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Raymond Higgs

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Raymond Higgs
Born14 October 1940
Carlisle, Cumbria
💀Died11 August 2017
Silloth11 August 2017
🏳️ NationalityBritish
🏫 Education
  • Carlisle Art College
  • Royal Academy Schools
💼 Occupation
Painting, Print Making

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Raymond Higgs (14 October 1940 – 11 August 2017) was a Cumbrian Artist and best known as a Printmaker. He lived with the artist Jenny Cowern in Langrigg on the Solway Plain.

Early years[edit]

Raymond was born at Carlisle, Cumbria on 14 October 1940. After receiving an elementary education at one of the local schools he studied painting and drawing at Carlisle College of Art between the years 1956 - 61. After passing a two-year Ministry of Education Intermediate Examination in Art and Crafts he graduated with the award of a National Diploma in Design (NDD) under the tutorship of Jack Seabury. From there he gained entry to the Royal Academy Schools, graduating with a Dip R.A.S, in 1964. During his time at the schools he was heavily influenced and helped by William Scott R.A. Whilst studying at the Royal Academy Schools he was the recipient of several prestigious awards: 1st Landseer Prize and Silver Medal 1962; Eric Kennington Drawing Prize 1962; Richard Jack Prize 1963; The Royal Sovereign Drawing Prize 1963. In 1966 he was awarded a Abbey Minor Scholarship to Rome, this was the lesser of two annually awarded scholarships, enabling promising young artists to travel to and work in Rome.


In London he met the artist Jenny Cowern, with whom he shared the rest of his life. In 1966 the couple moved to Langrigg, Cumbria, where they renovated a row of dilapidated farm-workers terraced cottages and converted them into their studios and family home.[1] During this period Higgs worked in many media’s including abstract paintings and etchings. He would describe his work as ‘hunting’ for totally abstract shapes as ‘enclosures’, where the boundary of these enclosed positive shapes could be thought of as a negative continuous line. In the search for these shapes he found etching useful, as resists (in the printing sense) could define a negative enclosure; therefore black and white etchings were often starting points for his paintings. He found the square canvas a very interesting shape to work within; as the pictures could revolve, as a sculpture could revolve; as there was no right orientation, its four corners required four different solutions.[2]


In the mid 1970’s Higgs enrolled on a Science Foundation Course at the Open University. With no previous knowledge of the subject he became totally embroiled in the task and for two full years he produced no art work. He took a particular interest in chemistry, which was to be the foundation of his later work. Chemistry opened up an interest in experimenting with chemicals/materials which crossed the boundaries between conventional areas of printmaking. During the decade he produced a large exhibition of work entitled “Non Visual Pattern”, which was exhibited at both Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery and Queen Mary’s College London. The content was more conceptual than minimal. During this period he was greatly helped by R T Cowern RA. RE., with many of the aspects of the chemistry of etching and print finishing, which had been sadly missing from all of the previous guidance. One piece in particular, ‘Circles’ represents the direction Higgs was heading. As Andy Christian so aptly explained.

“First of all he drew a dot and then photographed and projected it. Then he drew a circle an inch across then one as big as his arms would reach on a wall. Lastly he drew one giant circle on the tarmac of a multi storey car park. In each case he drew rapidly. To help us compare he made them of similar size. What each clearly shows is the limitations of the scale of man’s ability as a draughtsman. The tiny dot which seems neat enough shows all its crudities when magnified and the car park circle wobbles its way around in an ungainly way".[3]


Reduction printing[edit]

