Mirador, the diary open on my knees, the sun shining on the diary, and I have no desire to write. The sun, the leaves, the shade, the warmth, are so alive that they lull the senses, calm the imagination. This is perfection. There is no need to portray, to preserve. It is eternal, it overwhelms you, it is complete.’ Anaïs Nin

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‘It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.’  Mary Oliver

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THE FIRST POET / THE MUSE WILL COME

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This is the first of three posts on Bert Håge Häverö (Swedish artist 1932-2014) paintings which I will feature during my holiday break this Easter. These delightful photographs were taken from our company calendar which we gave out to customers many years ago. Never having the heart to throw our copy away I came across this recently and wanted to share the beauty he saw of the Swedish landscape and people. Accompanying the paintings will be various quotations /sayings/poems that have inspired me or touched my spirit. Comments have been turned off for this post.

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‘The first poet must have suffered much when the cave-dwellers laughed at his mad words. He would have given his bow and arrows and lion skin, everything he possessed, just to have his fellow-men know the delight and the passion which the sunset had created in his soul. And yet, is it not this mystic pain — the pain of not being known — that gives birth to art and artists’  Kahlil Gibran

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‘I start all my books on January eighth. Can you imagine January seventh? It’s hell. Every year on January seventh, I prepare my physical space. I clean up everything from my other books. I just leave my dictionaries, and my first editions, and the research materials for the new one. And then on January eighth I walk seventeen steps from the kitchen to the little pool house that is my office. It’s like a journey to another world. It’s winter, it’s raining usually. I go with my umbrella and the dog following me. From those seventeen steps on, I am in another world and I am another person. I go there scared. And excited. And disappointed — because I have a sort of idea that isn’t really an idea. The first two, three, four weeks are wasted. I just show up in front of the computer. Show up, show up, show up, and after a while the muse shows up, too. If she doesn’t show up invited, eventually she just shows up.’   Isabel Allende

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A SENSE OF PLACE

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Tower of London

Every week I look forward to Friday morning and a treat in the form of Bernadette’s regular ‘Feminist Friday’ posts on her blog haddonmusings.com  The women featured, both famous and not so famous, are aways inspiring and fascinating. Recently I heard the story of one British woman who was a trailblazer in the world of printmaking and I want to share her life, her work with you.

helenaArtist and printmaker Helena Markson is a person whose name and fame should have spread far beyond her field of expertise. Born in London in 1934, she studied at Salisbury School of Art and then at Central School of Art before becoming a successful professional printmaker. Initially she co-directed a Fine Art Printmaking workshop, soon after she set up an etching studio in London before teaching at Chelsea College of Art and St. Martin’s School of Art in London. During this time she exhibited many of her prints. Her lifelong career took her across the UK, to America and Israel and she worked until her death in 2012.  

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Brighton Fair

Although there were women involved in printmaking in the 1950s, most would work on smaller pieces that were made using less equipment and could be done at home, for example wood engravings, wood-cuttings and lino cuttings. Helena was unusual in that she worked in etchings, often large ones, which used acid and print presses; in other words she worked from a print studio with both the space and ventilation she required. 

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Albert Dock

 

Throughout her life Helena was inspired by architecture and her range of work reflects this; she always depicted places she had a special connection to and particularly buildings. These were firstly from her life in London and Salisbury. Later Liverpool featured strongly in her work following an important  commission by the main town planner who had been drawn to her earlier work. As a result she spent much time completing a series of prints highlighting the urban renewal undergoing in Liverpool in the 1960s.

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Palm House

Israel was the centre for the latter part of Helena’s career as well as her life. Initially she was invited to show her work in the country, however she was immediately fascinated and drawn to the country and its people and in 1970 Helena moved permanently to Israel. Helena is held in high esteem in the county and is seen as a pioneer who set up the country’s first print studio at the newly created University of Haifa. As co-founder of the Art Department within the university she brought printing presses and equipment from the UK to form the new print studio. Later she set up the Fine Art Print Studios and taught lithography and etching and became Professor Emeritus of Haifa University. 

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Waving Grasses

Helena was a private person throughout her life but she always retained a strong emotional presence to wherever she worked and this was true for her work in Israel which cemented her fascination with landscape and all her prints are imbued by a sense of place. However in Israel there was a transition in her style; her early work of London and Liverpool  were mainly monotone subtle colours and architectural whilst her later prints gave more a sense of space in vibrant blues and oranges. 

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Abercrombie Square

Even though she lived and worked in Israel until her death aged 78, Helena continued to visit the UK and America.  In the UK the poet, Dylan Thomas, particularly caught her attention and she completed a series based on his poems called ‘Dwelling Places’ with images of places she had lived, books she had read and people she knew. 

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book-coverHelena Markson’s beautiful prints are open to view in collections around the world including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Tate Britain in London. A book celebrating her work has recently been released and is entitled ‘Helena Markson – A Sense of Place’ .

Sources include: BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Friday    25. 11.16    10.00 am