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ness, and more than one generation separated him from
the engraver who was to execute the plates. Turner
worked with elaboration, and worked at leisure, and
he etched upon the plates, himself, the leading lines
of his composition, and he was in contact with the
engravers, and his directions to these accomplished
craftsmen were rightly fastidious and endlessly minute.
Claude too was an etcher, yet it is not in the " Liber
Veritatis" — it is in the rare and early States of his
Shc'pfurd and Shepherdess Convcrsinff, of his CoxvJicrd
(" Le Boiivier"), of his Cattle in Stormy WeatJicr —
that (as a pievioiis chapter has insisted) we are to find
proof of his skilled familiarity with that means of
expression which Turner cuiployed as the basis of his

work in the " Liber." Claude, when he etched, etched

193 N


for Etching's sake, and used with pleasure and with
case the resources of the etchers art. Turner restricted
Etching within narrower limits. When one remembers
the circumstance that, having etched the outlines on
the plate, he took a dozen or a score, perhaps, of
impressions from it before he caused the work in
mezzotint to be added, it is difficult to assert that he
did not attach a certain value to the etched outlines.
And indeed they are of extraordinary significance and
strength : they show economy of labour, certainty of
vision and of hand. It is very well that they, as well
as the finished plates, should be collected. But, in his
})leasure in possessing himself of these rare, noble
things, the collector must not allow himself to forget
that they were essentially a preparation and a susten-
ance for that which was to follow — for that admirable
mezzotint on which the subtlest lights and shadows of
the picture, its infinite and indescribably delicate grada-
tions, were intended to depend.

Of this Mezzotint it is time to speak. Its employ-
ment, though it proved — as I think I have implied
already — wonderfully conducive to the quality of the
"Liber" plates, was not resolved upon at first. The
process of aquatint, in which much work was done
about that time — in which, only a very few years
before " Liber " began. Turner's friend, Thomas Girtin,
had produced some broadly-treated views of Paris —
had, at fu'st, been thought of. Negotiations were
opened with Lewis, and he executed in aquatint one

of the plates, which Turner did indeed eventually use,



but which he was careful not to use in the earhest
numbers of the pubHcation. The superiority of Mezzo-
tint he recognised quite clearly. He employed the best
mezzotinters. He busied himself to instruct them as
to the effects that he desired. He learnt the art him-
self, and himself mezzotinted, with great exquisiteness,
ten out of the seventy-one plates. He worked, in later
stages, upon all the rest of them ; obtaining generally
the most refined beauty, but working in such a fashion
as to exhaust the plate with extravagant swiftness.
Then he touched and retouched, almost as Mr. Whistler
has touched and retouched the plates of his Venetian
etchings. So delicate, so evanescent, rarity is not an
aim, but a need, with them.

The ])ubIication of the " Liber "''' — the great under-
taking of the early middle period of Turner"'s art —
began in 1807, and its issue was arrested in the year
1819. It was never completed — seventy-one finished
plates were given to the world out of the hundred that
were meant to be. But Turner had by that time pro-
ceeded far with the remainder, of which twenty plates,
more or less finished, testified to a gathering rather
than ii lessening strength. By the non-publication
of these later ])!ates, the collector — if not necessarily
the student — is deprived of several of the noblest ilhis-
trations of Tumer"'s genius. Nothing in I he whole
series shows an elegance more dignifit-d than that which
the Stork and Aqueduct displays ; the mystery of dawn
is magnificent in i\\c Storu:1icvfi;i' ; and never was pas-
toral landscajje — the Englaiid of field and wood and



slo})iiig hillside — more engaging or suggestive than in
the Ci'owJuirst.

The mention of these plates — the hint it gives us as
to difference of subject and of aim — brings up the ques-
tion of the various classes of composition into which
Turner thought proper to divide his work. His adver-
tisement of the publication affords a proof of how widely
representative the work was intended to be ; nor, indeed,
did the execution at all fall short of Turner's hope in
this respect. The work was to be — and we know, now,
how fully it became — an illustration of Landscape Com-
position, classed as follows : " Historical, Mountainous,
Pastoral, Marine, and Architectural."" And further,
it is said in the advertisement, " Each number contains
five engravings in mezzotint : one subject of each class."
But Turner, in these matters, was extraordinarily un-
methodical — I should like to say "muddled." Each
number did contain five engravings, and they were " in
mezzotint," with the preparation in etching; but it
was by no means always that there was one subject
of each class, for Turner divided the Pastoral into
simple and what he described as " elegant " or " epic "
Pastoral (Mr. Roget thinks that the "E.P." means
"epic"), and the very first number contained a His-
torical, a Marine, an Architectural subject, but it
contained no Mountainous, for the Pastoral was re-
presented in both of its forms ("P." and "E.P.").

