Eiland Marken

Sydney Mackenzie Litten (artist)1930

Te Papa

Te Papa
Wellington, New Zealand

In relation to his obvious prowess as a printmaker, there is surprisingly and disappointingly little information that is readily accessible about Sydney Litten (1887-1934). Even the date of his death is often wrongly given as 1949 because of the demise that year of a near namesake, Sidney Litton.

Litten studied art at St. Martin's School of Art and etching at the Royal College of Art under Frank Short and became Senior Master at St Martin's School, exhibitingat the Royal Academy and the New English Art Club. He did the majority of his work in Spain and Italy but also the Netherlands. Fifty-one of his prints are recorded in the annual <em>Fine Prints of the Year </em>between 1926 and 1935. Like Whistler and McBey he did his etchings in series such as his Thames images and two Venice Sets of four prints each, done in 1928. Venice was the subject for fifteen etchings, exhibited until 1935, the year after his death in London. Sydney Litten was the father of the artist Maurice Sydney Litten (1919-1979).

The portrait painter and printmaker Andrew Freeth wrote of the older Litten: "To many friends he seemed a gentle faun. His work was sustained on two levels; one - traditional, sensitive, topographical realism, the other - imaginative and poetic...All his work is deeply sincere, soundly drawn and inspired by a genuine passion for nature and an awareness of the mystery which lies behind the usual world."

Marken is a peninsula in the Markermeer, in the Netherlands and a former island in the Zuiderzee, located in the municipality Waterland in the province North Holland. It is the namesake of the Markermeer, the body of water which surrounds it. The former island is nowadays connected to the North Holland mainland by a causeway. Marken is a well-known tourist attraction, well known for its characteristic wooden houses and was the location for significant works by the Dutch/New Zealand artist Petrus van der Velden in the previous century.

On blue/green Whatman paper, Litten brings out the rich tonalities of the airy, flat, watery landscape he observes. The etching/drypoint almost certainly dates from the same trip to the Netherlands as his <em>Evening on the Zuyder Zee </em>(Te Papa 1956-0001-12), whereas this is a morning scene. There is some ambiguity about the title - the writing on the support is hard to read, but in the absence of any other evidence the Dutch for 'Island' - 'Eiland' is given to the print. Surprisingly, for a printmaker of Litten's obvious talents, it appears to be unrepresented in any other public collection.

See: The Annex Galleries, 'Sidney Mackenzie Litten Biography', https://www.annexgalleries.com/artists/biography/1413/Litten/Sidney

Dr Mark Stocker   Curator, Historical International Art   September 2018


  • Title: Eiland Marken
  • Creator: Sydney Mackenzie Litten (artist)
  • Date Created: 1930
  • Physical Dimensions: Image: 379mm (width), 201mm (height)
  • Provenance: Gift of Sir John Ilott, 1962
  • Subject Keywords: people | Boats | Bodies of water | Villages | Marken (Nederland) | British
  • Rights: No Known Copyright Restrictions
  • External Link: Te Papa Collections Online
  • Medium: etching on green paper
  • Support: paper
  • Depicted Location: Marken (Nederland)
  • Registration ID: 1962-0001-15

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