Charles G. (Charles George) Harper.

A practical hand-book of drawing for modern methods of reproduction online

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to be lacking. It is a matter of commerce, of course,
for a publisher, an editor, to send off originals in bulk
to one firm, and to await from one source the resultino-
blocks. But unknowing, or reckless of their individual
merits and needs, our typical editor has thus consigned
some drawings to an unkind fate. There are many


processes even for the reproduction of line, and draw-
ings of varying characteristics are better reproduced by-
different methods ; they should each be sent for repro-
duction on its own merits.

It was in 1884 that there began to arise quite a
number of original styles in pen-work, and then this
new profession was by way of becoming an art. You
will not find any English-printed book or magazine
before this date showing a sign of this new art, but now
it arose suddenly, and at once became an irresponsible,
unreasoning welter of ill-considered mannerisms. Ever
since 1S84, until within the last year or two, pen-
draughtsmen have rioted through every conceivable and
inconceivable vagary of manner. The artists who by
force of artistry and character have helped to spur on
the process-man against his will, and have worked with
little or no heed to the shortcomings of his science, have
freed the hands of a dreadful rabble that has revelled
merely in eccentricity. Thus has liberty for a space
meant a licence so wild that to-day it has become (juite
refreshing to turn back to the sobriety of the old
illustrators of from thirty to forty years ago, who drew
for \\\iifac-siniilc wood-engraver.


From 1857, through the '60' s, and on to 1875, when
it finally shredded out, there existed a fine convention
in drawinor for illustration and the wood-eno-raver.
Among the foremost exponents of it were Millais,
Sandys, Charles Green, Robert Barnes, Simeon Solo-
mon, Mahony, J. D. Watson, and J. D. Linton. Pinwell
and Fred Walker, too, produced excellent work in this
manner, before they untimely died.

The Siuiday Magazine, Once a Week, Good Words,
Cornhill, the first two years of the Gi'aphic, and, where
the drawings have not been drawn down to their
humourous legends, the volumes of Punch during this
period, are a veritable storehouse of beautiful examples
of this peculiarly English school. It was a convention
that grew out of the wood-engraver's imposed limits,
and they became transcended by the art of the young
artists of that day.

There is a certain sweetness and erace in those old
illustrations that seems to increase with the widening of
that gulf between our day and the day of their pro-
duction. It is not for the sake of their draughtsmanship
alone (though that is excellent), but chiefly for their
technical qualities, and their fine character-drawing, that


those monumental achievements in illustration appeal so
strongly to the artistic eye to-day. We have been
accustomed durino- these last years to the stress
of mannerism, the braviLra treatment of imported
art, bringing with it strange atmospheres which
have nothing in common with our duller skies, and,
truth to tell, we want a change. Now, we might do
much worse than hark back to the '6o's, and study
the peculiar style brought about by the needs of the
wood-engraver, but transformed into an admirable
school by men who wrought their trammels into a
convention so great that it cannot fail, some day, to
be revived.

It is greatly to be deplored that we have not left
to us the original drawings of that time and these
men. In the majority of cases, and through a long
series of years, the drawings from which \}l\^%q: facsimile
wood-engravings were made were drawn by the
artists on the wood block, and engraved, so that we
have left to us only the more or less successful
engraver's imitation of the artists' original line-
work. But when these blocks were the work of the
Dalziels, or of Swain, we may generally take them as


a close approximation to the original drawing. Pen
and pencil both were used upon the wood blocks : some
of these are to be seen at the South Kensington
Museum, with the original drawings upon them still
uncut, photography having in the mean while become
applied to the use of transferring a drawing from paper
to the wood surface.

Unless you have practised etching on copper, in
which you have to draw upon the plate in reverse, you
can have little idea of the relief experienced by the
artists of thirty years ago, when the necessity for drawing
in reverse upon the wood was obviated.

Now, I am not going to say that with pen and ink
and process-reproduction you could obtain the sweetness
of the wood-engraved line, but something of it should be
possible, and the dignified, almost classic, reserve and
repose of this style of draughtsmanship could be, in
great measure, brought back to help assuage the worry
of the ultra-clever pen-work of to-day, and to form a
grateful relief from that peculiarly modern vice in
illustration, of " making a hole in the page."

The great difficulty that would lie in the way of
such a revival would be that those who would attempt



it would need to be good draughtsmen ; and of these
there are not many. No tricks nor flashy treatment
hid bad drawing in this technique, as in much of the
slap-dashiness of to-day. And not only would sound
draughtsmanship be essential, but also characterization
of a peculiarly well-seen and graphic description. The
illustrator of a oreneration a^o worked under tremendous
disadvantaofes. " Phiz " etched his inimitable illustra-
tions of Dickens upon steel with all the attendant
drawbacks of working in reverse, yet he would be a
bold man or reckless who should decry him. He was.
at his best, greater beyond comparison than the Cruick-
shank — George, in the forefront of that artistic trinity —
and he reached his highest point in the delightful
composition of "Captain Cuttle consoles his Friend."
in Dombcy and Son. Composition and characterization
are beyond anything done before or since. It is
distinctly, obviously, great, and it fits the author and
his story like — like a glove. One cannot And a newer
and better simile than that for good fitting. And (not
to criticize modern w^ork severely because it is nu)dern)
the greater bulk of illustration to-day fits the stories
it professes to elucidate like a Strand tailor.


