John Farleigh (1900-1965) was a teacher and influential figure, a vocal exponent of wood engraving who taught book production and later drawing at Central School of Art. His earlier work was more naturalistic but from about 1932 he moved into a more subjective style and increasingly experimented with abstraction and “dimensional confusion”. He could move between styles and was one of the more unorthodox engravers of the period.
More naturalistic work
In 1932 he illustrated The Adventures of the Black Girl in her Search for God with 22 wood engravings. This trade publication was affordable and as a best-seller it did a lot to bring wood engraving for book illustration into the public area. It caused controversy when released due to the religious, sexual and racial themes within the writing and Farleigh’s complementary (and risqué) wood engravings commissioned by G B Shaw for the book.
He again used quite a naturalistic approach for the illustrations to Ethel Armitage’s A Country Garden 0f 1936, but they are very stylised, the full page images of trees and fields are particularly effective.
Abstraction and subjective work
Farleigh’s engravings for The Man Who Died by D H Lawrence, another controversial text, which included a second printing of red details came out in 1935 and are a stunning set of engravings.
In 1936 he produced highly stylised bird engravings and others for the volume “The Gods Had Wings” with a full page engraving introducing each chapter of the book.