Charles G. (Charles George) Harper.

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

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Haggard's, in which he describes a ship ' steaming out
of the mouth of the Thames, shaping her course toward
the red ball of the setting sun.' " But tJiough the instance
is amusing, the custom is apt to pall.

STYLES AND MAI/^fM'. of the ^^^^^^^37

^u niversity)

Some of the American pen-draughtsmen who con-
tribute to the Century are exceedingly clever, and their
handling extremely personal ; but after a time this ex-
cessive personality ceases to charm, and, for one thing,
these young bloods are curiously narrow in their choice
of the masters from whom they are only too pleased to
derive. Mr. Brennan is, perhaps, the most curiously
oriofinal of these men. He is the man who has shown
most convincingly that the inked thumb is the most
instant and effective instrument wherewith to render
velvet in a pen-drawing. You cannot fail to be struck
with his method ; his manner is entirely personal, and
yet, after a time, it worries one into intolerance.

It is the same with that convention, founded, appa-
rently, by Mr. Herbert Railton, which has had a long run
of some nine or ten years. It was a convention in pictorial
architecture that had nothing except a remarkably novel
technique to recommend it. The illustrator invited us
rather to see how " pretty " he could render an old
building, than how nearly he could show it us as it stood.
He could draw an elevation in a manner curiously
feminine, but he could only repeat himself and his
trees ; his landscapes were insults to the imagination.


Nothing inspired him to achievements beyond pictorial

This convention has had its day, although in the
mean while so strikingly mannered was it that it
appealed to almost all the young and undiscriminating
men whose work lay in the rendering of pictorial
architecture. "Go to," said the Average Artist in
" the picturesque," " I will sit down and make a
drawing in the manner of I\Ir. Railton." And he did,
generally, it may be observed, from a photograph, and
in the undistracting seclusion of his own room. This
sort of artistic influenza, which nearly all the younger
men caught at one time or another, was very dangerous
to true art. But it could not possibly last ; it was so
resourceless. Always we were invited to glance at the
same sky and an unchanging rendering of buildings,
whether old or new, in the same condition of supposedly
picturesque decrepitude. Everything in this manner-
ism wore the romantic air of the Moated Grange and
radiated Mrs. Radcliffe, dungeons, spectres, and death,
whether the subject was a ruinated castle or a new
warehouse. All this has i-rown offensive : we want
more sobriety. This apotheosis of raging skies and


falling smuts, of impending chimneys, crumbling stones,
and tottering walls was only a personal manner. Its
imitators have rendered it ridiculous.

The chief merits of such topographical and archaeo-
logical drawings are that they be truthful and reverent.
If art is ever to approach the documentary stage, to be
used as the record of facts, it is in this matter. To
flood the country with representations of old buildings
that are not so much pictures of them as exercises in an
exaggerated personal manner, is to deserve ill at the
hands of all who would have preserved to them the
appearance of places that are passing away. The
illustrations to such books, say, as Mr. Loftie's Inns of
Court or his Westininstei^ Abbey are of no historic or
artistic value whatever ; they are merely essays in a
wild and weird manner of which we are tired in the
originator of it ; which we loathe in those who imitate its
worst faults. We require a sober style in this work,
after being drunken so long with its so-called pic-
turesqueness, which, rightly considered, is but impres-
sionism, ill seen and uninstructed.

No one has exercised so admirable a method,
whether in landscape, in portraiture, or in architecture,


as Sir George Reid, but his work is not readily acces-
sible for the study it invites. It is scholarly and expres-
sive, eloquent of the character of his subject, free from
redundancies. It is elaborate or sufrorestive on due
occasion, and, although the style is so distinguished,
you always feel that every drawing by this stylist is
really and truly a representation of the person, place, or
thing he has drawn, and not a mere pretext for an indi-
vidual handling ; no braggart assumption of *' side."

