The Washington Color Gallery focuses on Washington Color School and related artists, along with works by great printmakers. This work by the great printmaker Gordon House is a fine example of truly excellent print-making, though it depicts a world far from Washington, D.C. It weaves together compelling imagery, history, technical prowess, and imagination to create a work of beauty.
House was born in Wales but lived and worked in London all his adult life. Nevertheless, he always held a deep attachment to his native Wales. He once wrote, “On leaving the valley of my origin there has always been that pull to return.” In 1975, House bought a house in Penrhos on the Welsh borders which he visited nearly every weekend for the following decade. He described:
The landscape from the house, which was raised above the fields sloping away, was probably as it had been for hundreds of years. To me it was even reminiscent of the background landscapes seen in Italian Renaissance paintings. In the distance one could see the higher, familiar ground, the beginning of the Brecon Beacons. Blorenge, Sugarloaf and Skirrid. Not quite as my childhood memories of the hilly Wales surrounding the industrial black valley further south, but for me it was still Wales.
The local landscape and the characters he met there, his memories from childhood and the area’s historical and mythical past all found expression in many of House’s paintings and prints, but most notably in The Welsh Portfolio, from which this print comes.
The name of this work might refer to the 900-year-old pub of the same name, but it more likely depicts a mountain found on the edge of the Black Mountains in Wales. There are two mountains there—Skirrid Fach and Skirrid Fawr—which are separated from the rest of the range by a valley. Skirrid Fawr, the larger of the two peaks, deep green and tree-covered at the lower elevations at least, rises tall out of the landscape. There are many legends and great mythology associated with Skirrid Fawr, which is also known as Holy Mountain or Sacred Hill. Perhaps that explains the blue rays coming out of in the image.