The optimism of modernity: recovering modern reasoning in typography

Edward Wright: a biographical outline

1912 born in Liverpool on 16 July as Edward Joseph Wright, son of Eduardo Wright Aguirre, consul of Equador; his mother was a daughter of a Chilean Consul

1912–16 lives in Barcelona where his father is appointed Consul of Equador

1917 returns to Liverpool

1922–30 attends Stonyhurst College, the Jesuit boarding school

1929 visits the influential exhibition of Japanese handicrafts at Liverpool

1930 attends drawing classes at Liverpool School of Art

1932 his father is appointed as Chargé d’Affaires of the Ecuadorian Legation in London

1933 enrols in Certificate Course in Architecture at the Bartlett School of Architecture at University College London and attends life classes at Slade

1936 leaves UCL in March

1933–7 visits Paris frequently, gets involved with cinema
— works with architect Robert Gardner-Medwin for a short period

1937–42 lives in Equador and Chile

1939 his father dies

1942 his mother dies
— works in an architectural office in Santiago
— he and his brother become ‘British Latin-American volunteers’

1942 returns to Britain on a convoy and joins the Royal Engineers, decoding ciphers for the Special Operations Executive; becomes a British subject

1943 meets Kitty Stroud
— he learns basic typography from George Adams, working as his assistant at the end of the war

1946 in spring Molly Izzard puts him in touch with a newly formed documentary film unit ‘Metro-News’; he starts to design titles and visual aids
— spends some time in Paris, designs graphics for ‘Metro-Journal’, French equivalent of ‘Metro-News’
— returns to St John’s Wood, participates in Anglo-French Art Centre; meets artists and lecturers such as Fernand Léger, Oskar Dominguez, Jankel Adler, André Lhote and Tristan Tzara
— Kitty Stroud introduces him to Anthony Froshaug

1948 one-man show ‘Useful and metaphoric objects’ (Mayor Gallery, London, April–May 1948)

1952 Independent Group starts discussions

1952–6 runs ‘Experimental typography’ classes at Central School of Arts and Crafts; Anthony Froshaug asks him to outline a part-time course for his students; other teachers include Eduardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson

1953 starts notebooks

1955 works for an advertising agency Allardyce Palmer with Edwin Taylor (of Bateman Artists Studios)

1956 they both move to another agency, Erwin Wasey, where F. H. K. Henrion is a creative director

1956 works with Theo Crosby on the design of the exhibition ‘This is tomorrow’ at the Whitechapel Gallery; he collaborates in group 1 with Theo Crosby, Germano Facetti and William Turnbull and also designs the catalogue; lettering for the ‘House of the future’, Alison and Peter Smithson’s project for the Ideal Home exhibition at Olympia; works with Theo Crosby on the Building Exhibition at Olympia; establishes ‘Workshop Ltd’ with Germano Facetti and Edwin Taylor

late 1950s visiting teacher at the London School of Printing in London and part-time teacher at the School of Architecture, Cambridge

1956–9 teaches at Royal College of Art as tutor in the school of graphic design, recruited by Richard Guyatt

1959 leaves RCA to join the team of Illustrated history of western philosophy at Rathbone Books together with Germano Facetti and Edwin Taylor; exhibition ‘Edward Wright: paintings, reliefs, collages, 1954–1959’, (Mayor Gallery, London, May–June 1959); catalogue is written and designed by Joseph Rykwert; an issue of Theo Crosby’s Uppercase is published to celebrate it

1960 lettering for the cover of Architectural Association Journal; Brinkmann alphabet

1961 lettering for the 6th Congress of International Union of Architects with Theo Crosby; lettering for Churchill College, Cambridge

1963 lettering for Imperial College; ‘Legibility studies alphabet’

1964 designs materials (with Robin Fior) for an exhibition ‘Painting & sculpture of a decade, 54–64’ (Tate Gallery, London, 22 April to 28 June) organized by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation; signs Ken Garland’s ‘First things first manifesto’; Hinsley House lettering

1965 appointed Head of Graphic Design at
Chelsea School of Art

1968 New Scotland Yard lettering (Flaxman alphabet)

1969 works with Theo Crosby on British Design Show in Paris (Musée des Arts Decoratifs)

1970 journey to Peru, Chile, Ecuador; he is invited to teach at the School of architecture at the Catholic University in Valparaiso; he meets Godofredo Iommi, the Argentinean poet of happenings, and discovers writings of Ernesto Cardenal

1977 moves to Cambridge

1978 designs montages for ‘Dada and Surrealism reviewed’ exhibition (Hayward Gallery, London, 11 January to 27 March)

1979 lettering for a memorial in Westminster Cathedral

1982 exhibition ‘Edward Wright: topographical watercolours 1962–82’ (University of Cambridge, Department of Architecture)

1983 becomes involved with Cambridge Darkroom as a patron and acts asa director for four years

1984 finishes Codex atorrantis

1985 Art Council’s touring exhibition ‘Edward Wright: graphic work and painting’, organized by Michael Harrison and Trilokesh Mukherjee; stairway show of his work at the Cambridge Darkroom (15 March – 15 April); exhibition ‘Edward Wright, obra grafica’ organized by Museo
de Bellas Artes, Caracas (November 1985 – January 1986)

1988 designs lettering for Tate Gallery Liverpool
— dies on 16 October.