The actual publication was exceedingly irregular.

Sometimes two numbers — or two parts, as we may

better call them — were issued at once. Sometimes



there would be an interval of several years between
the issue of a couple of parts. There is no doubt
that as the work progressed Turner felt increasingly
the neglect under which it suffered. Gradually he
lost interest in its actual issue — but, never for a
moment in its excellence.

Charles Turner, the admirable mezzotint engraver —
who, it should hardly be necessary to say, was no rela-
tion of the gi'eater man — had charge of "Liber" in
its early stages. The prints of the first parts bore an
inscription to the effect that they were " Published by
C. Tui-ner, 50 Warren Street, Fitzroy Square." But
in 1811 — when three years had elapsed since the pub-
lication of the fourth part — the fifth came out as
" Published by Mr. Turner, Queen Anne Street, West"
— and " Mr. Turner " meant, of course, the author of
the work. Charles Turner, who had engraved in mezzo-
tint every plate contained in the four parts with whose
publication he was concerned, engi-avcd, likewise, several
of the succeeding pieces. Thus his share in the produc-
tion of "Liber" was greater than that of any of his
brethren. William Say's came next to his in im-
|)ortancc — importance measured by amount of labour
— and Mr. Itawlinson has pointed out that William
Say ^ai)proached his work with little previous prepara-
tion by the rendering of Landscape. The remark is,
in some degree, applicable to most of Say's associates.
The engraver in me/zotint, at that time, as in earlier
times, flourished chiefly by reproducing Portraiture.

Raj)hael Smith and William Ward — ^great artists who



were still living when the "Liber" was executed, but
who had no part in the performance — had been em-
ployed triumphantly, a very little earlier, in popularis-
ing that delightful art of Morland, in which landscape
had so large a place. Dunkarton, Thomas Lupton,
Clint, Easling, Annis, Dawe, S. W. Reynolds, and
Hodges complete the list of the engravers in mezzo-
tint who worked upon the " Liber." Admirable artists
many of them were, but the collector, if he is a student,
cannot forget how much the master, the originator,
dominated over all.

Mr. Ruskin and several subsequent writers have
written, with varying degrees of eloquence, of origin-
ality, and, I may add, of common sense, as to the
moral, emotional, or intellectual message the " Liber "
may be taken to convey. Tliis is scarcely the place in
which to seek to decipher with exliaustive thoroughness
a communication that is on the whole complicated and
on the whole mysterious. The reader may be referred
to the last pages of the final volume of " Modern
Painters" for what is at all events the most im-
pressive statement that a prose-poet can deliver as
to the gloomy significance of Turner's work. Mr.
Stopford Brooke — rich in sensibility and in imaginative
perceptiveness — follows a good deal in Mr. Ruskin''s
track. I doubt if Mr. Hamerton or Mr. Cosmo
Monkhouse — instructive critics of a cooler school —
endorse the verdict of unmitigated gloom, and I have
myself (in a chapter in a now well-nigh forgotten

essay of my youth) ventured to hold forth upon the



intervals of peace and rest which " Liber Studiorum "
shows in its scenes of soHtude and withdrawal : the
morning light, clear and serene, in the meadows below
Oakhampton Castle ; the graver silence of sunset as
one looks wstfully from heights above the Wye, to
where, under the endless skies, the stream deploys to
the river. I am referring, of course, to the Oakhampton
Castle subject, and to the Severn and Wye; but the
argument might have been sustained by allusion to
many another print.

