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hriiiirin"- them to<rether : the collector of mezzotints has
to resign himself to do without original work. Tlie
scraping of the plate in these broad masses of sluulow
and light — a method innnensely popular as means of in-
teq)retation or translation of the j)ainter\s touch — has
from the days of the invention of the process by Ludwig
von Siegen to the days of its latest practice, never greatly
commended itself to the original artist as a method for
fresh design. 'I'lierc- are a i'ltv/ exquisite exceptions;

and i)erliaps there is no suiricient reason why there

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should not be more; but the exceptions best known,
and most likely to be cited, the prints of Turner''s
" Liber Stiuliorum,"' are exceptions only in so far as
regards that small j)roportion of the whole — about ten
amongst the published plates — wi'ought by Turner
himself.

And, further, the collector, if he cares much for
Landscape subjects, will note that landscapes in mezzo-
tint are comparatively few. It was in the Eighteenth
Century that the production of mezzotint was most
voluminous; and the Eighteenth Century took little
interest in Landscape. In the earlier half of our own
lentury — ere yet the art had almost ceased to be prac-
tised — the world was given a few famous sets of land-
scapes in mezzotint ; but they were very few. Turner's
"Liber" (with its backbone of etching) was followed by
the half-dozen pieces of the " Ports of England," and
by " Rivers of England," or " River Scenery," as it
is sometimes called, " after Turner and Girtin ; " and
then, well in the middle of the half-century, we were
endowed with the delightful, now highly prized mezzo-
tints, which were executed by David Lucas after the
works of Constable, homely when they were sombre,
homely too when they were most sparkling and alive.
They too — like the " Liber " prints of Turner — profited
by the supervision of the creative artist. The tendency
of Mr. Lucas was to make them too black, and per-
haps a little too massive. Sparkle and vivacity were
wanted in any adequate renderings of Constable ; and

these, by Constable's own solicitude, and doubtless too

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by the adaptability of Lucas's talent, were eventually
obtained. In our own day, several most meritorious
artists — Wehrschniidt and Gerald Robinson and others
— ^have done, in several branches, accomplished and
interesting work in mezzotint, and Frank Short, in
one print especially that I have in my mind after a
^Turner drawing — an Alpine subject — and again in a
bold decisive mezzotint, A Road in Yorkshire, after
Dewint (a road skirting the moors) — is altogether
admirable. And, to name yet a third instance of the
art of this so flexible and extraordinarily sympathetic
translator, there is the quite wonderful little vision of
the silvery grey Downs, after a sketch by Constable in
the possession of Mr. Henry Vaughan, whose greater
Constable, the Hay Wain, was generously made over
to the nation, many yeare ago. The work of David
Lucas, done under Constable"'s eye, never — not even
in the radiant Summerland or in the steel-grey keen-
ness of the Spring — for one moment excelled in
delicacy of mani})ulation Frank Short's delightful
rendering of that vision of the Downs. But I am
not to dwell longer upon ])articular instances. We
are brought back to a repetition of the fact that it
is not, generally speaking, in examples of Landscape
Art that the collector of mezzotints nuist (ind himself
richest. The mezzotint collector's gi-oups of landscapes
will be limited. In the collection of religious coi)i])osi-
tions, oi genre pieces, of theatrical subjects, of "fancy"
subjects — in which that which is most "fancied" is the

prettiness of the female sex — in sporting and in racing

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subjects (amongst the latter there are a few most
admirable prints after George Stubbs), and most of
all, of course, in portraits, from the days of Lely to
the days of Lawrence, there will be opportunities of
filling portfolio after ])ortfolio, drawer after drawer.

It is difficult, I think, for the collector — still more
for the student who has not a collector''s practical in-
terest in the matter — to realise what is actually the
extent of that contribution to the worWs possessions
in the way of Art, which has been made, and all within
about two hundred years, by the engravers in mezzo-
tint. Some eighteen years ago, an Irish amateur, Mr.
Challoner Smith, began the publication of a Catalogue
which when it was concluded, several years later, had
extended to five volumes. It was a colossal labour.
Styled by its compiler, " British Mezzotint Portraits,"
it really includes the chi'onicle of many things which
at least are not professedly portraits — yet it excludes
many too. Whatever it excludes, its bulk is such, that,
amongst the mass of its matter, it comprises full de-
scriptions of between four and five hundred plates by
one artist alone. The man is Faber, junior. Fifty
plates are chronicled by an engraver more modern of
character, more popular to-day — Richard Earlom ;
amongst them, more than one of the genre or in-
cident pictures after Wright of Derby (in which a
difficult effect of chiaroscuro — an effect of artificial
light — is treated boldly, vigorously, not always very
subtly), and the marvellously painter-like plates of

