Exhibition showcases famous Seaford artist Eric Slater

Eric Slater's work will be going on display at the Towner
Eric Slater's work will be going on display at the Towner

A SEAFORD artist who once had an international reputation but died in obscurity is back in the spotlight.

The work of Eric Slater has not been displayed for more than 70 years but is to feature in an Eastbourne exhibition.

Born in 1896 in London, his father died when he was a child and he moved to Sussex with his mother - first to the Bexhill area, then Winchelsea and to Seaford in 1929.

He studied at Hastings School of Art and after much success in the 1920s and 1930s, stopped working at the outbreak of the Second World War, when his mother died.

Now some of his colour woodcuts will be shown at the Towner Gallery thanks to James Trollope.

The local writer researched Eric Slater after going to local auctions and gathered information from places like Seaford Museum, library, the county records office, National Census and probate office and he hopes to produce a catalogue of his 40 or so prints.

“I approached the Towner, who agreed to show some of his works, most of which are of scenes within five miles of Seaford,” he said.

The exhibition, from May 11 to November 11, includes the work of more famous names such as Edward Bawden, John Piper and Eric Ravilious.

Slater was among a group of artists who adapted Japanese woodcut techniques to suit Western tastes.

Although most of his prints are of Sussex, his work was collected across the world and he won a prestigious prize in America in 1931.

“His prints are mostly simple, pleasing designs which were sold as affordable art to people who wouldn’t normally buy expensive oil paintings,” said Mr Trollope.

Although he lived until 1963, his last known woodcut was produced in 1938. Buried in a shared grave at Seaford cemetery, he had no close relatives and left most of his money to Cancer Research.

Some of the prints were lent by the British Museum, which holds several of his works, also held by galleries in New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

“I hope this forgotten artist will now win a new following 50 years after his death,” said Mr Trollope.

“It’s great that some of his beautiful woodcuts are at last going on public view.”