There are facilities now for buying electrotypes from
magazines and illustrated periodicals, by which engrav-
ings that have already served one turn in illustrating
a story can be purchased, to do duty again in illus-
trating another ; and this is a practice very widely
prevalent to-day. And why can this be so readily
done ? The answer is near to seek. It is because
illustration is become so characterless that it is so
readily interchangeable. Perhaps it may be sought to
lay the blame upon the author ; and certainly there is
not at this time so ready a field for character-drawing
as Dickens presented. But I have not seen any
illustrations to Mr. Hardy's tales, nor to Mr. Steven-
son's, that realize the excellently well -shown types in
their works.

If you should chance to see any early volumes (say
from 1859 to 1863) of Once a Week for sale, secure
them : they should be the cherished possessions of every
black and white artist. After this date their quality
fell off. Charles Keene contributed to Once a Week
some of his best work, and the Mr. Millais of that date
in line is more interesting than the Sir John Millais
of to-day in paint. There is, in especial, a beautiful


drawing by him, an illustration to the Grandmother s
Apology, in the volume for 1S59, page 40. But,
frankly, it is a mistake to instance one illustration where
so very many are monumental productions. Fred
Walker contributed many exquisite drawings; Mr.
Whistler, few enough to make us ardently wish there
were more ; and the same may be said of Mr. Sandys'
decorative work — his Rosamond, Queen of the Lo7nbards,
his Yet once more let the Organ play, his King Warwulf,
Harald Harfagr, or The Old Chartist. These things
are a delight : the artist's work so insistently good, the
quality of the engraver's lines so wonderfully fine.

For all the talk and pother about illustration, there
is nothing to-day that comes within miles of the work
done in, say, 1S62-1863 for Once a ]Veek. It would
be difficult to over-praise or to over-estimate the value
of this fine period. It was the period of the al)ominable
crinoline ; but even that hideous fashion was trans-
figured by the artistry of these men. . That is evident in
the beautiful drawing. If, contributed by Sandys to the
Argosy for 1863, in which the grandly flowing lines of
the dress show what may be done with the most un-
pron^iising material.


The most interesting drawings in the Cornhill
Magazine range from 1863 to 1867. Especially note-
worthy are the illustrations by Fred Walker —
Maladetta, May, 1863, page 621, and Out of the Valley
of the Skadoza, January, 1867, page 75. If you compare
the first of these with the little pen-drawing by Charles
Green, reproduced by process in Harper s Magazine,
^Nlay, 1891, page 894, entitled, "Give me those letters,"
you will see how Mr. Green's hand has retained the
old technique he and his brother illustrators learnt in
drawing for the wood-engraver, and you will observe
how well that old handling looks, and how admirably
it reproduces in the process-work of to-day. Two other
most successful wood blocks from the Cornhill Mamzine
may be noted — Mother s Guineas, by Charles Keene,
July, 1864, and Mollys Nezu Bonnet, August, 1864,
by ]Mr. Du iNIaurier.

OF THE ^ \



Processes, at first chiefly of the heliogravure or
photogravure variety — processes, that is to say, of the
intagho or plate-printing description, printed in the same
way as etchings and mezzotints, from dots and lines
sunken in a metal plate instead of standing out in relief
— date back almost to the invention of photography in
1834 ; and all modern processes of reproducing drawings
have a photographic basis. Even at that time it was
demonstrated that a uflass ne^rative could be used to
reproduce the photographic image as an etched plate
that would print in the manner of a mezzotint. Mr.
H. Fox-Talbot, to whom belongs, equally with
Daguerre, the invention of photography, was the first
to show this. Me devised an etched silver pl.itc that
reproduced a photograph direct.

Photo-relief, or type-printing, blocks date from sucii


comparatively recent times as i860, when the Photo-
grap/nc Journal showed an illustration printed from a
block by the Pretsch process.

At this present time there are three methods of
prim^ary importance for the reproduction of line
drawinofs —

The swelled gelatine process,
The albumen process,
The bitumen process.
The first of these three processes is the most expensive,
and it has not so great a vogue as the less costly
methods, which are employed for the illustration of
journals or publications that do not rely chiefly upon
the excellence of their work. It is employed almost
exclusively by Messrs. A. and C. Dawson in this
country, and it is in all essentials identical with the
old Pretsch process that first saw the light thirty-three
years ago.

Acids do not enter into the practice of it at all.
The procedure is briefly thus : A good dense negative
is taken of the drawing to be reproduced to the size
required. The glass plate is then placed in perfect
contact with p-elatine sensitized by an admixture of


bichromate of potassium to the action of h'^^ht. Phiced
in water, the gelatine thus printed upon from the
negative, swells, excepting those portions that have
received the imacre of the reduced drawiner. These are
now become sunken, and form a suitable matrix for
electrotyping into. Copper is then deposited by electro-
deposition. The copper skin receives a backing of
type-metal, and is mounted on wood to the height of
type, and the block, ready for printing, is completed.

This process gives peculiar advantages in the
reproduction of pen-drawings made with greyed or
diluted inks. The photographic negative reproduces,
of course, the varying intensities of such work with the
most absolute accuracy, and they are repeated, with
scarcely less fidelity, by the gelatine matrix. Pencil
marks and pen-drawings with a slight admixture of
pencil come excellently well by this method.

Every pen-draughtsman who sketches from nature
knows how, in re-drawing from his jjencil sketches, the
feeling and sympathy of his work are lost, wholly or
in part ; but if the finislied pen-drawing is made over
the original pencil sketch and the pencilling retained,
the effect is generally a revelation. It is in these

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Online LibraryCharles G. (Charles George) HarperA practical hand-book of drawing for modern methods of reproduction → online text (page 2 of 7)