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Parker, Agnes Miller

 Agnes Miller Parker (1895–1980), born in Irvine, Ayrshire, studied at Glasgow School of Art where she would later go on to teach. 


In 1918 she married William McCance, a fellow artist. During the First World War he was a conscientious objector. In the 1920’s they moved to London. 


Her work at that time was influenced by the Cubist movement and by a short-lived movement called Vorticism, inspired by Cubism and imagery from the machine and urban environment. In the 1930’s she became well-known for her distinctive woodcut illustrations produced for the Gregynog Press in Wales. She was much influenced by Northern European copper engravings of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.


Her work illustrated editions of Shakespeare and Hardy among others. It is however her work with H. E. Bates that she is most remembered, with her Through the Woods (1936) and Down the River (1937) containing some of her most beautiful work depicting the natural world. Her striking  illustrations for Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard by Thomas Gray of 1938 show a level of draughstmanship that few modern engravers have achieved, and explains why that today her work remains popular with collectors and readers alike.


She moved to the Isle of Arran in the early 1960’s after the break-up of her marriage. Agnes Miller Parker, known locally as 'Dolly' lived on Arran for the last few decades of her life, living in Lamlash and Kings Cross. Her last body of work, illustrations for Hardy's Jude the Obscure were made over a particulrly harsh Arran winter, with no access to electricity. 


Agnes Miller Parker illustrated nearly fifty books and exhibited prints with the English Wood Engraving Society, 1926–31 and after election in 1932, with the Society of Wood Engravers until 1956. She was elected an Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers in 1939. 


Examples of her work are in the collections of the BM, LTM, Redfern Gallery, RSA, SNGMA and the V&A. The centenary of her birth was marked with a retrospective exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 1995 with a second show at Cyril Gerber Fine Art, Glasgow the following year.


A book of her engravings was published in 2005 by Thomas Rogerson through the British Library.


Bibliography:


The Wood Engravings of Agnes Miller Parker by Ian Rogerson. Published by The British Library, London, 2005. ISBN 0712306854.


How it Happened by Rhoda Power, illustrated by Agnes Miller Parker. Published by University Press: Cambridge, 1930.


The Fables of Esope. Translated out of Frensshe in to Englysshe by William Caxton, with engravings on wood by Agnes Miller Parker. Published by Gregynog Press: Newtown, Wales, 1931.


Down the River by H.E. Bates, with 83 wood engravings by Agnes Miller Parker. Published by Victor Gollancz, London, 1937.


Daisy Matthews and three other tales by Rhys Davies and illustrated by Agnes Miller Parker. Published by Golden Cockerel Press, Waltham Saint Lawrence, 1932.