Michael Rothenstein British, 1908-1993

William Michael Rothenstein RA was an English printmaker, painter, designer and art teacher. He was an enormously prolific artist throughout his career which lasted almost half a century. Rothenstein's vision and unending energy empowered him to extend the boundaries of printmaking. As a consequence he earned a worldwide reputation as one of the most exciting British printmakers of the twentieth century.


Born in Hampstead, London in 1908 Michael Rothenstein studied at Chelsea Polytechnic and later at the Central School of Arts and Crafts from 1924. At the age of sixteen, he received his first commission as an illustrator and he had his first solo exhibition in 1938 at the Matthiesen Gallery, London. In 1939 he began working for the Pilgrim Trust under the 'Recording Britain' project. Rothenstein worked briefly with Stanley William Hayter at Atelier 17 in Paris after World War II. Upon returning to England, he set up his own printmaking studio in the burgeoning artists' village of Great Bardfield, Essex. In 1954 and 1956 he was awarded first prize in the Giles Bequest Competition for colour woodcuts and linocuts. Rothenstein spent a period of time teaching printmaking at Camberwell School of Art and in 1962 he became an Art Fellow at Sheffield University.


It was during the 1960s that Rothenstein developed his experimental style of abstraction using 'found' objects and materials such as metal debris and wood offcuts. He incorporated modern pictures into his relief prints, combining photographic imagery with traditional linocuts and woodcuts. In 1966 Rothenstein published the influential book 'Frontiers of Printmaking: New Aspects of Relief Printing'. During this time he also began lecturing internationally. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1977 and a Royal Academician in 1984. Rothenstein died in 1993. Numerous major institutions hold his artwork such as the collections of the Tate, Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.