Some stunning colour prints of Sussex are the centrepiece of a new book celebrating a local artist who died in obscurity 50 years ago. Eric Slater won international acclaim for his woodcuts in the 1930s but stopped working after the war because of changing fashions and personal tragedy.
Last year his prints went on show for the first time in 70 years at the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, attracting a new audience for his work.
Now the gallery has published a book called Slater’s Sussex, charting his love affair with the county and exploring his links with a neglected group of British colour woodcut artists.
Writer James Trollope spent nearly two years researching Slater’s life, following a trail which started in London and led through Sussex to the USA.
Eric Slater was the frail, only child of a successful London silversmith called Thomas Slater who died when his son was eight. Afterwards, Eric moved with his mother to Sussex eventually settling in Seaford in 1929.
During the decade up to the Second World War he was a prominent member of a group of British colour woodcut artists who adapted Japanese techniques to produce affordable, decorative art.
His 1930 print of Seaford Head won a prize in California and, in 1938, he was commissioned by an American collector to make a print of Cuckmere Haven called ‘The Stack Yard’. In the intervening years Slater made around 50 colour woodcuts most of which reflect his love of Sussex.
“Looking at the best of his woodcuts is like walking into a perfectly proportioned room,” said James Trollope. “They produce a sensation of well-being; of all being right with the world. They do not confront or complicate but gently invite you to consider the landscape of Sussex afresh. The marriage of art and craft is back in fashion and few exemplify the union better than Eric Slater.”
As well as featuring many beautiful images of Slater’s prints, the book suggests a seven mile circular walk through some of the countryside which inspired this quintessentially Sussex artist.
The book is available from the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne and is priced at £15.
James Trollope has worked as a television reporter in Sussex for both the BBC and ITV. He has written for national newspapers and currently has a column in Saga magazine. He’s co-written The Bluffer’s Guide to Cricket which has also just been published. He lives in Seaford.