More important to our present purpose than to settle
accurately its moral mission or to agree upon the senti-
ment of this or that particular plate, is it to value
properly the sterling and artistic virtues which " Liber "
makes manifest. Of these, however, there is one thing
only that I care to emphasise here. Let all beauties of
detail be discovered ; but let us even here, and in lines
that are of necessity brief, lay stress upon the all-
imj)ortant part played in the plates of "Liber"" by one
old-fashioned virtue, that will yet be fresh again when
some of those that may seem to supplant it have indeed
waxed old. It is the virtue of Composition. " Liber
Studionun" shows, in passage after j)assage of its
draughtsmanshij), close reference to Nature, deep know-
ledge of her secrets ; but it shows I think yet more the
unavoidable conviction, alike of true worker and true
connoisseur, that Nature is, for the artist, not a Deity
but a material : not a tyrant but a servant. In the
near and faithful stud^ of Nature — and nowhere more

com{)I('tcly than in the prints of "Liber" — 'l\irncr did



much that had been left undone by predecessors. But
he was not opposed to them — he was alhed to them —
in his recognition of the fact that his art must do much
more than merely reproduce. " Nature,"" said Goethe,
" Nature has excellent intentions." And by Composi-
tion, by choice, by economy of means, sometimes by
very luxury of hidden labour, it is the business of the
artist to convey these intentions to the beholders of his
work. How much does he receive.'' How much of
himself, of his creative mind, must we exact that he
shall bestow ?

Let us come down, immediately, to money matters,
and other practical things for the collector's benefit.

It is still possible, here and there, in an auction
room, to buy an original set of " Liber Studiorum '^ — a
set, that is, as Turner issued it — but it is never desir-
able. For Turner, who was not only a great poet with
brush and pencil, and scraper and etching needle, but an
exceedingly keen hard bargainer and man of business,
took horrible care (or just care, if we choose to call it
so) that the original subscribers to his gi'eatest serial
should never get sets consisting altogether of the fine
impressions. He mixed the good with the second-rate :
the second-rate with the bad. It was not till collectors
took to studying the pieces for themselves, and making
up collections by purchase of odd pieces here and there
— rejecting much, accepting something — that any sets
were uniformly good. The first fine set, perhaps, was
that, in various States, which was amassed by Mr.

Stokes, and passed on to his niece, MissMai^ Constance



Clarke. To have the marks of these ownerships at the
back of a print, is — in ninety-nine cases out of a hun-
dred — to have evidence of excellence. Twenty years
ago, one could buy such a print, now and then, at
Halsted's, the ancient dealers, in Rathbone Place;
and have an instructive chat to boot, with an old-
world personage who had had speech with " Mr.
Turner." Even now, in an auction room, one may get
such a print sometimes. Another of the very early
collectoi-s was Sir John Hippesley, who bought origin-
ally on Halsted's recommendation, and who — having
been for years devoted to works of other masters —
ended by breakfasting, so to speak, on " Liber Studi-
crum : " on the chair opposite to him, as he sat at his
meal, a fine print was wont to be placed. Amongst
living connoisseurs, Mr. Henry Vaughan and Mr. J. E.
Taylor, Mr. Stopford Brooke and Mr. W. G. Rawlinson,
have notable collections of very varying size and import-
ance. Mr. Itawlinson believes much more than I do —
if I understand him aright — in the desirability of
possessing engravers'" trial proofs — in a certain late
stage. Most engiavcrs"' proofs are, of course, mere
prej)arations, curious and interesting, but in themselves
far less desirable than the finished plates to whose
effects of deliberate and attained beauty they can but
vaguely a|)proximate. Of course if you are so ex-
ceediuglv lucky a man as to have been able to pounce
upon the particular proof which was the last of the
series, you possess a fine and incontestable thing; but

generally an early ini{)ressiou of the First published



State represents the subject more safely and assuredly ;
and, failing that, an early impi-ession of the Second
State; and so on. An indication of priority is no
doubt well — but it is well chiefly for the feebler
brethren. You must train your eye. Having trained
it, you must learn to rely on it. Books and the
knowledge of States are useful, but are not sufficient.