In the early 1980s as a result of seeking to make multiples of his work Higgs stumbled across relief printing. He began with Lino etching/erosion, and then a decade later, wood engraving. He found himself continuing with the preoccupations of his earlier work but with one overwhelming consistency of interest running through all the work, a desire to remove tone (black and white) from colour relationships so that the full chromatic (red-blue-yellow) value could be seen.[4] Higgs had become familiar with the techniques of lithography at the Carlisle Art College and although he found it a beautifully sensitive drawing medium he considered it an unsatisfactory medium for colour. Towards the end of his time at the The Royal Academy Schools an embryo etching department was created. It was then that his initial interest in the making of prints began. After graduation his interests moved back to painting, for without access to a press all printmaking was impossible. By 1979, he came to the realisation that he wanted to print in strong colour. By this time silk screen printing had come to his attention, which was recommended for colour printing. By applying the knowledge attained from his study of chemistry he concluded that the possibilities of applying the knowledge of one form of printmaking to that of another (in his case silk-screen, lithography and etching, to lino) were limitless. He described it like “falling through a hole into an Aladdin’s cave of possibilities”. However, he quickly moved on and throughout his career he only produced one silk screen, a poster.


During the 1980’s Higgs worked almost exclusively on Linocut prints. His major preoccupation was the presentation of colour, its quantities, proportions and relationships; as he would explain at the time.

”If you add the three primary pigments together, yellow, red, and blue, you get black. If you add the three primary coloured lights together you get white light. The artist who works with pigment has to compromise, because he wants the effect of light but he cannot use light. For myself, in the field of relief printing where three or four opaque colours is the maximum number I can use, I would hold that the three basic colours must be present in whatever the combination of mixes, in equal quantities. It being more important that a third primary is not present in a mix so maximising the difference.”[5]

In total he would produce eighteen. Although five of these would contain a recognisable image, his interest was not in the image itself it was only there as a prop or backdrop, supporting the main activity which is preparing the ground for the abstract interplay of several colours. Take ‘Landscape Through Condensation’ for example, where his interest was in the light reflected in the condensation; or ‘Print Room Puddle’, where the puddle of water made on the block itself is drawn through the water and reflects the surroundings in which it was made. Under the abstract grouping comes ‘Two steps forward one step back’, a print that originated from a deep interest in formal ideas and visual theories. The image represents a continuous line where two atonal colours meet, progressing forward two movements then falling back to dissect the second of the two steps.[6]

Wood engravings[edit]

In the 1990’s Higgs moved on from making large linocut prints using the reduction method, to engraving small endgrain wood blocks. In this process, he used the ‘cut and come again’ or ‘Reduction’ method of making prints, where the editioning of the first colour is completed and made finite by the re-cutting of the same block to produce the second and subsequent colours. An alternative name is ‘waste-block’ printing, sometimes described as ‘suicide printing’ because of the risk involved. This is a method believed to have been invented by Picasso. To facilitate the method he chose to print using a registration box and to press using a teaspoon. Higgs became a regular exhibitor at the annual Ulverston Printfest, missing only one year. In 2017 he was too ill to exhibit in person, but the Printfest Committee asked his family to exhibit on his behalf. At the end of the exhibition his family was presented with a certificate signed by all the artists addressed to the ‘Father of Printfest’.[7]


One Man shows[edit]

Relating to art exhibitions, a one-person show, also known as a one-man show or a solo show, is an exhibition of the creative work of a single person.

  • 1979, Royal Academy Schools[8]
  • 1980, Carlisle Museum and Art Gallery

Group shows[edit]