Marriage a la Mode, so much more pictorial than the

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brilliant line-eng-ravinors executed much earlier after
those subjects. But not, be it observed, mentioned by
Challoner Smith amongst the Earloms, are two other
prints in which, in the reproduction of still-life, engi'av-
ing in mezzotint reaches high-water mark : I mean the
now most justly sought-for plates after the Fruit and
Flower Pieces of Van Huysum. By James Watson, a
contemporary of Earlom\s, more or less, about a hun-
dred and sixty prints are described. By J. R. Smith —
who engraved so many of the finest of the Sir Joshuas
— there are described two hundred, but by the John
Smith who, a century earlier, recorded almost in-
numerable Knellers, there are all but three hundred.
The difference in the number of plates produced by
the younger men and by the elder — James Watson,
Earlom, and J. R. Smith upon the one hand ; John
Smith and Faber on the other — finds its explanation
in the tendency of mezzotint to become more elaborate,
more refined, more perfect, presumably slower, during
the hundred years or so that separated the beginning,
not from the end indeed (for the end, strictly speak-
ing, is not yet), but from the very crown and crest of
the achievement. IVIuih of the early work is very
vigorous. .Jolm Smith, especially, was within limited
lines a sterling artist ; though mainly, like the portrait
j)ainters that he worke<l after, without obvious attrac-
tiveness and indeed without subtlety. The exceedingly
rare cxa!nj)lcs of Ludwig von Siegen and of Prince
Rupert show that these men — at the very beginning

even — were artists and not bunglers. But when one

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compai-es that early work, Jolm Smith's even — done,
all of it, when the art was but in its robust childhood
— with the infinitely more refined and flexible per-
formance of the men of the Eighteenth Century, one
wonders only at the great body of achievement, dex-
terous, delicate, faultlessly graceful, vouchsafed to the
practitioners of mezzotint during the last decades of
that later epoch. And between the distinctly later
work and the distinctly earlier, of the less engaging
executants, there came, be it remembered, the mascu-
line art of M'Ardell, a link in the chain ; for M'Ardell
learnt something from the early men, and was the
master of more than one of the more recent. He is
admirable especially in his rendering of the portraits
of men.

A vast proportion of the work of the first practi-
tioners of Mezzotint appeals rather to the collector of
portraits for likeness' sake, than to the collector of
prints for beauty's sake and Art's. Such a collector
is a specialist the nature of whose specialty obliges
him to amass a certain amount of artistic production
without necessarily having any gi'eat regard for the
Art that is in it. We are not concerned, in this
volume, with his specialty, honourable and service-
able as it may be — a book which, by reason of more
pressing claims, leaves out of consideration the manly
and yet highly refined labours of Nanteuil, Edelinck, the
Drevets (masters of reproductive work in pure " line "),
may well be pardoned if it does not pause over mere

portraiture — I mean, the less artistic portraiture — in

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mezzotint. The collector who is as yet but a beginner
should be encouraged to direct his eye to the more
statedly and purposely artistic — to the hill-tops where
he will find already, as his comrades in research, those
who have brought to the task of collectino^ a lona:
experience and a chastened taste. In other words, the
generation of Reynolds and of Gainsborough, or else
the generation of Romney and of Morland, has to be
reached before the mezzotint collector can lay hands
on the great prizes of his pursuit. The perfectly trans-
lated art of these paintei'S is amongst the few things
which may be accounted popular and yet may be
accounted noble.

In saying this, I do not preclude myself from saying
also that I think the sums given at present for the most
favourite instances of mezzotint engraving are distinctlv
excessive. We will look at a few of them in detail, on
a later page. Fashion knows little reasonableness — but
little moderation — and hence it is that a translation
of Reynolds, gracious and engaging, commands, if it
happens to be at all rare, the price, and often more
than the price, of an original and important creation
of Dlirer's, or even of Rembrandt's. Rut what shall
we .say when we have to recollect that, at the present
moment, even the mezzotints after Ilopjmer are ridicu-
lously dear !

