Wednesday, June 24, 2015

204. The Art of Sir William Rothenstein

The William Rothenstein exhibition at the Cartwright Hall Art Gallery in Bradford will be on show for another fourteen days. It opened on 7 March and will close on 12 July.

Exhibition catalogue The Art of Sir William Rothenstein
William Rothenstein (1872-1945) is perhaps best remembered for his highly entertaining memoirs (Men and Memories) and his lithograph portraits of artist friends and famous contemporaries, whereas his paintings of interiors, Jewish life, French and English country landscapes, and heavily bombed landscapes of war are not often seen.

Rothenstein shares with Ricketts the fate of a man with many identities, making him difficult to grasp, and unfit for comfortable exhibition stories.

William Rothenstein, English Portraits (1898)
Rothenstein's recollections of Ricketts and Shannon are full of detail and wonderful insights. The Bradford exhibition catalogue contains one portrait of Ricketts and Shannon that was published in English Portraits. A Series of Lithographed Portraits. The portraits were issued in parts in 1897 and 1898, and then collected in a book. Part IX, issued in January 1898, included the portrait of Ricketts and Shannon.

William Rothenstein, 'Mr. C. Ricketts and Mr. C.H. Shannon', English Portraits (1898)
Ricketts holds a wood-block, while Shannon looks on, and probably expects Ricketts to start talking again in a minute.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

203. Hand-Coloured by an Anonymous Artist

Last week I blogged about Miss Gloria Cardew. The name is a pseudonym for an artist who coloured black-and-white book illustrations, mainly for the London bookseller Frank Karslake. He organized exhibitions of bookbindings and books with coloured plates in 1897, and in 1898 created the Guild of Women Bookbinders. 

Cardew also seems to have coloured copies of Kelmscott Press books, ordered directly by some collectors, and this may well have been the case for Vale Press books. The article on Cardew (written by Denis Collins) notes that she always signed her work:

She always identified her work either by signing the book or by attaching, often to the verso of the front free endpaper, a small label stating: "The Illustrations in this Book were coloured by hand by Miss Gloria Cardew."'

The Vale Press books that were hand-coloured by Cardew were published around the time that she was active as a colourist (between 1897 and 1904). One of the coloured Vale press books was published in 1896, two others in 1897.

Vincent Barlow - who earlier this year contributed a blog about Shannon - wrote to say that he owns a coloured copy of another early Vale Press book, the 1897 edition of The Excellent Narration of the Marriage of Cupide and Psyches by Apuleius. The hand-coloured illustrations have not been signed by the artist, so it seems another colourist was trying her or his hand at colouring Vale Press books as well. The quality of the colouring is of a high standard.

All six wood-engravings in the book have been coloured (in watercolour), as well as the opening initial T. The initial was printed in red, the engravings in black.

Charles Ricketts, 'Love's Pact with Jove' (1897)
There is one important similarity between the illustrations coloured by the anonymous artist and those by Cardew: both artists leave parts of the design uncoloured. However, Cardew's illustrations display a quality that these do not have. Collins writes about Cardew's work: 'The colour was always kept firmly within the lines of the design'. In these illustrations the colouring does not have this flawless quality. In 'Love's Pact with Jove', for example, the red colour of the wings of Love has touched the naked body of Love.

Charles Ricketts, 'The Leap from the Rock' (1987)
Lucius Apuleius, The Excellent Narration of the Marriage of Cupide and Psyches (1897)
Cardew always coloured the images after the book had been bound. She did not colour separately issued proofs of the wood-engravings for Vale Press books. Of the wood-engravings for the Apuleius edition, Ricketts printed several proofs, on India paper, in grey, green, or blue, but these have not been hand-coloured by Ricketts, or by other artists. 

The coloured images change the book's appearance and design. The original colour scheme of the book was black (text and images), white (paper), and adornments in red: the title and initial on page 3, a song on page 7/8, notes and page numbers throughout the book, the 'finis' on page 56, and the two colophon pages with the publisher's device. The wood-engravings blend in with the text. In the coloured copy this is not the case; the images are more conspicuous, and disturb the original balance.

Charles Ricketts, 'Psyches' Invisible Ministrants' (1987)
If Miss Gloria Cardew did not colour this copy, the anonymous artist may have done it at the time of publication, or at any later time, around 1900, or much later, say, the fifties, or even more recently. Karslake sold such coloured copies because they fetched a higher price than the ordinary copies, and such mercantile thoughts certainly have not disappeared from the trade.

