This illuminating lecture on Frederic Warde (1894–1939) by Simon Loxley at the St Bride Foundation accompanied the launch of ‘Printer’s Devil The Life and Work of Frederick Warde’, an exquisite publication that aims uncover the life and works of a ‘shadowy figure’ within the history of design.
Much more is known as Loxley states, about his former wife Beatrice and their marriage break up over Beatrice’s ‘involvement’ with Stanley Morrison. The stories surrounding his career in the printing industry are mildly interesting, however, it is the speculation surrounding Frederic’s sexuality that hooks me into Loxley’s account. In the book much of the discussion of Warde’s proclivities is circumstantial, Loxley states ‘such reflections or revelations may seem of little consequence today, but during Warde’s lifetime would have been of the greatest significance, and may go a long way to explaining aspects of his life and personality, and the reactions and opinions of some of his contemporaries’.
These reflections are consequential in that much of graphic design history has – to date – denied a discourse surrounding sexuality. The contemporary political, judicial and social climate that surrounded Warde on both sides of the Atlantic is as much a valid and contributory aspect to Warde’s life as a designer, as were his material works. This supports Loxley’s view that ‘it is possible that on mainland Europe Frederic found the freedom of expression for part of his nature that had always been impossible in the United States [of America] and England, and it was that freedom, as well as the printing and the food and wine, that made Paris such an irresistible magnet for him, a world in which Beatrice could not follow, and had no place’.