SCHOOL PRINTS: Russell Sidney Reeve (1895 – 1970) for School Prints Ltd. “The Elephant Act” (aka The Circus), 1947

Russell Sidney Reeve (1895 – 1970) for School Prints Ltd. “The Elephant Act”, 1947, lithograph on paper, with printed signature to margin printer credit details “The Elephant Act by Russell Reeve, S.P.17, Printed in England at The Baynard Press for School Prints Ltd., London”, 495mm x 759mm

For a similar example see the V&A Collection and Tate Gallery collection P01719 –

School Prints Ltd

The School Prints series was produced from 1946 to 1949, and was devised by arts campaigner Brenda Rawnsley (1917 – 2007).

School Prints Ltd. was founded by Brenda Rawnsley’s husband Derek Rawnsley in 1935, to allow primary schools to hire prints of old master paintings. Derek Rawnsley tragically died in an aeroplane accident in 1943. By the end of the Second World War, Brenda Rawnsley, (having herself served as an Intelligence Officer and subsequently Squadron Leader during World War II) decided to continue with the concept of School Prints, but take it in a new direction.

The new aim would to provide primary schools with original lithographic examples of contemporary art. Rather than hiring prints, the School Prints series were to be affordable enough for schools to purchase. Instead of copying existing works, artists would be commissioned to produce unique designs on subjects understandable to children. Design was also integral; each print featuring a frame motif around the outside so that they could simply be attached to classroom walls. Additionally all were produced in identical sizes, so they could be interchanged in a single frame.

Rawnsley said of the series (when first writing to the chosen artists): “We are producing a series of auto-lithographs, four for each term, for use in schools, as a means of giving schoolchildren an understanding of contemporary art. By keeping the price as low as possible, we are able to bring this scheme within the reach of all education authorities.

Initially the series was a success; post-war optimism combined with the appeal of promoting children’s education resulted in artists willing to contribute their work. Knowing only a little about art Rawnsley selected the artists together with a group chaired by art historian Herbert Read. L.S. Lowry, John Nash and Henry Moore, to name but a few, all contributed works to the series.

By 1948 Rawnsley had managed to sign up a number of European artists including Pablo Picasso, Raoul Dufy and Henri Matisse. The European series however proved too adventurous for the audience and subsequently production ceased in 1949.

Further editions from the series are available in our store, see:

SCHOOL PRINTS: John Tunnard (1900 – 1971) for School Prints Ltd. “Holiday”, 1947

The Artist

Russell Sidney Reeve (1895-1970) was a British artist who trained at the Slade School or Art. He was known at this time for his drawings of animals.

Dimensions: 495 x 759mm


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Condition Report: In excellent overall condition.

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