The colouring - though less harmonious than that by Cardew - not only displays qualities that testify of artistic talent, the fact that all six wood-engravings, and the initial have been coloured suggests that the colourist enjoyed a high degree of perseverance and purposefulness. Alas, we do not have a name to attach to the coloured images yet.

I think that Ricketts would not have liked these added colours, but one never knows. The initial on page 3 - a page that shows a carefully considered balance between black and red - has been gilded, while the branches and bunches of grapes have been coloured in green.

Lucius Apuleius, The Excellent Narration of the Marriage of Cupide and Psyches, page 3 (1897)
The hand-colouring of such pages does reflect a period in the history of printing that was studied by most patrons of private presses between 1890 and 1900. The earliest printed books in Italy for example imitated lavishly illustrated manuscripts, and the opening pages of these uncunabula were often hand-painted with striking scenes in many colours, including lapis lazuli and gold. The initials in those volumes were often hand-drawn and coloured as well. Printing multi-coloured illustrations was not possible at the time. In the days of the Kelmscott and Vale Presses colour printing was mostly confined to lithography, especially chromolithography, a technique that William Morris nor Charles Ricketts chose to use. 

The addition of colour in Vale Press books remains a question of taste, particularly the collector's taste, and in the last century that taste has changed radically. The modern collector prefers to see the book as it was issued, as a work of art of which all details are decided upon by one artist. A collaboration between artists and dealers usually diminishes the artistic value, while the interventions of collectors are mostly too personal to keep their value. That is to say that a unique coloured copy is not always more valuable than an ordinary uncoloured copy, on the contrary, but now that ordinary copies of Vale Press books are less valuable than ten or twenty years ago, such a copy might fetch a higher price.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

202. Hand-Coloured by Miss Gloria Cardew

Charles Ricketts's wood-engravings and decorations for the Vale Press books were printed in black, and Ricketts did not intend to add colour. A unique and experimental hand-painted illustration has survived. It was done on a proof page for Hero and Leander, a book that predates the foundation of the Vale Press. Ricketts did not make such attempts for any of the later books.

Charles Ricketts, decoration on a proof page
of Hero and Leander (1894) [detail]
However, there was the search for added value in a book. London booksellers were always looking for copies that could be sold at higher prices than ordinary copies. Frank Karslake (1851-1920) was one of them. Denis Collins, in an article for The Ibis Journal 5 (2014), wrote about the practice of attaining added value:

'There were various ways of doing this: a book might be bound in an attractive cloth cover or rehoused in a fine leather binding, or the standard edition of a work might be accompanied by a limited edition either on large paper or on japan vellum. Karslake actually commissioned special copies of books on japan direct from the publishers.'

Karslake also offered copies of books that were hand-coloured by Miss Gloria Cardew, who is the subject of Collins's article in The Ibis Journal: 'Gloria Cardew: Colourist of the 1890s'. The name appears to have been a pseudonym for a colourist who was born around 1878 and worked between 1897 and 1902 - there are photographs of her, but no biographical facts.

Portrait of Miss Gloria Cardew (from The Sketch, 28 December 1898)
Karslake organised an exhibition of books that were bound by women bookbinders at his Charing Cross Road shop in November 1897. Included were 32 books with hand-coloured illustrations by Cardew. Among the illustrators whose work had been 'improved' were Robert Anning Bell, Paul Woodroffe, and Charles Ricketts.

Poems by John Keats, illustrated by Robert Anning Bell,
and hand-coloured by Gloria Cardew
Most books Cardew coloured involved a lot of work. Poems by John Keats for example contained about eighty illustrations that were all worked in watercolour. The Vale Press did not issue books with that many wood-engravings, and Cardew probably only coloured the frontispiece and the opening pages - I haven't seen any reproductions of her Vale Press work. The three books that were executed by Cardew were early Vale Press books (Denis Collins provides a checklist of her work):

Michael Drayton, Nimphidia and the Muses Elizium (November 1896)
William Blake, The Book of Thel, Songs of Innocence, and Songs of Experience (May 1897)

Michael Field, Fair Rosamund (May 1897)

Denis Collins does not provide any additional information on previous owners and the current location. 

The Drayton copy was described by Howard M. Nixon in his British Bookbindings presented by Kenneth H. Oldaker to the Chapter Library of Westminster Abbey (London, Maggs Bros, 1982), and should now be in that library. It was purchased by Oldaker from the firm of Heywood Hill.