Of all the masters of the Eighteenth or early Nine-
teenth Century, it is Sir Joshua Reynolds who has
been engraved most amply. It is safe to say that

there are something like four hundred ])rints after

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his painted work — prints of the great time, I mean,
ending not later than 18^0, and taking, amongst
others, no account of the smaller plates of which S,
W. Reynolds executed so many. The latest and best
Catalogue of these great Reynolds prints is that of
Dr. Hamilton — a labour of diligence and loving care
imdertaken in our own generation. Of the painters
of the British School, Morland probably comes next
to Reynolds, in respect of the number of engravings
executed after his work. Apart from prints in stipple,
there exist after IVIorland something like two hundred
mezzotints. A systematic Catalogue, with states and
all, is still to be desired, as a sm-e practical guide to
the collector of Morland ; but meanwhile useful service
has certainly been rendered by the Exhibitions at the
Messrs. Vokins's, for these' were wonderfully com-
prehensive, and with them careful lists — only just
short of being catalogues raisonnls — have been issued.
AVilliam Ward — Morland"'s brother-in-law — and J. R.
Smith, with whom lie was associated, were his two
principal engravers; but many another accomplished
craftsman had a hand in popularising his labours by
reproducing his themes — amongst them John Young,
the author of the rare and little known, and poetic
plate, Travellers} Mr. Percy Home — himself, like Dr.
Hamilton, a well-known collector — has done for Gains-
borough and Romney what Dr. Hamilton has done
for Sir Joshua. In one volume, chai-mingly illustrated
with a few specimen subjects, Mr. Percy Home has

issued a Catalogue of the engraved portraits and fancy

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subjects painted by Gainsborough and by Romney —
the Gainsborough pieces of which he has taken note
having been pubhshed between 1760 and 1820 ; the
Romneys, between 1770 and 1830. By Gainsborough,
there are eighty-eight, of which seventy-seven are por-
traits. The numbers include some in stipple and a few
even in line, but the bulk are, of course, mezzotints.
Bv Romney — somehow more popular with the en-
gravers, and, it would seem, with the public — there
are no less than a hundred and forty-five, of which a
hundred and thirty-six are portraits. But it is diffi-
cult, in this matter, to tlraw the line very sharply,
owing to the habit of the beauties of that day to be
painted not only as themselves, but "as Miranda,'"
" a.s Sensibility,"" and the like. Mr. Home himself re-
minds us, by cross references in his index, that even
of the few Ronmcys which he has chosen to cata-
logue as " fancy subjects," some are in truth portraits.
Among the engi'aved Romney portraits, no less than
twenty are avowed representations of the fascinating
woman who inspired Romney as did no other soul,
and without whose presence he not seldom pined.
She came to him fii-st as Emma Hart, or Enuiui Lyon,
mi.stre.ss of Charles Greville. He knew her afterwards
JLS the wife of Sir Williiim Hamilton. The modilicd
and unforbidding (Classicism of her beauty accorded
well with his ideal — helped j)erhaps to form it — and,
juliniral)lc as is much of I he work of his in which she
had no place, Roiniuv is most completely Romney

when it is I^ulv Hamilton hv. is recording.

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The value of an average Roniney print is to-day
at least as high as that of an average Reynolds, and
much liighcr than that of an average Gainshorough.
An exceptional print like his Mrs. Carwardine, than
which notliing is finer — a well-built gentlewoman, seen
in profile, in close white cap, her head bent prettily
over a nestling child, and her arms clasped at his
back — sells for about a hundred guineas, and, in a
fine impression, is scarcely likely to fetch less. It was
engraved by J. R. Smith in 1781. Very beautiful
and delicate, though not perhaps so extremely rare,
is the EUzaheth, Countess of Derby, engraved by John
Dean. Two hundred pounds has been fetched by
Raphael Smith's engraving of Romney^s Lady War-
wick. Of Gainsboroughs, perhaps the very finest is
one engraved by Dean; this is the Mrs. Elliot, a
print of 1779 ; a very great rarity ; a thing of delight-
ful and dignified l)eauty, and in its exquisite delicacy,
quite as characteristic of the engraver as of the origi-
nal artist. It is a long time since any impression has
been sold. About £10 was the last chronicled price
for it. It would fetch more, so experts think, did it
reappear to-day.