The dangers of following in a slavish manner the
eccentricities of well-known men are exemplified in the
work of those illustrators who ape the whimsies of the
impressionist Degas. What Degas may do may nearly
always be informed with distinction, but the illustrators
who reproduce, not his genius, but an outstanding
feature of it, are singularly narrow. If Degas has
painted a picture of the play with the orchestra in the
foreground and the bass-viol looming immensely up
three parts of the composition, the third-rate impres-
sionists also lug in a bass-viol ; if he has shown a ballet-
girl with apparently only one leg, they always draw one-
legged coryphdcs, and remain incapable of conceiving
them as bipeds.


Caldecott is a dangerous man to copy. He was,
first and last, a draughtsman, and a draughtsman whose
every dot and line were eloquent. There is no technique
that you can lay hold of in his work, but only characteri-
zation, which is more frequently caricature. Caldecott
would never have made a serious illustrator ; in bur-
lesque he was immense, and no artist could desire a
better monument than his Pictztre Books. His reputa-
tion has fallen greatly of late, notwithstanding the
delightful y(9/^;2 Gilpin and the others of that inimitable
series ; but his repute had stood higher to-day if his
private letters to his friends and other unconsidered
trifles had never been collected and published, ghoul-
like, after his death. Pandering to the market has
almost killed Caldecott's repute, for the undiscriminating
public were invited to admire reproductions of hasty
sketches never intended for publicity.

There is character in Mr. Phil May's work, and
humour, surprisingly set forth with a marvellous economy
of line. His is a gay and festive muse, that is most at
home where the tide of life runs strongest and deepest,
with wine-bubbles breaking " most notoriously," as Mr.
Kipling might say, upon its surface ; with theatres, music-


halls, and Gaiety bars ranged along its banks in profu-
sion. There is much human nature in Mr. May. Also
in Mr. Greiffenhagen ; but a different kind. He has gone
chiefly to the boudoir and the drawing-room for his
subjects, and has rendered them with a resolute impres-
sionism and a thorough discarding of cross-hatch that
make a lasting impression with the beholder. There is a
certain Christmas number, 1892, of the Lady s Pictorial
with memorable drawings by him ; they are in wash
and lithographic crayon, but may only be noted here in
passing. He has a gift of novel, unhackneyed composi-
tion, and he sees the figure for himself, and draws it in
with a daring but right and striking manner.

There has arisen of late years a school of illustration
peculiarly English — ^the so to call it " Decorative
School." It is a new and hitrher incarnation of the


pre-Raphaelite movement. The brotherhood did good
work, not at all commensurate with the amount of
attention it received, but beyond all praise in the
conventions it founded ; and, historically considered,
Rossetti and his fellows are great, and Blake is greater,
because he was an inspired visionary with a kink in
his brain, out of which (lowed imaginings the most


gorgeous and original. But the decorative men of
to-day are doing even better work — masculine, con-
vincing, racy of this soil. It is chiefly admirable
because it gives us, in these days of " actuality," of
photography, and reproductions direct from photo-
graphs, a new outlook upon life. English decorative
illustration is, with but few exceptions, possessed of a
fine romantic fancy, poetic, and at the same time
healthy and virile and eminently sane, and it will live.
There is great hope for the future of this school, while
the imported styles of Vierge and Rico and other
masters used to sunnier skies, admirable beyond
expression in their own places, droop and languish in
the nor'-easterly winds of England, and their tradition
becomes attenuated in passing through so many hands.
Their descendants, from Abbey down to Pennell and
the whole crowd of those who love not wisely but too
well, have brought these fine exotic conventions down
to the merest shadows of shades.

Mr. Walter Crane has, any time these last ten years,
been the great Apostle of Decoration plus Socialism.
It has been given him in this wise to make (in theory)
the lion to lie down with the lamb (and yet for the


lamb to remain outside the lion with his destiny of
^ mutton still in perspective), and he has proclaimed in
parables the possibility of mixing oil and water. He
has perpetrated a cartoon for the Socialistic, if not
Anarchist, First of May, and therein he has striven to
decoratively treat the British Workman. But although
Mr. Crane has a pretty trick of decoration, he was
worsted in that bout, for the British Plumber or the
Irish Hodman is stubborn material for decoration, and
their spouses as festal nymphs are not convincing
visions. Again, he has achieved a weird series of
cartoons upon the walls of the Red Cross Hall in praise
of Democratic Valour, in which he has unsuccessfully
attempted to conventionalize rescuing firemen and
heroic police. Such bravery deserved a better fate.
Also ]\Ir. Crane has written much revolutionary verse
in praise of brotherhood and equality, and now he has
accepted the mastership of a Governmental art school,
under the direction of that not very revolutionary body,
the Committee of Council for Education (Science and
Art Department). Decoration should be made of
sterner stuff! His industry has been prodigious. Even
now a bibliography of him is in the making; and yet


