Images show the harsh lives of steelworkers

Diary 'Tapping The Furnace' (1927).
Diary 'Tapping The Furnace' (1927).
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They are images that helped reveal the day-to-day lot of Sheffield steelworkers to the wider world.

Images that ought to be to Sheffield what David Hockney’s pictures are to Bradford and LS Lowry’s to Manchester.

So says writer Tim Dickson who has just produced a book on Sheffield artist Leonard Beaumont whose lino-cut prints and etchings bring to life the harsh lives of the steelworks of the 1920s and ’30s.

“I love Sheffield art history and think it should be promoted the way that Bradford promoted Hockney or Leeds promotes Damian Hirst,” said 46-year-old Tim who came to Sheffield from Lincoln in the 1980s to study design at Psalter Lane College.

“These are people recording the industrial times they are living in and we need to make a lot more of our heritage in Sheffield. We have 100 years of such artists, the latest of whom is Pete McKee who carries on that tradition.

“I think the Beaumont collection would be phenomenally popular in London too, the quality is so good. He was a pioneering printmaker and an accomplished graphic artist.”

Tim’s new book on Beaumont – whose work is largely owned by Museums Sheffield – shows many rarely-seen foundry etchings that vividly capture the steelmaking process and has been produced to coincide with Leonard Beaumont: The Power of the Print’currently on show at the Graves Art Gallery.

Beaumont’s work was included in ground-breaking exhibitions at London’s Redfern Gallery during the 1930s. His work is unique in that other exhibitors worked in London and only Beaumont worked in relative isolation in Sheffield.

“My book is the first on Beaumont and celebrates 2013 being the 100th anniversary of stainless steel,” added Crucible Theatre stage technician Tim.

“Beaumont produced a unique series of foundry etchings in 1927 some of which are on show in the Graves Art Gallery.

“He had his own printing press cast and built by Edgar Allen’s foundry at Tinsley. He produced visually ground- breaking and ‘controversial and daring’ publicity material for the company in the 1930s.

“He moved to London in 1936 to pursue a career as a commercial graphic artist and produced an important steel supplement for The Times newspaper on the eve of World War II.

“It illustrated the numerous different uses of British high-grade stainless steel in armour-plating and shipbuilding which would have been noted in Nazi Germany.”

But it wasn’t all foundries and fighting for Beaumont.

In the 1940s he worked for Sainsbury’s and came up with the brand colours and logos they still use today.

“He told Sainsbury’s in the 1940s that they needed what’s now known as ‘brand identity’ and consistent packaging and he came up with the typeface and colours the company still use today,” said Tim.

“They were a small outfit when he went to work for them and they built themselves up to be one of the biggest names in the country.”

To coincide with the launch of the book Tim Dickson will be discussing Beaumont’s etchings and linocuts at the Graves Art Gallery on Thursday, July 4, 1-1.45pm.