The Coutu Effect

Having worked with the late great British artist Jack Coutu for many years Emma Mason, an expert on print, joins Modern Shows® at Midcentury Modern® at The Hepworth Wakefield with some rare pieces of his for sale on June 29th and 30th.



Jack Coutu Spatial Growth – Etching and Aquatint 1962


Specialising in originals from the 1950’s onwards, Emma and her husband Richard have a remarkable collection of the acclaimed printmaker’s etchings and watercolours, some of which you will see here.

Born in Farnham, Surrey, Raymond John ‘Jack’ Coutu became master of many trades during his career. After leaving school in 1940, he worked alongside his father, Bert Coutu at Abbotts of Farnham, a coach building company painting coats of arms and heraldic shields. During his wartime military service he was inspired as an artist.

This passion, developed at the end of World War II when he spent time in Kure, Japan in the Hiroshima Prefecture which was to greatly influence him in his trajectory as printmaker, sculptor, water colourist, carver and teacher.

Jack Coutu Sea & Rocks Etching and Aquatint 1956

Coutu studied at various places including the Royal College of Art, London (1951-54) in the Stained Glass department and Central School of Art (1951-55) where he took to printmaking and in particular etching. He later taught printmaking at the RCA too (1957-65) and fast became associated with the neo-romantic generation of artists that includes Graham Sutherland and John Piper.


Jack Coutu Autumn Plant – Etching and Aquatint 1959

Jack’s love for Japanese art led him in the direction of netsuke, meaning ‘root’ and ‘to attach’. Netsuke are miniature sculptures  which were invented in 17th-century Japan to serve a practical function. Because Kimonos had no pockets and the men who wore them needed somewhere to put all kinds of personal belongings, a sagemono container was hung by a cords from the obi sash. These containers included pouches, small baskets and crafted boxes held shut by sliding beads on cords.


Jack Coutu Crab Claw Netsuke

The fastener that secured the cord at the top of the sash was carved, and called a netsuke. Netsuke evolved over time to become expressions of extraordinary craftsmanship and Coutu not only became quite fascinated with the art, but also a champion of it.

Jack Coutu Wood Netsuke

Jack Coutu Boar Tusk Netsuke

Coutu’s attention to detail, coupled with his vivid imagination and love of nature inspired by his own garden, hedgerows and the countryside of southern England brought a quintessentially British style to this Japanese tradition which makes his work highly collectable here and overseas. To give you some idea of what this work fetches, his boar tusk netsuke from September 1975 recently sold at Bonham’s for £2000.

Jack Coutu Sketchbook study 1955

Coutu enjoyed the contrast of exhibiting at both the Royal Academy and netsuke conventions. He showed with Michael Rothenstein at the Alecto Gallery in 1965 and at the Graphic Arts Gallery in 1968. His work is in many permanent collections including the Arts Council of Great Britain and the V&A.

Autumn Monolith 1975

Jack never married but instead lived a quiet, reclusive life with his sister Peggy and their dachsunds in Farnham, near where they grew up. In the early 1960s they designed a home for themselves which is now for sale with Wowhaus and still in its original midcentury condition. They both died in 2017.

See Jack Coutu’s work at The Hepworth Wakefield on Emma Mason’s stand alongside 29 other top midcentury dealers in furniture, ceramics, glass, clocks, industrial art, posters and jewellery.

Get Advance Tickets here for £3. Or pay £5 on the door

Written by Tanya Pateman.

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