Wednesday, January 18, 2012

26. Universal Disdain

Julian Corbett's story 'Jezebel' in The Universal Review of 15 August 1889 was illustrated by Ricketts and Shannon, who divided the four illustrations between them, and added an initial, signed by both. The pen drawings, reproduced as process illustrations, were received in the press with disdain.

Initial T, signed by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon for The Universal Review, August 1889
The Spectator (24 August 1889) noted about The Universal Review that 'it is necessary to speak first of the pictures, for they are always its chief feature'. The illustrations in the August issue were 'most remarkable', however: 'Clever, affected, and ugly are perhaps the words that express them best. There is a certain parade of Phoenician archaeology in some of the drawings; but it can hardly be said that the artists have very successfully managed their Sidonian local colour.'
Charles Ricketts, 'Astarté', in The Universal Review, August 1889
Two years later, Typo, a Monthly Record and Review (April 1891) lamented: 'The Universal Review is no more. It had much in its favor'. Typo was published at the other side of the planet, in Wellington, New Zealand, where The Universal Review was appreciated: 'Original in style, superbly printed, edited by an able art critic' - Harry Quilter was The Universal Review's editor - 'it ought certainly to have succeeded', however, the illustrations of Ricketts and Shannon were singled out for scorn: Typo ascertained that 'the "crank" element was too strong. It was too French for the English taste'. A story 'like Corbett's  "Jezebel", illustrated with art (?) works by Ricketts and Shannon, were enough to kill the strongest periodical ever offered to British readers'.

Note the question mark after 'art'. New Zealanders, posing as 'British readers', posing as art connoisseurs...