In the few years that elapsed between the establish-
ment of "Liber"''' as avowedly fit material for the diligence
and outlay of the collector, and the great sale of the
" remainders "" in Turner"'s own collection — which only
left Queen Anne Street in 1873, some two -and -twenty
years after his death — prices for fine impressions of the
" Liber " plates, bought separately, were high. Then,
in 1873, during that long sale at Christie's, a flood of
prints, and many of them very fine ones, came upon
the market. " Would they ever be absorbed ? ■" it was
asked. They were absorbed very ((uickly. But just
until they were absorbed, it was, naturally, possible,
not only to choose (at the dealer's, chiefly, who bought
big lots ; at the Colnaghi's and Mrs. Noseda's, particu-
larly) — it was possible to choose sagaciously, out of so
great a number, and to choose cheaply too. Then
"markets hardened.'' The various writings calling
attention to the wisdom of collecting had probably
their effect. Then things slackened again. And now,
though rare proofs and very fine impressions — which
are what should be most cared about — hold their own,
there is a certain lull in the activity of buying. The

undesirable impression goes for very little. Yet the



fluctuations, such as they are, either way, are of no
vast importance. Of any but the very rarest, or very
finest subjects, six to twelve guineas gets a good Firet
State. Three to six guineas may be the price of a
good Second. A Third or Fourth or Fifth State
fetches less, unless — as in an exceptional instance, like
^e Calm — it is preferable. Of all the different sub-
jects, the rarest is Ben Arthur. In a fine impression
— with the cloudland and the shadows not impenetrably
massive — it is exceedingly impressive. But never as a
thing of power should I rate it above Sohvay Moss
or Hind Head Hill; or, as a thing of beauty, above
Severn and Wye.

No great collection of the "Liber Studiorum" has
been sold of late years, but if we go back to the year
1887, we can give a few prices culled from the cata-
logue of the Buccleugh Sale. An engraver's proof of
the Woman zvith a Tambourine fetched =£'15, 15s. there ;
an engraver"'s proof of Basle, oC27 ; a proof of the
Mount St. Gothard, which at least must have had the
virtue of a})proaching finish, fell to Colnaghi's bid of
dC'oS ; the First State of the Holy Islarul Catlicdral,
which sold for i?3, 3s., must either have been poor or
monstrously cheap, though the plate is one in which,
even to the collector with the most trained eye, the
possession of the First State is not strictly necessitated :
the .subject is among those — and they are not so very
few — in wliich the Second State, well chosen, is alto-
gether julequate. The First State of the Hind Head

Hill reached X'14, 14s. ; the First of the London from



Grecnroich, with its noble panorama of tlie long
stretched Town and winding river, reached £15, 15s.
A proof of the Windrmll and Lock reached £^\ ; a
First State of the Severn and Wye, £^\ ; a First State
of the Procris and Cephalus, £11; a First State of the
Watercress Gatherers, £W, lis. The pure etchings,
which I have written of in an earlier paragraph in this
chapter, sell, generally speaking, for three or four
guineas apiece ; the etching of the Isis, which is ex-
tremely rare, fetched at the Buccleugh auction £\^, 13s.
By the Fine Art Society £1^ Avas paid for a First
State of the Ben Arthur. The plates least eagerly
sought, or in inferior condition, went for all sorts of
prices between a pound or two and four or five guineas.
I think, as far as value may be judged without the
presence of the particular impressions which were sold,
the little list I have now given above may fairly indi-
cate it, but no quite thorough indication can be got
without an immense accumulation of detail, and, on
the reader\s part, an immense knowledge in inter-
preting it. It is not unintentionally that we have
lingered long over the "Liber.'" But more than one
other great series must engage at all events a brief

In 1814 began the amous "Southern Coast" series,
which was brought to an end in 1827. For these
})rints, engraved in admirable and masculine "line,"
chiefly by the brothers George and William Cooke,
Turner had made water colours, whilst as a preparation

for the " Liber," he had made but slight though finely



considered sepia drawings — mere guides and hints to
himself and the engravers he employed upon the plates :
things whose significance was to be enlarged : not
things to be merely copied and scrupulously kept to.
In quite tolerable condition the ordinary impressions
of the " Southern Coast " plates are to be had in large
J)ook-form; but the collector, buying single piece by
single piece, at one or two or three guineas each, seeks
generally impressions before letters or with the scratched
title. Of course the variations in condition are notice-
able, but in the firm " line " of the " Southern Coast,"
they are at least much less noticeable than in the
delicate and evanescent mezzotints of " Liber."

