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liar position between work upon the copper wholly
original and work wholly reproductive. Turner etched
the leading lines himself. In several cases he com-
pleted, with his own hand, in mezzotint, the whole
of the engraved picture ; but generally he gave the
" scraping " to a professional engraver, whose efforts he
minutely supervised and most elaborately corrected.
In recent years, almost as much, though not quite as
much sought for as the Liber plates of Turner, are
certain rather smaller mezzotints which record the art
of Constable ; but Constable himself did nothing on
these plates, though he supervised their production by

David Lucas. Turner's connection with professional

20



INTRODUCTION

engravei"s was not confined to the priceless and admir-
able prints of the Liber. He trained a school of line
engi'avers, welcoming at first the assistance of John
Pye and of George and William Cooke. These two
brothei-s were the engi'avers mainly of his Southern
XJoast, and nothing has been more manly than that ;
but the work of William ]VIiller, in the Chvelly of that
Southern Coast, and in a subsequent series, interpreted
with quite peculiar exquisiteness those refinements of
light which in Turner"'s middle and later time so much
engaored his effort.

W^ith Turner's death, or with the death of the
artists who translated him, fine Line Engraving almost
vanished. It had all but disappeared when, nearly
fifty yeare ago, there began in France and England
that Revival of Etching with which the amateur of
to-day is so rightly concerned. A few etchings by
Bracquemond — of still - life chiefly — a larger number
by Jules Jaccjuemart, of fine objects in ])orcelain,
jewellery, bronze, and noble stones, are amongst the
more precious products of the earlier part of the Revival
of Etching, and they are so treated that they are inven-
tions indeed, and of an originality that is exquisite.
But the greatest event of the earlier years of the Revival
was the appearance, as long ago as 1850, of the genius
of Meryon, who, during but a few years, wrought a
series of vhef'n-crccuvre — inspired visions of Paris — unci
died, neglected and ignored, in the gi'eat city to wliich
it is he who has raised, iti those few j)rints of his, the

noblest of all monuments.

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FINE PRINTS

Two other men of veiy different genius and of
unsurpassed energy we associate with this revival of
Etching. Both are yet with us in the fulness of their
years ; and both will occupy the collector who is wise
in his generation, and will be, one may make bold to
say, the delight of the far Future as well as of the Pre-
sent. I mean Sir Seymour Haden and Mr. James
Whistler. The prints of Seymour Haden shame no
cabinet; the best of Whistler's scarcely suffer at all
when placed beside the master-work of Rembrandt.
But it is dangerous treating much of contemporaries
when one''s task is chiefly with the dead ; and though
I might mention many other not unworthy men, of
whom some subsequent historian must take count —
nay, who may even be refeiTed to at a later stage of
this volume — I will confine myself here, in this intro-
ductory chapter, to just the intimation that Legros and
Helleu are, next after the etchers I have already named,
those probably who should engage attention.



OC)



CHAPTER I

"^ The use and object of this book, and necessary limita-

tions of its service — Monographs for the specialist — The
point of view of the individual — I'he vastness of the
Print-collector s field — Fashions and silly fads — Barto-
lozzi best in his "Tickets" — The exaltation of the
coloured print — Its general triviality — The task of the
Collector — The file impression — Brilliance — Condition
— The conservation of prints.

A LirrLE Guide to Print Collecting such as the present
one, even if written on very personal lines, not in the
least concealing the writer's own prepossessions, and
giving therefore, quite possibly, what may seem dispro-
portionate notice of certain masters, cannot, of course,
hope to entii'ely suffice for the special student of any
particular man. The special student will not, if he is
reasona])le, find that the little book falls short of its aim,
and fails to do its proper woi'k, because it does not and
cannot possibly sup])ly within its limited volume all the
information of which the accomplished student is him-
self possessed, and which he feels to be more or less
indispensable even to the beginner who desires to be
thorough. He will know — und will scarcely need that
I should here remind him — that not one book, nor even
a hundred books, can make an expert, can turn the tyro