The highest price ever yet paid for a print after

Sir Joshua is, as I am told, i?350 ; and this was given

for an impression of Thomas Watson's print after the

picture sometimes called " An Offering to Hymen " —

the Hon. Mrs. Beresford, with the Marchioness Towns-

hend mid the Hon. Mrs. Gardiner. For a while, the

Ladies Waldegrave, engraved by Valentine Green, was

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MEZZOTINTS

considered at the top of the tree. a£'270 has been cheer-
fully paid for it. Mr. Urban Noseda — than whom
no dealer in England is a greater specialist in mezzo-
tint, for he has inherited, it seems, his mother's eye —
the eye which made that lady so desirable a friend to
the collector, a quarter of a century ago — Mr. Urban
.Noseda (if I can get somehow to the end of a sentence
so involved and awkward that I am beginning to feel
it must necessarily be very clever too) tells me, from
Notes to which he has had access, that the original
price of even the most important of these Sir Joshua
prints was never more than a guinea and a half, and
that not a few were issued at five shillings.

The Morland prices still seem moderate when com-
jiared with those of average Sir Joshuas : actually
cheap when compared with those that are finest and
rarest. Lately, the charming pair, A Vint to the Child
at Nurse and A Visit to the Child at School, fetched,
at Sotheby's, twenty-seven guineas ; the Farmer's Stable
fetched, at the Iluth Sale, <i?ll, 10s.; the Carrier's
Stable, not long since at Christie's, fetched twenty-
one guineas ; Fislicrman ffohtff out, by S. W, Rey-
nolds, has realised £11 ; The Story of Letilia, a small
set, has realised X''50, but would to-day fetch more —
in fine condition. Mr. Noseda says — and I suppose
those other great authorities on mezzotint, Messrs.
Colnaghi, would coulirui him — that the original j)rices
of the Morlands ranged from seven and sixpence to
a guinea. Great as the diHerence is between the

.sum fii*st i*.sked and the sum uow obtained, I cannot,

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in the case of this so genial, graceful, acceptable,
observant master, think it is excessive. A generation
that has gone a little mad over J. F. Millet and other
interesting French rustic painters, may allow itself some
healthy enthusiasm when George Morland is to the
front.



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CHAPTER XII

Lithography, the convenient invention of Senefelder
— Its recent Revival due to ike French and Whistler —
Fantin — Whistler's Lithographs only inferior to hit
Etchings — C. H. Shanno7is Lithographs the best ex-
pression of his art — Lithography and Etching compared
— J\ ill Rothenstein — The Lithograp/is of Roussel —
Otiier Draughtsmen on Stone or Transfer -Paper —
The Modem Lithograph foolishly costly.

A FINAL chapter I devote to another of the most justi-
fiable and reasonable of the more recent fads in Print
Collecting — to a branch of the collector's pursuit far
less important, indeed, and far less interesting than
Etching, far less historic than Mezzotint, but far more
creditable than the mania of the inartistic for the
pretty ineptitude of the coloured print. I am speak-
ing of Lithography.

Men who are familiar with the later development of
artistic work, know that not exactly alongside of the
very real and admirable Revival of Etching, but closely
following behind it, there has proceeded some renewal
of interest in the art of drawing upon stone, which, in
1790, wjis invented by Senefelder. Often, however,
nowadays, it is not literally "on stone."" Without
defending the change — and yet without the possibility
of violently accusing it, seeing the achievements which



FINE PRINTS

at least it has not forbidden — I may note that, as a
matter of fact, a transfer-paper, and not the prepared
stone, is, very frequently in our day, the substance
actually drawn on.

Well, the renewal of interest in the art of Lithog-
raphy owes something to the Frenchmen of the pre-
sent generation, and something too to Mr, Whistler.
I say "the present generation" in talking of the
French, because (not to speak of the qualities obtained
two generations ago by our English Prout), Gavarni's
"velvety quality" and the "fever and freedom of
Daumier" were noticeable and might have been in-
fluential before the days of our present young men.
The work of Fantin-Latour, one may take it, has been
to them an example, and, yet later, the work of
Whistler. Fantin-Latour — that delightful painter of
flowers and of the poetic nude — has endowed us in
I^ithography as well, with reveries of the nude, or of
the slightly robed. They are all done in freely scraped
crayon. A few of them — such as The Genius of Music,
or the quite recent To Stendhal — the collector of the
lithograph should certainly possess. But I must turn,
in detail, to Mr. Whistler.