The year in which the publication of the " Southern
Coast" was finished — when prints picturesque and
vivid, and in some cases, as in the Clovelly of William
Miller, perfectly exquisite, had been presented of the
most interesting seaboard places between Minehead and
Whitstable — that year was the period at which the
publication of the third great series, the " England and
Wales," was begun. It was to have extended to thirty
parts or more : each part containing four subjects.
JJut, like "Liber," it received, on its first issue, no full
and satisfying measure of encouragement, and thougli
it reached its twenty-fourth part, it did not go further.
It was ])ublishe(l at about two guineas and a half a
j>art. " I^nglaiKJ und Wales" sets forth with gi'cat
elaboration of line engi-aving the characteristics of the
later middle |)criod of Turner's art, so far as black and

white can set it forth at all. That wa.s the period in



which subject was most complicated and most ample —
even unduly ample — and in which Turner dealt at once
with the most intricate line and with all sorts of prob-
lems of colour, atmosphere, illumination. The work of
all that period, from 1827, say, to ten years onwards
— with many of its merits, its inevitable shortcomings,
and its immense ambition — the " England and Wales "
represents. The work of various engravers trained by
Turner for the interpretation of all that was most com-
plicated, it will ever be interesting and valuable. Such
prints as Stamford, Llantliony Abbey, and the noble
Yarmouth stand ever in the front line. The last, like
the Clovelhj of the " Southern Coast,"" is a work of
William Miller, the old Quaker engraver, whose render-
ing of Turners delicate skies no other line engraver
has approached — not even William Cooke, who did so
well that troop of light little wind clouds in the Mar-
gate of the " Southern Coast."" Admirable then, indeed,
many of these things must be allowed to be; and in
this sense they are almost unique, that scarcely any-
thing else has possessed their qualities. Yet on the
whole one admires " England and Wales " with reserva-
tions. One''s heart goes out more thoroughly to " Liber ""
and to " Southern Coast.""

There are other series which must not be passed over
altogether — the " llichmondshire Set,"" of which the
first print was executed, I think, in 1820, though the
whole volume was not issued till 1823. It too is in
line : the finest print of all, perhaps the Ingleborcnigh.

Then there are six " Ports of England : "" impressive,



varied little mezzotints, unsupported by etching — prints
in one of which Turner has set down, for all time, his
clear, unequalled perception of the beauty of the Scar-
borouirh coast-line. Then there are the "Rivers of
England,"" with the noble Arundel, the restful Totness.
Then there are, in line, the almost over-dainty yet
jniraculous little prints of " Rivers of France."" Then
there are the wonderful vignettes in illustration of
Walter Scott. These, like the illustrations to the
Rogers' " Poems "'"' and the " Italy,"'"' with which they
have the most affinity, are luminous and gem-like.
The Rogers illustrations of course deteriorate in later
editions; the "Italy" of 1830 and the "Poems" of
1834 are the ones that should be possessed ; and were
the present volume of a wider scope and addressed to
the book-collector, I should allow myself to say here
what it seems I do say here, without "allowing my-
self"" — that the collector should get, if possible, a
copy in the original boards, and may give £6 for
that as safely as a couple of sovereigns for a re-bound

Turner is represented on many a side by the engraver's
art, and in most cases with singular good fortune. For
some, there are the vignettes which have the finish of
Cellini work. I'or some, it may he, the large, more
recent plates, the Modern It(dij and Ancient Itttlij, that
hang, I cannot help considering, rather ineffectively
upon liie wall : too big, woi for their place, but for
their method of execution — and yet, like so many,

wonderful. He is represented best of all perhai)s in



works of middle saile — in the virile line of the
" Southern Coast," and the unap])roachahle mezzotint
and etching of the " Liber." If everything that he has
wrought with brush or pencil were extinguished, these
things, living, would make immortal his fame.



The healthij appreciation of Mezzotint — Its faculty of
conveying the painter' s^very touch — Landscape Scenes
in Mezzotint — Comparative Rarity of Landscapes —
The Constables — Vast volume of Rare Pieces and
Portraits — The Ptints after Sir Joshua Reytiolds —
Dr. Hamilton's Catalogue — The smaller number of
Gainsboroug/is — Increased appreciation of Romney
— Mr. Percy Home's book on these me?i — George
Morland — The cost of Mezzotints now, and when first

Of modem fashions in Print Collecting, the apprecia-
tion of Mezzotints is assuredly one of the healthiest,
and — apart from the question of the very high prices
to which mezzotints have lately been forced — there is
only one drawback to the pleasure of the Collector in

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Online LibraryFrederick WedmoreFine prints → online text (page 13 of 16)