Heywood Sumner (1853-1940)

Headpiece St George (1892)

George Heywood Maunoir Sumner was an important illustrator in the late Pre-Raphaelite style and a leading member of the Arts and Crafts Movement. He contributed to the revival of wood engraving in the 1880s and 1890s, and he also worked in many other artistic media and was, apparently, an archaeologist.

Sumner was born near Winchester, his father being a rector and his mother, Mary Sumner, the founder of the Mother's Union. He studied Classics at Oxford, changed to History, then worked for the Bar, only becoming a full-time artist in 1880. In 1883 he married Agnes Benson, the sister of his artist friend W. A. S. Benson. They lived in London until 1897, then moved to Bournemouth and then (1904) Cookoo Hill.

In 1881-2 he published two books of topographical etchings. In 1883 he illustrated The New Forest, and produced his considerable output of book engravings thereafter. His decorative illustrations were clearly inspired by William Morris and Walter Crane, Undine, reproduced in the English Illustrated Magazine being a good example. Of these pictures the Magazine of Art wrote:

They are designs rather than literal pictures, done laboriously in pure line, and containing much of the pen manner of Holman Hunt and Burne-Jones, and even at times, not a little of the style of William Blake. The artist has fairly realised the entirely national sentiment of the poem, and has furnished a delightful series of drawings that are in harmony with the work.
As well, he produced many headpieces and endpieces for the English Illustrated Magazine and these rank among the best in that magazine, along with those by Arthur Gaskin, C. M. Gere and Henry Ryland. Often Heywood Sumner used a white-line-on-black style of woodcut rather than the normal black on white, and this can be very effective.

Apart from illustrations and etchings, Sumner painted, and designed arts and crafts wallpapers (36 designs), tapestries and other textiles, metal furniture and stained glass. He decorated 11 churches in sgraffito, the first being Llanvair Church in Wales (1887/8), and among the last, his sole example in London, All Saints Ennismore Gardens (1897).

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