into a j)ractical comioisseur. What the tyro wants is

23



FINE PRINTS

experience, all that is learnt by loss and gain, and by
bnishiner shoulder to shoulder with dealers and brother-
collectors and the auctioneer in the auction-room. He
wants that, to become a practical collector at all, and
to become a specialist he wants that and something
more. He wants access to and acqiiaintance with a
large and considerable branch of what is now unques-
tionably an immense literature. There are larger books
than this of mine on the general theme of Print Collect-
ing, and they have been written at different times, with
different prepossessions, with diff'erent prejudices, from
different points of view. But over and above these
larger books there is a library of monographs on
particular masters, works which are nearly always
Catalogues raisonnh, and often treatises to boot ; and
while no one of these monographs can be altogether
neglected by the would-be student of the artist with
whom it is concerned, some of them must be among
the most cherished of his companions, among the voice-
less but instructive friends whose society is education.
No little book then, like the present one, can take the
place of experience and of the study of many books ;
and least of all perhaps can a book which does not
affect to be the abstract and brief chronicle of what
has been done before, but Avhich j^refers rather to
approach its large subject from the point of view of
an individual collector, who yet, it must be said, while
cultivating specialties, has not been inaccessible to the
charm of much that lies beyond the limits of any fields

of his own.

24



THE TASK OF THE COLLECTOR

So much by way of explanation — by way, too, of
disarming the kind of criticism which would judge a
general endeavour only by the success with which it
seemed to meet the needs of a particular case. A
Bibliography of the subject, which will be found on
l9,ter pages, and which must itself be a selection, com-
paratively brief, from the mass of material that bears
upon the theme, will suffice to set the student of the
special school or master upon the desii'able track ; and
meanwhile one thing may be done, nor, as I hope, that
one thing only : the would-be tiller of the particular
plot may be reminded of the vastness of the land.
Even of print collecting it is true, sometimes, that the
trees prevent you from seeing the forest.

I have said just now, in the print-collector\s world,
how vast is the land ! Time, of course, tends to extend
it — would extend it inevitably, by reason of new pro-
duction, did not Fashion sometimes intervene, and,
while oj)ening to the explorer some new tract, taboo a
district over which he had aforetime been accustomed
to wander. The fashions of the wise are not wholly
without reason, but the fashions of the foolish have
also to be reckoned with. As an instance, the very
generation that has seen the most just a])])raisement of
original Etching has witnessed too the exaltation of
IJHrt()lo//i and of liis nerveless School, a decline of
interest in Marc Antonio, even to some extent in Albert
Diirer, and a silly rage for the coloured print which
fifty years since was the appropi-iate ornajuent of scrap-
book and nursery.

25



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I have spoken harshly of two classes of things which
within the last few years have found eager jjurchasers,
and it is incumbent upon me that I justify my harsh-
ness and warn the beginner all the more effectually
thereby. The Bartolozzis, then, which have been puffed
so absurdly — what is their real place ? To begin
with, they are — and in this one respect they resemble
Marc Antonios indeed, and the justly extolled mezzo-
tints which translate Sir Joshua — they are the work
of an engraver who interpreted the theme of another,
and not of an engraver who invented his own. But
this it is evident that they may be, and yet by no
means be criminal. Wherein, it may be asked fairly,
lies their gi*eater offence.? It lies in this. That the
Humanity they depict is generally without character
— that in no austere and in no captivating, over-
whelming beauty, but in its feeble grace, lies its chief
virtue. Bartolozzi was a good draughtsman. He was
no doubt correct habitually, and he was habitually
elegant. Academic he was, though competent. But
again, how terribly monotonous was the order of his
beauty, and how weakly sentimental the design of
those — Cipriani and Angelica Kaufmann principal
amongst them — to whose conceptions he lent at least
a measure of support ! Of Bartolozzi's works, the best
for the collector are the "Tickets." They are on a
small scale — dainty little engi-aved invitations or
announcements to the public of their day, giving the
opportunity to hear Giardini or Madame Banti, or some

other singer of songs or maker of excellent music,

26



THE TASK OF THE COLLECTOR

Delightful little compositions they undoubtedly are,
with the nude drawn charmingly. Half-a-dozen of
them I would possess with satisfaction. But all the
rest ! — all those Bartolozzis which, as they increase in
size, get (just as photogi-aphs do) increasingly meaning-
lees ! The reasonable collector, if his instinct be fine
or his taste educated, will not desire these, even at
prices that may be comparatively insignificant, whilst
Rembrandts, Diirers, Hogarths, Watteaus, Meryons,
Whistlers, exist to delight the world.

