• image (1)
  • image (3)
  • image (2)

Anne Desmet

An Italian Journey

5 October – 2 December 2016

Anne Desmet is the third wood engraver ever elected to membership of the Royal Academy of Arts (RA) in its 248-year history. The Royal Over-Seas League launched a facsimile of one of her Italian sketchbooks published by the RA alongside a solo retrospective exhibition of her Italian-themed engravings and collages at Over-Seas House, London.


Following a year working in Rome (1989/90) as a Rome Scholar in Printmaking, Desmet’s focus became the multi-layered nature of cities where ancient ruins co-exist with 21st century apartments and TV aerials. Using highly detailed wood engravings and linocuts of architectural subjects, she aims to create a sense of the interweaving passage of years and history – a type of metamorphosis that is a recurring theme in her work. As well as creating editioned relief prints, she also makes complex collages in two and three dimensions, creating completely new images that are suggested by and develop the themes of her prints. This enables her to push particular architectural motifs in unexpected, often surprising directions, allowing a building to take on a life and invented identity of its own.

Of her book: Anne Desmet – An Italian Journey she says:

26 years ago, when I was 25, I was delighted to win a scholarship to the British School at Rome, which gave me a year working as an artist in the Eternal City. Although I had taken one brief holiday in Florence a few years earlier, this experience of Rome’s architecture and archaeology was seminal and has influenced my creative output ever since. Sketchbook drawing has been crucial to me since my school days and is the bedrock of my work. The wood engravings, linocuts and collages I made in Rome were direct developments from my drawings in a small hardback sketchbook that became a visual diary of my scholarship year. Alas, three days before my return to London my handbag was snatched in Piazza del Campidoglio, where I was enjoying a farewell picnic with friends, and the book was lost. Sketchbooks are intensely personal and the theft of this one, which charted such a significant moment in my life, was devastating. However, I have revisited Italy often in order to create new and better drawings to overcome that initial loss. In these pages are selected sketches from four books completed over the quarter century since my scholarship’s end in 1990. They feature several returns to Rome as well as journeys the length and breadth of Italy, from Lake Como and Venice in the north to Enna and Taormina in Sicily in the far south.’

The exhibition covered a quarter of a century of Desmet’s work featuring some 50 of her Italian-themed wood engravings, linocuts, lithographs and collages dating from 1990 to work completed for the eexhibition.

‘Anne Desmet – An Italian Journey’ published by Royal Academy Publications (hardback, 10 x 14.8 cm, ISBN 978-1-910350-54-6, £9.95) was launched alongside the exhibition at the Royal Over-Seas League on 4 October.

In 1994, Anne Desmet stayed in Ascoli Piceno and made various drawings and watercolours. Following the recent devastating earthquake, she donated 10% of the proceeds of picture sales from this exhibition towards the relief effort and reconstruction of the region.

About the Artist

Anne Desmet RAwas born and brought up in Liverpool, UK. She has BFA and MA degrees in Fine Art from Oxford University and a Postgraduate Diploma in Printmaking from Central School of Art, London. She exhibits widely, has won over 30 national and international awards (including a Rome Scholarship in Printmaking 1989-90 and the Rooks Rider Prize in the ROSL Annual Open Art Exhibition 1991) and has works in numerous public and private collections worldwide. The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, and the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, have each purchased significant holdings of her prints and collages over the last 25 years. Over 30 solo shows to date include two major museum retrospectives (at the Ashmolean and the Whitworth respectively): each toured UK museums for two years. Commissioned works include pieces for the British Museum, National Gallery, British Library, V&A, Sotheby’s, Balliol and Worcester College (Oxford) and the Royal Mint. Desmet regularly teaches printmaking classes at print workshops throughout the UK, as well as guest sessions at primary and secondary schools, including Eton College and Winchester College. Desmet is author of three printmaking books (published by Bloomsbury) and was editor of Printmaking Today magazine from 1998-2013. She lives and works in London and is represented by Long & Ryle Gallery, London, www.longandryle.com See also: www.annedesmet.com