Frederick Carter ARE (1883-1967): The Mysterious World of Mr Carter
Frederick Carter was a painter, etcher, wood engraver and writer whose highly individual and imaginative etchings hold an unrivalled place in British printmaking history. Carter’s intricate wood engravings have always been considered to be the artist’s greatest works. Their inspired designs won him three successive gold medals for book illustration in the National Competition, South Kensington – the most prestigious award of his day. Carter developed a unique, almost calligraphic style of wood engraving. He began by drawing his original design in ink directly onto the wood block and then carved away the surrounding wood, leaving only the lines of the original drawing to stand proud to form the printing surface.
Born in Bradford in 1883, Carter initially trained as a civil engineer but abandoned that profession in favour of art. Whilst in Paris the poster art of Cheret and Willette captivated him, and above all he was fascinated by the characters of the Italian Commedia dell’Arte. These symbolic actors predominate throughout his early work with the figure of Columbine emerging as a frequent motif
Carter’s technically brilliant etchings include a notable one of D. H. Lawrence, for whom he illustrated Apocalypse. It was Carter who introduced Lawrence to the mysterious realms of Symbolism and astrology. A great believer in the power of the subconscious, Carter experimented with automatic drawing between 1915 and 1924. He hoped that this might prove to be a means of releasing suppressed associations and images from the subliminal.
Carter counted among his acquaintances and friends the famous and infamous of his day, including Aleister Crowley, W. H. Davies, W. B. Yeats, Austin Osman Spare, Arthur Machen, Jacob Epstein, Henry Miller and Edmund John Sullivan. His etchings and wood engravings illustrate several books published at the time on the fringes of the creative disciplines and of course serve as the foundation for his own books, published between 1926 and 1932. He wrote a number of articles on art and Symbolism, and wrote and illustrated The Dragon of the Alchemists (1926); Symbols of Revelation (1931); The Dragon of Revelation (1932) and D. H. Lawrence and the Body Mystical (1932).