William Giles Biography

William Giles




Watercolorist, wood engraver, and printmaker William Giles was born in Reading, Berkshire in 1879. He studied at the Reading School of Art, earning a scholarship to attend the Royal College in London. Following this, Giles traveled to Paris for indpendent study before returning to the Reading School. Under the expertise of celebrated woodcut artist Frank Morely Fletcher, he studied the Japanese woodcut method, a technique new to the Western world and to his fellow students Mabel Royds, Allen Seaby, Thomas and Elizabeth Austen-Brown, and others.

In 1907 he met and married painter Ada Shrimpton, and together they experimented with applying the relief method to metal plates, using their extensive travels throughout Europe as inspiration. Giles was elected president elect of the Society of Graver-Printers in Colour in 1909, succeeding the late Theodore Roussel. However, Giles's new found love of the metal relief print did not deter him from his study of the woodcut, nor from experimenting with new techniques. In some of his most well known works the artist combined the two methods, woodcut and metal relief. Unlike most color woodcut artists of the time, Giles did not use a key block in his works. Eliminating this once essential element gave way to a softer blending of color and form, and his woodcuts are often mistaken for paintings.

Giles, who died in 1939, is widely considered one of the most important and innovative British color printmakers of the early 20th century.