The coloured jn-int — for it is time to make some
brief allusion to it — is often very " taking." To the
novice who does not think, it may even appear to be
entirely desirable. But, like the average Bartolozzi, it
is trivial at best. A pretty enough decoration for the
wall of a room in which artistic taste is neither accom-
plished nor severe, it has at least to be recognised that
its art is hybrid. The weight and value of the light
and shade of the engraving are apt to be minimised or
discounted by the application of colour; and the colour,
though put on with ingenuity, has little of the gradation
and the sul)tle blending, and nothing whatever of the
" touch," in which the art of the painter in some measure
consists, 'lliat is why a set of Wheatlcy's "Cries of Lon-
don,"" printed in bistre, is far better than a set which
has the superficial gaiety of many hues. A coloured
Morland is a Moriand nnn-dered. More tolerant may we
be of the coloured prints of France ; the lighter art of a
Taunay or of a Debucourt furording not so ill with the

aj)plication of a j)roces.s which boasts no other charm

27



FINE PRLNTS

than the charm of the a peu pres. ]Jut even where the
coloured print is least offensive or least inadequate, no
one can affect to discover in it the more serious qualities
of Art. Often, experts inform us, the colour was only
applied when the original work upon the plate was
lialf worn out — when the plate could yield no longer an
impression that was satisfactory. Then it was, at least
in some cases, that the aid of colour — or some approxi-
mation to the colour that a painter might have sought
to realise — was called in, and so the opportunity pre-
pared for the foolish rich of our period to pay great
prices for an engaging jns-alle?'.

Uninstructed acquaintances, ill-judging dealers, and
the habit of an indolent world to regard old prints as
humble examples of decorative furniture — all these com-
bine to make it possible for the beginner, and even for
the man of many winters who is outside Art, to spend
his time in accumulating objects no one of which is of
the first order. Even certain print-sellers, who ought
to do much better, but who possess, we must suppose,
more of technical knowledge than of sure and well-
established taste, lend themselves to the diffusion of
the love of the second-rate. There are several high-
class dealers now in London, people of probity and of
accomplishment, some of them young men, too — a cir-
cumstance which bodes well for the future. But those
were safer days when the world of the collector lay
within narrower limits, and when the close contact that
there was wont to be between a few learned salesmen

and a few scarcely less learned purchasei-s, who bought,

28



THE TASK OF THE COLLECTOR

of course, gradually, who never bought things en bloc —
who studied and enjoyed, in fine, instead of merely
possessed — made it an unlikely matter that any quarter
would be shown to the unworthy productions of a
vague and indifferent art. But the beginner of to-day
niust take things as he finds them. If the root of the
matter be in him, his mistakes need not be serious.
The opportunities for sagacious choice in collecting yet
remain frequent. If he collects fine things, he will not,
of course, succeed in acquiring so extensive a cabinet as
that which rejoiced the heart of his forerunner when
prices were much lower — when a Rembrandt, now worth
a hundred guineas, was sold for a ten-pound note. He
must recognise, too, that a very large number of the
finest impressions — and it is upon fine impressions only
that his mind should be set — have come to be cloistered
in National, in University, even in some cases in Muni-
cipal institutions. But yet the field that is open to
him is a wide one, and, as was said in the Introduction,
it is possil)le for diligence and intelligence to accom})lish
much, even if unaccompanied by a purse that is big
and deep.

It has been customary in books on Collecting to say
something about the (pialities that are desirable in a
[)riiit — the (|UHlities, I mean, that, in their combination
constitute, not a fine subject — that is a different matter
altogether — but a fine impression, an impression such
as the collector sJKMild wish lo |)Ossess. And though,
no doubt, for certain remiers, the treatise of IMaberly,

and the later and ainj)ler ti'catise of Dr. Willshire,

20



FINE PRINTS

may be without difficulty accessible, the expert will
hold ine blameless for not forgetting here the interests
of the beginner, and for therefore going, though it shall
be rapidly, over ground that, to the connoisseur, must
needs be familiar.

