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One of the artists responsible for the woodcut revival in the second half of the Twentieth Century in the United States was Nora Spicer Unwin (1907-1982). This British born artist came to the United States in 1946, she was a graduate of the Kingston School of Art and the Royal College of Art.


For a long time she lived in New Hampshire working with her close friend and writer Elisabeth Yates. Unwin collaborated with Yates and illustrated 26 of her books. Primarily known as an illustrator of children’s books, she was also a writer with 9 books to her credit, a painter as well as an art teacher in New Hampshire and in the Boston, Massachusettts area.


Though Spicer Unwin was well known for her wood engravings with fine cross hatching, her best work were the illustrations done for a book on nature Footnotes on Nature written by author, amateur naturalist and journalist John Kieran (1892-1981). Perhaps this book was one of her very first book commissions. Here are some pages of that book illustrating his fine style of writing:

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Later in life Unwin’s wood engravings would take on a diminishing role and she devoted more time to painting and collages working entirely in her own style always influenced by people or nature. She collaborated with many book authors, illustrating more than a 100 books.


Among the honors she received were the election to the National Academy of Design, as well as, the 1952 Newbury Medal for the book Amos Fortune, a Free Man.


Nora Unwin was a scion of the British Unwin family, known for their publishing ventures and among the founders of the book publishing company Allen and Unwin. (all illustrations here are from the Kieran book above)

Her life’s work has been the subject of a monograph  published by the Bauhan Publishing company with over 160 illustrations of her varied  subject matter in different media. The extensive book authored by Linda Clark McColdrick, won the 1990 Award for Excellence in Typography.

On the commercial side of the web more of here art can be seen here.

The Sharon Arts Center in New Hampshire is the main repository of her work but too little of it is available on the web.

The University of Southern Mississippi holds her papers in the De Grummond Collection at the McCain library and Archives.

Welcome to the wonderful world of wood engraving and wood cuts in our other post on Leonard Everett Fisher, Jakob Steinhardt or even some Italian woodcut artists.