Curwen and Collaborative Printmaking

Harold Curwen took over the management of the family business Curwen Press, then in Plaistow East London, in the early part of the 20th century. The historic relationship between the Curwen and artists’s own involvement in printed image making began in those early years.

Harold had just returned from Leipzig imbued with fresh ideas about typographical design and the importance of employing artists on creative projects in his own printing works. His plan was to invigorate publishers and public alike, armed with enthusiasm for new, modern ideas.


Stanley Jones and Lorraine Chitson - Henry Moore poster Stanley Jones MBE and Lorraine Chitson in the Curwen Print Study Centre

Harold was a true pioneer of his time. Many of his associates in the London printing world such as the Design and Industry Association were very sympathetic to his views and together formed a strong influence over the future course of printing and publishing, not only in the British Isles but in Europe and America too.

At the end of World War One Harold Curwen was joined by Oliver Simon (and later Oliver’s brother Herbert) who shared an enthusiasm for the encouragement and the employment of artists in both printed image making and good design.

From the early 1920’s onwards this policy was to produce Curwen’s world wide reputation for the distinguished quality of its printed work with artists together with its highly skilled craftsmen. Over the next decades Curwen established a tradition of creativity exemplified by such artists as Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, Edward Bawden, Eric Ravillious, Bernard Freedman, and a host more of designers, illustrators, painters and sculptors; their work with Curwen was to establish their own future reputations.


Henry Moore Artist and Printmaker Henry Moore OM CH FBA Artist Printmaker and Sculptor (right) assisted by Jim McFarlane

This renaissance lasted until the outbreak of World War Two when the company came under government controls, and later suffered bomb damage during the London Blitz. Despite these restricting events Curwen carried on printing work.

After the war the development of Fine Art publishing began to spread from the continent to London under the encouragement of Robert Erskine of the St George’s Gallery in Cork Street, London. Erskine’s problem was to locate a studio in which to provide professional facilities for the English artists he personally wished to publish, most particularly those who worked in lithography.
Timothy Simon and his cousin Robert Erskine, now the two young directors of the Curwen Press, were equally anxious to provide this studio facility in order to continue their company’s association with artist’s, and to encourage printmaking in this country.


Barbara Hepworth DBE Barbara Hepworth DBE Artist and Sculptor

The Curwen Studio opened its doors in November 1958. Master Printer Stanley Jones was invited from Paris where he had been working at Atelier Paris to help start this new venture. It was good timing, post war economic restrictions were beginning to ease and there was new interest in the making of contemporary artists’ limited edition prints and the practice of collaborative printmaking, thus carrying on in the tradition founded by Harold Curwen. Its success grew rapidly, helped by the development of London and New York as centres of artistic activity.

In 1965 the studio was moved to premises in Tottenham Court Road with machines and staff to cope with the growing interest in original prints. In the same year the Curwen Gallery was opened in Colville Place, London W1, as a shop window for the studio. In time it was to develop its own purpose and character under Rosemary Simmons and later John and Jill Hutchings. This gallery flourished showing many young as well as established printmakers up until the retirement of Jill Hutchinson in 2017.


John Piper CH and Timothy Simon Co Director of Curwen Studio John Piper CH Artist, Printmaker and Painter (left) with Timothy Simon Co Director of Curwen Studio

The Curwen Studio’s reputation grew internationally over many decades and with it the long list of artists whose work was produced in collaboration with the studio’s printmakers. When the Tottenham Court Road lease ceased in 1989 the company was bought by Sam Alper, and transferred to his premises at Chilford Hall, Linton near Cambridge where it continues it’s work with artists and their printmakers under the guidance of Master Printer Stanley Jones MBE.

During this time technological developments in the world of printing were moving at speed, and it was thought wise to preserve as much as possible of the traditional methods of printmaking for future generations of artists of all ages, to encourage development in the imaginative use of printmaking. One of the motivations in this thinking was the loss of many lithographic courses in art school.


