WILLIAM T. RAWLINSON was an official war artist of the Second World War who turned wood engraver. Albert Garrett in A History of British Wood Engraving (1978) credits him with being 'the English master of the overall half-tone grey of engraving'.
His style was completely individual, independent and free of the dominating influences of his era. Much of his work was based on natural forms; trees, flowers and plants from his garden. Other favourite subjects were his beloved cats. He also found inspiration from his travels in Europe, in particular Germany, Italy and the Czech Republic.
Born in Liverpool in 1912, the son of a schoolmaster, Rawlinson studied at Liverpool College of Art, and then taught at Liverpool Institute High School. During the war years he served in the RAF in Egypt, North Africa, Sicily and Italy. His war drawings provide a unique record of ground crews at work in the sweltering heat of the desert and the day-to- day makeshift provisions for cooking and washing clothes. He did charcoal drawings by kerosene lamp in a desert bivvy, capturing the exhausted features of air crew as they came off duty to catch a few hours' sleep before the next mission.
But it is as a wood engraver that, while earning his living as a teacher, Rawlinson gained an international reputation. He was able to continue working in his studio at his home in Harvington, near Evesham, almost up to his death at 81.
More recent prints were based on earlier drawings, many from student days on a travel scholarship throughout Europe in the 1930s. One recent subject was the Frauenkirche in Dresden, destroyed by British bombs in 1945. Few pictorial records of the original church building existed but Rawlinson was able to go back to a drawing done in student days in 1935. The resulting print was presented to the Mayor of Dresden at a special ceremony in 1985.
Rawlinson was a Gold Medallist in engraving at the 1960 Paris Salon and became a member of the Society of Wood Engravers in 1972. His work as an official war artist is held by the Imperial War Museum and at the RAF Museum in Hendon.
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