shall it be said that it is difficult in the orreat mass of
his work to find many items altogether satisfactory ?
It may be feared it is so. For one thing, his anatomy
is habitually at fault ; and yet has he not informed an
interviewer from the Pall Mall Gazette that long years
since he had ceased to draw from the model ?

That wheel within wheels, the so-called Birmingham
School, is attracting attention just now, and men begin
to prophesy of deeds from out the midlands. But once
upon a time there was a Newlyn School, was there
not ? Where is that party now ? Its foremost
members have won to the honours of the Royal Aca-
demy, and its mission is done. But it is time to talk of
schools when work has been done. Of course it is very
loo-ical that o^ood work should come from Birmineham.
The sense of beauty is stronger in those who live in
midst of dirt and orrime. Instance the Glasofow school
of impressionists. But the evidence of Birmingham
at present is but a touching follow-on to the styles of
Mr. Crane and Mr. Sumner, and to the ornament of
Mr. Lewis Day. Indeed, the decorative work of the
students at the National Art Training Schools may
be put in the formula of one-third Crane, and the



remaining- two-thirds Hey wood Sumner and Lewis
Day, an amali^am ill-considered and poorly wrought.

But indeed Mr, Heywood Sumner's work has a
note of distinction. He does not confuse Socialist
propaganda with ornament, and is not always striving"
to show with emphasis of line in pen and ink that
Capital is the natural enemy of Labour, and that a
silk hat on a rich man's head may justly be defined as
so many loaves of bread (or pots of beer) in the wrong
place. That is for Mr. Crane and Mr. William Morris
to prove ; and, really, anything wicked can be proven
of such a hideous object. But the onus of bringing
the guilt home to it and the wearer of it does not
produce good art. Indeed, decorative art is not
catholic ; it has no sort of commerce with everyday
life or with the delineation of any times so recent as
the early years of the Victorian era. Its field lies only
in poetic imaginings, in fancy, and. most emphatically,
not in fact. When Mr, Crane, for instancf. takes to
idealising the heroic acts of i)olicemen, the impulse
does credit to his heart, but the results are not llattering
to his head. Fortunately he does not often go these
lenetlis, and no one else of the decorati\e icK-a has been


equally courageous, save indeed a Mr. Beardsley,
who " decoratively " illustrated Orpheus at the
Lyceum Theatre ; and those illustrations in the Pall
Mall Budget, March 16, 1893, certainly were very

An exception to the general beauty of recent
decorative work is the incomprehensible and at the
same time unlovely practice of this eccentric. Mr.
Charles Ricketts' work, although its meaning may often
be so subtly symbolical that it is not to be understood
except by the elect, — never without the aid of a glossary
of symbolism, — is always graced with interesting techni-
calities, and his draughtsmanship is of the daintiest ;
but what of meaning is conveyed to the mind and what
of beauty to the eye in this work of Mr. Beardsley's,
that has been somewhat spoken of lately ? It has
imagination certainly, but morbid and neurotic, with
a savour of Bethlehem Hospital and the charnel-house ;
it is eccentric apparently with an eccentricity that clothes
bad draughtsmanship, and incongruous with an incon-
o-ruity that suggests the uninstructed enthusiasm of
the provincial mind. It exhibits a patchwork-quilt kind
of eclecticism, born of a fleeting glance at Durer ; of


a nodding acquaintance with all prominent niodern
decoration and an irrelevant sonpfon of Renaissance
ornanient ; like the work of a lithographic draughtsman,
a designer of bill-heads, roaming fancy free.

