Depicting himself holding a pen, and with the bottom section of the work done in a more sketchy manner, it appears as though Ball has captured himself here in the act of literally drawing his own self-portrait.
Ball created a number of prints including scenes from his environment: industry, people at work, figure studies, and portraits. All of his etchings and engravings show a preoccupation with drawing and craftsmanship. It is clear that the act of drawing from life, to study the human form, was an integral part of his practice. It was largely down to this mastery of draftsmanship that led to the artist gaining the reputation as one of the greatest British printmakers of his generation and his work deserves greater attention.
Robert Ball was something of a child prodigy, learning to draw from memory at an early age. Ball was born in Birmingham and began his training in 1930, at the age of twelve, at the Moseley Road Junior School of Art and Crafts.
He was exceptionally talented at drawing and won a number of scholarships and prizes, including a scholarship to study engraving at the Royal College of Art in 1941. He was a printmaker who produced mainly etchings and engravings and became an associate member of the RBSA in 1943. During the Second World War he was employed as a draughtsman at Charlesworths.
Ball went on to become Principal at the Stroud School of Art from 1953 until 1959 and was a lecturer of painting and drawing at the Gloucestershire College of art from 1954 until 1981. Despite being involved in art schools throughout his life, Ball saw himself as a self-taught artist.
His work can be seen in the V&A, Cheltenham Art Gallery, Gloucester City Museum and Art Gallery and The Ashmolean in Oxford.
He was a friend of Laurie Lee and Frank Mansell, illustrating Frank’s celebrated collection of poetry ‘The Cotswold Ballads’ with a series of woodcuts.