Françoise Taylor’s drawings

The early work of Françoise Taylor (Françoise Wauters until her marriage in 1946) consists largely of drawings on copper plate using a drypoint needle or burin tool, usually drawn into the copper surface but occasionally into a medium covering the plate rather than the plate itself. The result was an intaglio printing plate which was used to make limited numbers of prints, or engravings. This was essentially a linear medium and Françoise’s engravings are characterised by very fine lines of great delicacy and beauty with half-tones created by hatching, or aquatint, a technique using acid and acid-resistant rosin. She also replicated the style with pen and ink, often combined with watercolour.

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Françoise was a superb drawer and acute observer of both the human and animal form. Through practice of life drawing she developed her unique style of representing these forms, elongated into flowing compositions charged with feeling, sometimes warm, sometimes bleak, but always recognisable as her own very personal vision of the world.

This world was the grim reality of living in occupied Belgium during the Second World War, as seen by a young woman still in her early twenties, but also the imaginary reality which Françoise found in literature, fables and nursery rhymes, illustrated both as part of her academic studies and from a fascination with the stories themselves. During this time she was not only intensely creative but prolific, the result being a large body of original art which, together with her later work survives her after a long life as an artist and teacher of art, and her death in England in 2007, aged 87.

A series of engravings ‘Pointes Sèches sur la Guerre’ was based on the artist’s experience of living in Belgium during the German occupation and record the terrors of the Deportations and the allied bombardment. Authors she illustrated in series form — engravings, etchings and pen-and-ink drawings — include Kafka, Dostoievski, Conrad, Alain-Fournier, Andersen, Emily Brontë and, having moved to England after the war, Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Malory’s Morte d’Arthur and Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Françoise Taylor’s etchings and engravings are in the permanent collections of the Cabinet des Estampes of the Bibliothèque Nationale de Paris (National Library of France) and the Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique (Royal Library of Belgium) as well as in the hands of private collectors. They have also been exhibited in Paris, London, and other towns and cities in Belgium and the United Kingdom. In 2013 a number of her works were acquired by the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, donated by the family, and are now in the Whitworth’s permanent collection where they can be viewed by the public.

Moving to Oxford, England, late in 1946 Françoise Taylor settled into family life with her English husband Kenneth, the first of their five children being born in 1948. She learnt to speak English and despite the usual necessities of becoming a wife and mother her artistic creativity remained undiminished. She continued drawing and increasingly, painting — or at least creating pictures begun in watercolour then completed with pen-and-ink in her very distinctive graphic style.

The spontaneous, calligraphic penmanship Françoise developed with a drypoint needle during her early years in Belgium remains highly individual, with a delicate linear fantasy that lends itself to an immense amount of descriptive detail, compelling attention, always poetic. It is a style of expression she carried to the drawings, then paintings, she created during her life in England and is both beautiful and truly personal. Moving up to the industrial north west her inspiration came not only from a life-long interest in fables and nursery rhymes but an environment she witnessed with the fascinated unfamiliarity of an ‘outsider’: mills, railways, gasworks, coal mines, park bandstands, football scenes from Burnden Park (then the home of Bolton Wanderers) together with the people and their animals.

Kick-off at Burnden Park, mid 1950s.
Engraving by Françoise Taylor.