The practice of Mr. Selwyn Image has a devotional
and meditative cast. He has made some remarkable
drawings for the Hobby Horse in the manner of the
missal-painters, both in spirit and execution, and he
steadfastly keeps the art of the monkish scriptorium
in view, and seems to echo the sentiments of the
rapturous maidens in Patience, " Let us be Early
English ere it is too late." And he is Early English
to excellent purpose.

It is a gross error to hold that decorative art is
impossible under present social conditions, and un-
pardonable to attempt to link decoration and design
to Socialist propaganda. Art of all possible application
never llourished so well as under the feudal system,
and never sank so low as it did when Democracy and
the Trouser came in together.

The great advantages of Art over Photography are
its personal qualities. The camera is impersonal, and
will ev(.'r b(,' a scientific instrument. You can, like the


ingenious Mr. H. P. Robinson, pose figures, and with a
combination of negatives concoct a composition which is
some sort of cousin-german to a picture ; but if you can
do all this, you might go a little farther and make a
picture without the aid of a camera. It would be per-
sonal, and, without a signature, signed all over with the
unmistakable mark of style or manner, like Constable's

It seems unlikely that any mechanical processes, save
the strictly autographic, which reproduce line, will be of
permanent artistic value. No photogravure will be
sought for and prized in years to come as the old
etchings and mezzotints are valued. Those elaborate
photogravure plates from popular or artistic pictures
(the terms are not synonymous) which crowd the print-
sellers' shops to-day, at five or ten guineas, will not long
hence be accounted dear at so many shillings, simply
because they lack the personal note. Meanwhile, mezzo-
tints and etchings, other than the " commercial " etching,
will become inversely expensive.

In that brackish flood of "bitter cries" to which we
have been subjected of late years, the wail of the wood-
engraver was easily to be distinguished, and we heard



that his occupation was gone. But has it? No, nor
will it g"o. No tint nor lialf-tone process can ever
render sufficiently well the wash drawings that the best
engravers render so admirably, with an entire subjection
of their own individuality unthought of twenty years
ago. The wood-engraver, as one who imposes restric-
tions upon technique, has had his day ; but as a
conscientious and skilful workman, who renders faith-
fully the personality of the artist he engraves, he
nourishes, and will continue to flourish. Otherwise,
there is no hope for him, let Mr. Linton say what he will.
He will remain because he can preserve the personal note.
Half-tone processes are as tricky as Puck and as
inconstant. You never know the exact result you will
get from any given drawing. Half a dozen blocks from
the same drawing will give, each one, a different result,
because so much depends upon the fraction of a second,
more or less, in making the negative ; but all of them
agree in presenting an aspect similar to that obtained
on looking through the wire blind of some Philistine
window upon the street. In all cases the edge, the
poignancy of xXw. subject, is taken off, and, in tlic case
of the process-block, several intermediate tones go as


well, with, frequently, the result of an unnatural lighting
" that never was on land or sea," and it may be hoped
never will be.

No doubt half-tone processes will continue to be
more and more widely used, chiefly because they are
several times cheaper than a good wood engraving, and
because, so far as mere documentary evidence goes,
they are good enough for illustrated journalism. But
for bookwork, for anything that is not calculated for
an ephemeral consideration, half-tone processes are only
to be used with the most jealous care.

As regards the half-tone processes employed to
reproduce photographs, I take leave to say that no
one will, a hundred years hence, prize them for any
quality. The necessary reticulation of their surface
subtracts from them something of the documentary
value of the photograph, and, deriving directly from
photographs, they have no personal or artistic interest.

But their present use touches the professional
draughtsman nearly, for in illustrated journalism half-
tone is very frequently used in reproducing photographs
of places and people without the aid of the artist, and it
is no consolation for a man who finds his occupation


going for him to consider that these direct photographic
processes have no permanent interest. It is the new
version of the old tale of the stage-coach versus the
railway engine, to his mind, and he is apt to tliink that
as a craftsman he is fast following the wood-engraver.
But it is safe to sav that althouorh the mediocrities will
suffer, or be forced, like the miniature-painter who turned
daguerrotypist and then blossomed forth as a photo-
grapher, to study practical evolution, the artists of style
and distinction will rather gain than lose by a further
popularity of cheap photographic blocks. The illus-
trated papers and magazines will not be so freely open
to them as before, but in the illustration of books will
lie their chief field, and who knows but that by such a
time the pen-drawing and the drawing in wash will
have won at last to the picture-frame and the art
galleries. There's distinction for you !