The first and most indispensable requisite, then, for
a fine impression of a print, ancient or modern, is that
the plate betray no signs of wear, so that the scheme of
the artist in line and light and shade shall be presented
still with virgin intactness. It may be a high ideal to
aim at, but it is not unattainable ; and practically it is
as necessary in a Dlirer three hundred years old as in a
Whistler which may have been wi'ought only twelve years
ago. Very different qualities of surface are, of coui'se,
sought for in prints of different kinds, devoted to dif-
ferent effects. The perfection of one plate may be
attained when it is " brilliant ; "^ the perfection of an-
other when it is " rich." But in all, the signs of wear,
and, in nearly all, the signs of re-touching, are to be
avoided. Wear is indicated perhaps most easily by the
absence of clearness in lines designed to be distinct, and
by an acquired evenness and monotony in passages
which obviously were never meant to be monotonous
and even. Re-touching is a more subtle matter. It is
generally resorted to to repair the wear ; and sometimes
the re-touching is the w^ork of the original artist, and
sometimes it is the work of a later craftsman, concerned
in the interests of publisher or dealer, or it may be in
his own, if it is he who has become the possessor of the

plate.

30



THE TASK OF THE COLLECTOR

But an impression originally rich or brilliant, or
brilliant and rich at once, may, by ill-usage, or even by
the absence of a delicate care, have lost the qualities
that commended it to its lirst possessor. The beginner
in pi-int collecting must assure himself not only that the
work is still sood, but that the surface is clean and
fair. Then he must look at the back of the print,
must assure himself, by careful examination there, that
it has not been " backed," or patched, or mended : at
all events, that all the mending it has required has
been slight and neatly executed. Damp is a deadly
enemy of prints. They pine for dry warm air as nuich
as a soldier sent from out of Provence into the chilli-
ness of French Flanders. " // paralt que <^a grclottait
la-bas^ said a Provencal once to me at Cannes. Many
a print is as sensitive to dampish cold as an American
consumptive. The collector then must diagnose well —
must satisfy himself as far as possible that the seeds of
disease are not in the print already — and if he buys the
print, he must see to its health carefully.

Let me here hiisten, though, to assure him nothing

more than reasonable care is recjuired, and I will tell

him at once in wlmt it consists. If he frames his

print, he hsul better order that the thickness of some

moderate mount — an eighth or twelfth of ;ui inch is

fully enough for the |)urj)ose — intervenes between the

surface of the j)rint and the glass. The glass may

"sweat" from fiiiic to time, and ol)vioiisIv its moisture

must not be deposited iij)om the very object it exists to

guard. If a })nnt has great money value, or if from

81



FINE PRINTS

any cause the collector sets much store by it, it should
not remain in any frame for more than a few years
without at least a careful re-examination. Fresh air
will do it good ; and, moreover, it is good for the
collector's own eye (whose delicacy ought to be culti-
vated by all possible means) that account be taken of
a print's ap})earance not only when it is under glass.
If the collector, instead of framing his print, puts it in
a portfolio, he must see at least that it is so handled
and managed that its surface is not rubbed by the
backs of other prints, or the backs of their mounts.
Where one print follows another in a portfolio or
solander-box, the mounts of all should be smooth. The
portfolio must keep dust out as well as it can. Tlie
solander-box will keep dust out nmch better. And
whether the ])rint is in folio or box, or laid naked in
the drawer or shelf of a cabinet, it should be from time
to time looked at, given, so to put it, a " bath of air "
on a sunny and dry day. A country-house, unless the
walls are very thick and the rooms kept very carefully,
is not the best place for a collection of prints, which
(in England at least) flourish most in the atmosphere
of cities. It is in cities that they require the least solici-
tude. I know very well, when I say this, that it will be
news to some people that prints require any solicitude
at all. I have pointed out that they do, but also that
their possession does not involve any overwhelming
responsibility.

