Speculating on the role of Wilde as an editor, Petra Clark (in her essay ''"Cleverly Drawn": Oscar Wilde, Charles Ricketts, and the Art of the Woman's World' (see my two earlier blogs on Charles Ricketts and Oscar Wilde's Woman's World), concludes that Wilde's involvement in the art direction of the magazine was shallow. However, she states:
'It is easy to imagine why the ambitious young Charles Ricketts would have sent Wilde some drawings that ultimately earned him occasional work for Cassell & Co., but it is unclear what prompted Wilde to generously give a relatively untested and (to him) unknown artist several full-page commissions. What is clear is that by the time Wilde left Cassell & Co., so had Ricketts, as there is no evidence of any drawings by him in the magazine's final year (1889-90) under Fish's editorship. Such a coincidence suggests an affinity between the two men's artistic visions even before their official partnership began.'
As we saw in last week's blog, Wilde was not the editor who gave Ricketts these commissions. And I can add that Ricketts did not leave the publisher, as, from November 1889 onwards, he received commissions for quite a few illustrations for another Cassell magazine, The Magazine of Art. And, in fact, Ricketts made several contributions to the final year of The Woman's World. He drew a headpiece for each of the monthly instalments of 'The Latest Fashions' between November 1889 (Vol. III, No. 25) and July 1890 (Vol. III, No. 33). He did not contribute any full page illustrations, true, but then he had many other publishers waiting for him, including the magazine Atalanta (from December 1888) and The Universal Review (from August 1889), and, with Shannon, he had embarked on a magazine of his own, The Dial that made its first appearance in August 1889.
Ricketts's first illustration for The Woman's World appeared in the June 1888 issue (page 372), that is in volume I, number 8.
|Charles Ricketts, illustration for an article by Wilhelmina Munster, in The Woman's World, June 1888, p. 372.|
If Ricketts had sent in drawings to an editor of The Woman's World, they would not have been addressed to Wilde but to Bale. On the other hand, it may not have been necessary for Ricketts to make a drawing and risking rejection by an editor. He may have received an assignment for a drawing, as he had worked for the publishers before, and the art editors knew his work. Cassell and Company employed a great number of artists for their large range of magazines and copiously illustrated works. As was the custom at the time, these art editors had a waiting room for aspiring artists, who with a portfolio of drawings waited for a call. Ricketts must have visited several of these offices when he tried to earn a living as an illustrator, but the situation at Cassell's was different for him. The drawings for The Woman's World were not the first ones he made for the firm, and that he immediately got several important commissions for the magazine testifies to the trust the art editor had in Ricketts's skills.
What strikes us now is that his illustrations for The Woman's World are much more artistic than the drawings of other contributing artists.
|Charles Ricketts, headpiece for 'Decebal's Daughter' by Carmen Sylva in The Woman's World, July 1888|
|Charles Ricketts, initial 'T' for 'Decebal's Daughter' by Carmen Sylva in The Woman's World, July 1888|
|Charles Ricketts, full page illustration for 'A Lady in Ancient Egypt' by Helen Mary Tirard in The Woman's World, July 1888|
The first full page illustration for The Woman's World was: 'The Toilet of a Lady of Ancient Egypt'. It was signed by Ricketts with his monogram CR, and in the 'List of Full-Page Plates' was mentioned: 'Drawn by C. Ricketts'. Other full-page images in this volume (1887-1888) were done by Walter Crane, Paul Destez, and Gordon Browne, who each did one plate, while Ricketts did two. The image contains more than was necessary to illustrate the article: the lady and her dress, attended by three servants in a palace garden with a pond. Added are doves and two cats in order to enhance the intimate, idyllic atmosphere, which we do not find in any of the other illustrations in The Woman's World at the time.
As I said, Cassell & Company knew what they could expect of the young Ricketts - he was 21 at the time of his contributions to The Woman's World. They had given him other earlier assignments for a substantial new publication for which a large number of younger artists made drawings.
See next week's blog.