Mr. Tom Way, who knows as much about Lithog-
raphy as any one — and more, perhaps, than any
one about the lithographs of Whistler — assured me,
a year since, that something like a hundred drawings
on the stone, or transfer-paper (for Mr. Whistler
sometimes uses the one and sometimes the other), had

been wrought by one whose reputation is secure as

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the master-etcher, of our time. Since then Mr. Way
has accurately and eulogistically catalogued them.
They amount now, or did when Mr. Way finished
his catalogue, to exactly a hundred and thirty. But
Mr. Whistler is always working. Let us recall a few
of them — and most, though indeed by no means all,
,of them have been seen in an exhibition held scarcely
a year ago in the rooms of the Fine Art Society.
Before then, they were wont to be shown privately
by one or two dealers. Earlier still, they were not
shown at all, though a few of the finest of them had
been long ago wrought. There was that most dis-
tinguished drawing that was published for a penny
in the Whirhc'ind — the lady seated, with a hat on,
and one arm pendant. It is called Tlw Whig-ed Hat.
As in Mr. Whistler's rare little etching of the slightly-
draped cross-kneed girl stooping over a baby, one
enjoys, in The Winged Hat, the suggestion of delicate
tone on the whole surface : the working of the face is
particularly noteworthy by reason of the subtle way
in which the draughtsman had suggested, by means
of the handling of his chalk, a different texture. "By
means of the handling of his chalk," did I write.? —
perhaps a little too confidently. One can't quite
.say how \\v did really get it. But he has got it,
.somehow.

Then th(;rc is tjiut admirable portfolio, of only six or
so, the Goupils piiblislied — containing the IJmchoiiMi\
mysterious and weird, and a Nocturne, liuttersea, wholly

cxcjuisite. Again, there is the Butter.sca liridg-e, of

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1878, which, good though it is, does not stand com-
parison with Mr. Whistler\s etchings of the same and
similar themes. Then there is the rare subject which
people learned in Lithography are wont to account
almost if not quite the Whistlerian masterpiece in the
method — a drawing tenderly washed : a thing of masses
and broad spaces, more than nan'ow lines. It is called
Early Morning, and is a vision of the River at Batter-
sea. It is faint — faint — of gradations the most delicate,
of contrasts the least striking — a gleam of silver and
white.

Later, among many others, there have been that
drawing of a draped model seated which appeared in
M. Marty's " L'Estampe Originale ; " the^/i portrait of
M. Mallarme — a writer so difficult to understand that
by the faithful and by the outsider his profundity is
taken for gi-anted — the interesting and clever print, The
Doctor, which adorns the " Pageant ; " the Belle Dame
paresseuse, with, most especially it may be, the quality
of a chalk drawing; the Belle Jardiniere, which has
something, but by no means all of the infinite freedom
of the etching of The Garden; again. The Balcony
with people peering down from it, as if at a proces-
sion — and procession indeed it was, since the thing was
wrought on the day of Carnot's funeral. Then, in the
Forge and The Smith of the Place du Dragon there is
the tender soft grey quality which people learned in
these things conceive, I think generally, to be impos-
sible to " transfer."

But of the younger artists who have worked in

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Lithogi'aphy it is time to say something. Mr. Frank
Short, with his placid dream of Putney, with the
intricate rhythm of line of his Timhcr-Slups, Yarmouth,
should not be passed by. Nor Mr. Francis Bate, who,
to draw as he has drawn, and see as he has seen, The
Whiting- Mill, could not possibly have been wanting in
originality of expression or of sight. Nor Mr. George
Clausen, again, whose Hay Barn bears witness not only
to his easy command of technique, but to his flexibility.
It is one of those treatments of rustic life in which
IVIr. Clausen has been wont to show the influence of
Millet, if not of Bastien Lepage. It is of a realism
artistically subdued, yet undeniable. Of the work of
C. H. Shannon I must speak a good deal more fully, for
of C. H. Shannon, Lithography is the particular art.
He is no beginner at Lithography : no maker of first
experiments. I do not know that he — like Mr. Short
— is an engi-aver in any way. He is not, like Mr.
Whistler, celebrated on two continents as etcher and
painter to boot. He is above all things draughtsman
— draughtsman poetic and subtle. The air of Litho-
graphy he breathes a.s his native air.

C. H. Shannon's art it is by no means easy for the
healthy normal person to aj)preciatc at once. It is
possii)le even for a student of the matter to lose
sight of Shannon's poetry and sensitiveness, in a fit of
impatience because the anatomy of his figures does
not always seem to be true, or because his sentiment
has not robustness. I have a lurking suspicion that I

w£is myself rather slow to apj)reciate him. Few people's


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Online LibraryFrederick WedmoreFine prints → online text (page 14 of 16)