As the days get shorter, this copper engraving of a derelict farm evokes the dark drizzly season. It was made by Norma Morgan who had picked up this form of intaglio printmaking only two years before at the New York branch of Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17. She is one of only two African American women (along with Evangeline St. Claire) who were documented participants of the famed printing workshop where the ethos was about the limitless creative possibilities of print rather than just its reproductive power.
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1928, Morgan showed artistic promise at an early age. In 1951, she received a fellowship grant for young artists of colour from the John Hay Whitney Foundation. She said: “I immediately made my plans for visiting the setting of the novels by Hardy and Brontë… I went by freighter, and I went alone.” Arriving in Devon in October 1951, she would spend the next 18 months in Britain, drawn to craggy moorland and granite quarries. First staying with a farming family on the edge of Dartmoor, she visited Stanbury, Yorkshire, where this print was made, as well as the artist hangouts of Soho. She spent Christmas at Jamaica Inn in Cornwall, its smugglers history memorialised by Daphne du Maurier. According to the 1971 book ‘Seventeen Black Artists’ by Elton C. Fax, Morgan recalled that the parties in the pub were wild!
Returning to New York in 1953, her engravings of the rugged British landscape were very well received. She became affiliated with the highly influential Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop, a diverse print hub still going strong in Manhattan today. Morgan felt the pull of rural life however, spending further travel grants on extended trips to her old haunts in England and the Scottish Highlands, eventually moving to the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York where she carried on making prints until the age of 89.
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