Ceri Richards CBE Artist Painter and Printmaker Ceri Richards CBE Artist, Painter and Printmaker

In the year 2000 Stanley Jones with Sam Alper, under the business guidance of Lorraine Chitson the centre’s director, The Curwen Print Study Centre was formed. Lorraine with her dedicated and professional staff have very successfully pioneered the establishment of this valuable training activity, and in a manner which reflects the qualities and beliefs of those early founders, very nearly a century ago, of Curwen in their world of creative printing with artists.

Curwen Timeline


1863

The Reverend John Curwen establishes the Curwen Press in Plaistow to publish sheet music for his ‘tonic sol – fa’ system. John Curwen wanted to ensure music was easily accessible to people of all classes and all ages and this system delivered his social aims with education available for all.

1908

His Grandson Harold joins soon after the introduction of lithography and was at the vanguard of the design revolution that invited artist participation in print - making art available to wider public.

1920

Oliver and Herbert Simon join the Curwen Press.

1924

Oliver had contact with The Royal College of Art which led to commissions for artists including Paul Nash who was a Teacher at the RCA and Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious who were both his students. In turn they introduced Graham Sutherland, John Piper and others to print at Curwen.

1939

In spite of problems during World War II the press remained active, producing publications for Free France, the Belgian government in exile and the literary magazine ‘Horizon’.

1958

Due to the emergence of artists original prints Timothy and Robert Simon set up The Curwen Studio under the management of Stanley Jones.

1963

The Curwen Studio moves to Midford Place in Tottenham Court Road where it grew and developed a reputation nationally and internationally for the quality of its work and its printers led by Stanley Jones.

There followed a period when artists including Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Graham Sutherland, Elizabeth Frink, Alan Davie, Josef Herman and John Piper produced many important lithographs.

1965

The Curwen Gallery opened in nearby premises to be a shop window for Artists producing prints with Curwen.

1977

The Tate Gallery form an archive of contemporary prints and the Curwen Press and Studio’s important contribution is duly recognised in an exhibition “Artists at Curwen: A Celebration of the Gift of Artists Prints from The Curwen Studio”.

1989

The Curwen Studio moves to Chilford Hall in Cambridgeshire.

1991

Stanley Jones and Sam Alper set up a charity The Curwen Print Study Centre to ensure that facilities for Fine Art Printmaking exist for future generations. It is to be an educational charity available to all. A period of fund raising follows.

2000

The Curwen Print Study Centre opens its doors to the studio at Chilford Hall for artists of all ages and abilities to come and learn Fine Art Printmaking skills.

The Royal Academy honours the Curwen Studio’s involvement with Academicians with an exhibition in the Friends Room of prints by 41 RA Members.

2001

Lorraine Chitson joins Curwen Print Study Centre as the Centre Director.

There followed a period of building both an Education Programme for Schools and a General Course Programme for adult artists. The Studio is now in use most days every week.

2003

Stanley Jones retires from The Curwen Studio as Master Printer.

2008

50th Anniversary of The Curwen Studio. Tate Britain mark the occasion with an exhibition and the publication of ‘Art and Print: The Curwen Story’ by Alan Powers.

2009

Stanley Jones is awarded an MBE for Services to Lithography with Artists.

Curwen Print Study Centre adds teaching on an Outreach basis to its many activities.

2010

Stanley Jones MBE publishes his autobiography.

2012

The Print Master – BBC Programme about Stanley Jones and his career recorded in The Curwen Studio is aired on BBC Radio 4.

You can listen to the programme here

2014

The Curwen Studio under the Ownership and Directorship of Jenny Roland and Nicole Langstaff moves to Worton Hall Studios in Middlesex to work in collaboration with Coriander Studio.

Curwen Chilford Prints remains at Chilford Hall.

Stanley Jones discontinues all involvement with The Curwen Studio as both a Director and a Consultant.
It is his wish to devote his time to the development of The Curwen Print Study Centre.

Stanley Jones is appointed as Life President of The Curwen Print Study Centre.

2016

The Curwen Primary School from Plaistow visit Curwen Print Study Centre to celebrate 200 years since John Curwen’s birth. John Curwen’s ethos of education for all continues with the teaching of Printmaking for artists of all abilities in The Curwen Print Study Centre.