The Blake was offered for sale by Bromer Booksellers in Boston in 2001.

The Michael Field copy has left no traces that I could find. Perhaps the readers of this blog may help us out?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

201. Bindings for Daphnis and Chloe

Artcurial (Brest, Poulain, F. Tajan) in Paris has announced an auction of Livres et manuscrits modernes (Modern Books and Manuscripts) to take place on 22 June. More than 200 lots are described in the catalogue and 78 of these are from the collection of Jan van der Marck, an American museum administrator, book and art collector of Dutch origin who died in 2010. At the end of his life Van der Marck donated bookbindings and printed works to several institutions. The Koninklijke Bibliotheek, National Library of the Netherlands, received 200 objects, including unique bookbindings and a collection of French works printed by Léon Pichon. Van der Marck also sold parts of his collection, and wrote the catalogue descriptions for the Bloomsbury auction in 2009 that contained examples of English and Dutch fine printing from his vast collection. He told me he wanted the catalogue to make a plea for the high typographical qualities of Dutch book production in the twentieth century. 

Bookbinding by J.Frank Mowery for Daphnis and Chloe with wood-engravings by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon (1893)
Lot 171 in the Artcurial auction in June is a book that remained unsold at the 2009 Bloomsbury auction. It is a copy of Daphnis and Chloe with wood-engravings by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon (1893). Van der Marck ordered a binding for it by the American bookbinder and paper conservator J. Franklin Mowery: a black morocco binding, ruled in blind in blocks of diagonal rules and titled in gilt, with black suede doublures and moiré silk flyleaves, signed at foot of rear doublure 'JFM 93'. The book is housed in a modern cloth slip-case.

Daphnis and Chloe is a relatively large book - measuring 29 by 22 cm. It was issued by Elkin Mathews and John Lane at the Bodley Head in 210 copies, all bound in plain green cloth.

Daphnis and Chloe with wood-engravings by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon (1893)
The book belongs to the early works of the Vale Artists, as they were called in several portraits of them in The Sketch (1895): Ricketts, Shannon, Lucien Pissarro and Reginald Savage. The name referred to Ricketts's and Shannon's house and studios in The Vale, and would become the name of their private press as well: The Vale Press. The cover for Daphnis and Chloe testifies of their wish to publish the book themselves, and mentions 'The Vale' on the spine. While the artists were still working on the engravings, John Lane of The Bodley Head agreed to take the risk of publication, and paid for the costs of printing and binding. 

Usually the book is found in its original green cloth binding. Van der Marck's copy in a new binding is a modern exception; it has lost the reference to 'The Vale' on its spine.

Another Dutch collector, Paul May (see my blog about a vellum Vale Press book from May's collection), ordered a binding from Sybil Pye.
Bookbinding by Sybil Pye for Daphnis and Chloe: bound in 1928 for Paul May
Sybil Pye bound two copies of this edition. The May copy is bound in 'Blue goatskin, inlaid with deep red, green, and natural goatskin, and gold-tooled', and a copy for G.F. Simms was bound in ‘Black pigskin, inlaid with red niger goatskin and undyed goatskin, and gold-tooled' (Marianne Tidcombe, Women Bookbinders 1880-1920). One of those is now at the William Andrews Clark Library in Los Angeles. It was acquired in 1959. 

Another rebound copy is at The Houghton Library at Harvard University: green morocco, gilt extra, bound by Rivière for Harold Wilmerding Bell, while The Huntington Library in San Marino, CA, owns a copy in crushed brown Levant morocco extra, uncut, top edges gilt, acquired from the library of Frederic R. Halsey in 1900.

I have no knowledge of a copy in a binding designed by Ricketts himself, and I doubt if he ever did a design for this book, other than the original plain green cloth binding. Today, Daphnis and Chloe in a unique Ricketts binding would be special. 

There was a time that every book that was brought to a private library had to be bound in a matching colour. Then, a taste for novel and unique bindings was developed and each book was given an individual binding. Later in the twentieth century the original state of issue became of primary importance to collectors, and books that were authentic were sought after, thus separating collectors of private press books from collectors of bookbindings. The Van der Marck copy of Daphnis and Chloe will probably be of more intense interest to a collector of - abstract, 1990s - bookbindings than to a collector of works by Ricketts and Shannon. 

[The Van der Marck copy was sold on 22 June. Hammer price: €1,300.]