There is one other point as to the condition of a

print — as to that which it is desirable to find in it

32



THE TASK OF THE COLLECTOR

before we purchase it — that should be touched upon
before this chapter ends. That is the question of
margin. It may be that some worthy people are almost
as sharply divided upon the question of margin as are
New York gourmets upon the question of how many
niinutes it takes to roast to perfection a canvas-back
duck. But the majority of collectors are advocates of
margins : they " take curious pleasure " in them, Mr.
Whistler remarks. A margin undoubtedly has much
to recommend it. While a print is mounted, and even
after it is mounted — on those occasions, I mean, when,
under examination, it passes from hand to hand — the
margin helps to protect it. Yet it is evident that a
margin has no artistic merit, and that therefore to
establish a very great difference in money value be-
tween the print with a margin and the print with
none, is to be rather absurd. Of course a print three
hundred years old, which has conserved its mai'gin to
some extent, is a yet greater rarity than a print which
has not ; and as rarity — rarity of condition even — is
paid for as well as beauty, there is some just market-
value in margin, no doubt.

lUit, unlike that fine condition of surface on which T
have so nmch insisted, the possession of margin is by no
means strictly necessary. It is sometimes an added grace,
but never, at least in the case of a print that is ancient,
and that lias been subjected ])robabIv to many vicissi-
tudes — never in such a case is it an indis})ensable virtue,
llarely does the ample margin go back beyond the
Eightecntii Century. In your etching by Meryon oi-



FINE PRINTS

Haden — clone fifty or thirty years ago — you may expect
some margin, fairly. In your noble line-engraving
after Chardin or Watteau, you may be glad of some,
and may be grateful and surprised if you find much.
In your Rembrandt, a little enhances the value. In
your Diirer, an eighth of an inch, how precious and
how rare !

In regard to the loss of a mai-gin, while in the case
of a very old print it is due probably to gradual ravages
and various little accidents, in the case of engravings
less old, and especially in the case of engravings which
(mezzotints, for example) have always been held most
decorative on a wall, it is due simply to the process
of framing. When the mezzotint — or whatever it is —
was prepared for the frame, the knife removed the
margin at a stroke, and with it there perished, for the
future collector, some chance of exultation and not
inhuman boasting.



S4



CHAPTER II

The old-ivorld Etchers, and their due place in the
Collector's estimation — Claude — Dumesnil's list of his
etched work — Principal pieces — The money value of
Claude's etchings — Vandyke's etched portraits —
Ostade — Richard Fisher's Ostades — Their prices —
Wenceslaus Hollar — The immense volume of his work
— Its character — Its appreciation by Heywood and
Seymour Iladai — Prices of Hollars in the print-
market.

As I think that, speaking generally, the wisest collector
is the collector who devotes himself to original work,
we will begin the study of some various departments of
the collector's pursuit by a gi-oup of chapters on work
that is wholly original. And among work that is
wholly original, what is there that — since chronological
order cannot require to be strictly observed — deserves
to take precedence of the art of Etching ? Not only is
the art up to a certain point popular to-day — that is
a consideration which need not affect the wise collector
very much — but it is, of all the arts of IJIack and White,
the one which lends itself most reatlily to the expres-
sion of a mootl — therefore to the expression of a
personality. In Line-Engraving, of which the finest
examples cainiot, on many grounds, be esteemed too

highly, the chtJ-cTcvuvrc is slow of accomplishment.

S5



FINE PRINTS

In Etching, the honr may produce the masterpiece,
though indeed many a masterpiece has involved some-
thing more than the labour of a day.

Of old-world etchers whose plates should occupy the
collector seriously — of old-world etchers between whom
he may take his choice, or, if he prefer it, divide his
attention — there are, after all, but a few. To have
named Claude, Vandyke, Rembrandt, Ostade, and
Hollar, is to have named the chief. Other Dutch
genre painters than Ostade of course etched cleverly,
but none with his perfection — his perfection, I mean,
when he was at his best. And behind Rembrandt
was a group of men, some of whom simply imi-
tated, others of whom followed in ways more nearly
their own. Other Dutchmen, again, like Backhuysen
and Adrian Van de Velde and Zeeman — whom, nearly
two centuries afterwards, Meryon worshipped — did
work that need not be put aside. Latterly it has
not been put aside ; for in a recent Portfolio Mr.
Binyon made it the subject of special study. But
still the greater men are the few who were named
first.

Of these great men, it was Claude, Vandyke, and
Ostade who wrought the fewest plates. As for Van-
dyke, not only was his work not vast in quantity — his


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Online LibraryFrederick WedmoreFine prints → online text (page 2 of 16)