So much to show the value of personalit)'.

Still it remains that, although the personal element
will always be valued, the fact — to paraphrase a sound-
ing Ruskinian anathema — t^ives no reason for lliivin.'-
your identity in the face of )()ur contemporaries, or even
of posterity (this last a long shot which few, with all the


will in the world, will be able to achieve). You may
be startlingly original and brilliant in technique, and be
received with the acclaim that always awaits a novelty ;
but if your personality be so exaggerated that you allow
it to override the due presentment of your subject,
why, then, your plaudits will not be of very long



It is to the painters that we owe some curious and
original effects in pen-drawing, that no professional
pen-draughtsman who has studied the science of repro-
duction could have given us, however independent his
attitude towards process.

Painters who have known nothing whatever of
processes have from time to time been called upon
to make pen-drawings from their paintings for repro-
duction in illustrated exhibition catalogues, and their
drawings have frequently been botli of the most
ludicrously impossible character from tlie process point
of view, and bad from the independent penman's stand-
point. I'ut a percentage of this painters' pen-work,
done as it was with a free hand and an unprejudiced
brain, is curiously instructive. A very great number
of painters' pen-drawings have been made up to within



the last few years (since which time half-tone process
blocks produced from photos of their pictures have
superseded them), and painters have in no small measure


helped to advance the science of process-work, merely by
reason of the difficulty of re])roducinii- their drawings
adequately, and the consequent renewed efforts of the


process-man toward the adequate translation of their
frequently untranslateable qualities. The graver has
been pressed into the service of process partly on their
account, and the roulette has been used freely to assuage
the crudities resulting on the block from drawings
utterly unsuitable for straight-away processing.

In this connection half-tone processes have done
inestimable harm, for, to-day, the catalogues and the
illustrated papers are filled with photographic reproduc-
tions of paintings where in other days autographic
sketches by the painters themselves were used to give
a value that is now lacking to these records of

They have frequently a heavy hand, these painters,
and are prodigal of their ink ; moreover, they have
not the paralyzing dread of an immaculate sheet of
white cardboard that seizes upon the black-and-white
man (so to call the illustrator), who is brought up with
the fear of the process-man before him.

Thus you will find Mr. Wyllie make pen-sketches
from his pictures with a masterful hand, and a pen
(apparently a quill) that plumbs the deepest depths of
the inkpot, and produces a robustious drawing that




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1 1

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1 ^■.



wrings conviction out of one by the thickness and surety
of its Hnes ; or again, Mr. Blake Wirgman shows equal
vigour and directness with portraits in pen-and-ink,
rephcas in little of his oil-paintings. One could desire
nothing more masculine than the accompanying illus-
tration from his hand.


A striking exception to these is seen in Mr. Alfred
Hartley's drawing of a pasturage. It is full of tender,
pearly greys, and is drawn with the lightest of hands,
but with a peculiar disposition of pen-strokes that no
professional pen-draughtsman would employ, because
of his constant care to give the process-man the easiest


of problems. And the autocrat of the rocking-bath
and the etching-room would veto such work as this :
yet, you will observe, it comes excellently well by the
ordinary zinc processes.

But with Mr. David Murray's large pen-drawing
it was another matter. The greyness of the ink with
which it was drawn and the extreme tenuity of its
lines rendered it impossible of adequate reproduction
except by the swelled gelatine process which has been
employed. The result is admirable ; all the fine grey
lines in the sky are reproduced and give an excellent

The portrait of the painter, Mr. Bonnat, by himself,
is one of the most suggestive pen- drawings that can
be found anywhere. It shows what admirable effects

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Online LibraryCharles G. (Charles George) HarperA practical hand-book of drawing for modern methods of reproduction → online text (page 6 of 7)