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Nathaniel Kornbluth, Etcher

October 24, 2022
by the gentle author

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Butchers’ Row, Aldgate, 1934

This view was a familiar one for Nathaniel Kornbluth (1914–97) because he spent his working life running the family menswear business at 56 Whitechapel High St, just a few hundred yards away. As a child of Polish immigrants, Nathaniel found his aspirations to an artistic career were discouraged, yet he proved himself a loyal son by devoting himself to the wholesale clothing trade by day, while taking evening classes in printmaking at night.

Nathaniel learnt the techniques of etching at classes at Hackney Technical School in the thirties and then came under the influence of some of the most important printmakers of his time at the Central School of Arts & Crafts in the forties.

While Nathaniel’s choice of medium and subject matter display an awareness of Whistler, a distinctly twentieth century expressionist influence may also be perceived in the moody atmosphere that prevails. His prints reveal an artist of superlative technical accomplishment, with a rigorous quality of draftsmanship, a commanding sense of space and a subtle appreciation of the grim utilitarian beauty of the working city, especially the riverside.

During the thirties, Nathaniel first exhibited his etchings at the East End Academy at the Whitechapel Gallery, which was situated directly across the road from his family business. Subsequently, his prints were purchased for major collections both nationally and internationally, and he was holding solo exhibitions of new work until the nineteen-eighties.

Although Nathaniel sought subject matter all over the capital, his intricately detailed representations of the London Docks in particular survive as an invaluable record of a lost industry.

Limehouse Cut, 1935-6

Lovell’s Wharf, Greenwich, 1932

Regent’s Canal, Stepney, 1934

Junk Shop, Limehouse, 1935

Butcher’s Row & Limehouse Cut courtesy of Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives

Click here to buy a copy of EAST END VERNACULAR for £25

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Peter Hart permalink
    October 24, 2022

    Wonderful etchings thank you for reminding me what a great book ‘East end Vernacular ‘ is. I shall be dipping into it again.

  2. October 24, 2022

    I was so impressed by this work, I took some time this morning to read about the etching process;
    which gave me an even greater appreciation of the work, above. The subtle feathery cross hatches, the skill involved in depicting depth and mystery (wouldn’t you give ANY thing to explore the shop in the Limehouse image?), the way the artist has used the paper itself as part of the composition, and his endless vocabulary of lines and marks……….Wonderful.

    GA, thank you for your daily inspiration.

  3. William Martin permalink
    October 25, 2022

    I’d love to buy one of these. Does he have a gallery?

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