  • 1977, Northern Art Exhibition, Shipley Art Gallery
  • 1983, Disarming Art. Newcastle upon Tyne
  • 1985, Double Elephant Prints. P.M.C. The Barbican Centre
  • 1986, Print 86. The Barbican Centre
  • 1986, Fourth National Exhibition of British Prints
  • 1987, Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool
  • 1987, Better Halves The Gallery Downstairs, Burnley
  • 1987, Northern Print’s 87. Edinburgh College of Art
  • 1989, From Woodcut to Computer. The Royal Festival Hall
  • 1990, 20/20 Vision The Tall House. London
  • 1990, Mini Print International 10. Cadaques, Barcelona, Spain
  • 1990, Northern Printmaking. Billingham Art Gallery
  • 1991, The Art of the Printmaker, The Royal Festival Hall
  • 1991, Print Europe, The Barbican Centre
  • 1992, The Western Bank Show, Wigton
  • 1992, Terrain. Isis Gallery, Melmerby, Penrith
  • 1993, Mini Print International 13. Cadaques, Barcelona, Spain
  • 1996, The 3rd Kochi International Triennial Exhibition of Prints, Kochi, Japan
  • 2000, 20 Artists from 20 Years, Linton Court Gallery, Settle, North Yorkshire.
  • 2004, Lessedra Third World Art Print Annual, Sofia, Bulgaria
  • 2007, Scottish Printmakers Summer Show
  • 2008, Lessedra 7th Mini Print Annual, Sofia, Bulgaria
  • 2008, Printmaker’s Printmaker, Printfest 2008, Ulverston, Cumbria
  • 2010, The First Open International Contemporary Print Competition, Cornwall
  • 2011, The Second Open International Contemporary Print Competition, Cornwall
  • 2008-2017, Printfest, Ulverston, Cumbria

Non visual pattern paintings & prints 1973-2013[edit]

  • 1981, Lowes Court Gallery, Egremont. Etchings (1963-81)
  • 1982, Dundas Gallery, Carlisle. Etchings
  • 1983, Gallery 213, Queen Mary College. London
  • 1984, Gallery 7, Newcastle upon Tyne. Relief Prints
  • 1985, The Crescent, Scarborough. Relief Prints
  • 1985, DLl Museum, Durham. Lino Reduction Prints
  • 1985, Whitehaven Museum. Lino Reduction Printing
  • 1987, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal. Lino Reduction Prints
  • 1987, Carlisle Museum and Art Gallery. Lino Reduction Prints
  • 1987, Lowes Court Gallery. Egremont. Lino Reduction Prints
  • 1987, The Central Space. London. Lino Reduction Prints
  • 1988, Van Mildert College. Durham
  • 1989, Grundy Art Gallery. Blackpool
  • 1995, Clayton Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne. Wood Engravings
  • 1998, Gracefield Cafe, Dumfries, Wood Engravings
  • 1998, Linton Court Gallery, Settle North Yorkshire. Wood Engravings
  • 1998, Lowes Court Gallery. Egremont. Wood Engravings
  • 1999, Arts Centre Washington, Tyne & Wear. Continuous Line, Corners and Enclosures, Retrospective
  • 2001, Printmaker of the Month. Wrexham Arts Centre, Wrexham
  • 2002, The Harley Gallery, Welbeck, Worksop
  • 2004, Coffee Shop Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal. Blocks
  • 2013, Coffee Shop Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal. Constructs

Public collections include[edit]

  • Northern Arts
  • Abbot Hall Art Gallery Picture Loan
  • Aldi Stores Ltd. Neston, Cheshire
  • Carlisle Public Library
  • Paintings in Hospitals (South)
  • Motorola Ltd
  • Fylde Arts Association
  • Carlisle Museum & Art Gallery
  • B.I.C.C. Ltd
  • Paintings in Hospitals (North)
  • Victoria and Albert Museum Library


Although Higgs and Cowern never collaborated, they supported and influenced each other’s work until Jenny’s death in 2005. Higgs would continue to explore colour using the wood reduction method for the remainder of his life. His last print was ‘Warp and Weft’, completed in 2016, before his final illness. They had two sons Tom and George.


  1. Burkett and Rickerby, 2007 pages 3-7
  2. https://www.raymondhiggs.co.uk/
  3. Review for an exhibition at Tullie House Carlisle in 1981
  4. https://www.axisweb.org/p/raymondhiggs/
  5. https://www.raymondhiggs.co.uk/
  6. https://www.raymondhiggs.co.uk/
  7. https://printfest.uk/raymond-higgs-1940-2017/
  8. Dubcan Smith’s Review for an exhibition at the Royal Academy Schools, 1979


  • Mary E Burkett; Valerie M Rickerby (2007). A Softer Landscape: The Life and Work of Jenny Cowern. Kendal: Titus Wilson. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png

External links[edit]

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