Wednesday, April 27, 2016

248. The King and He

Today, in the Netherlands, it is King's Day. Charles Ricketts was not a particular friend of kings and queens. He saw Victoria as someone who had 'a narrow, but real, sense of dignity in life', while Edward VII was described as an enemy of art and intellect.

On 21 February 1916, Ricketts wrote in his diary:

With the Boer war, possibly the Oscar Wilde case, and probably with the advent of King Edward, whose hostility to all intellectual things and all superiorities is known and admitted, England has slipped back, perhaps for fifty years or so. The state of Art is, what it is; I will not say it could not be worse, because the powers for evil are limitless. You can always kill; to create is a separate and more complex act. A fool with a hatchet can destroy a masterpiece, and a generation may live and strive and not produce one.

After the World War, modernism appeared from the ruins, luckily.

Edward VII (National Portrait Gallery)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

247. "You Are Looking Very Beautiful To-Day"

On 17 November 1886, Judy's Annual for 1887, edited by Charles Henry Ross (1835-1897), was published 'at the Office of "Judy", 99 Shoe Lane, Fleet Street, E.C.' (See about a number of Judy publications, the Yesterday's Papers blog, January 2010).

Judy's Annual for 1887 (1886)
Several articles and stories were illustrated by the authors themselves. The editor, Ross, was among them. His magazine was a cheap alternative for Punch. Other contributions were illustrated by cartoon artists such as W.G. Baxter, who died at 32 in 1888, or illustrators such as Maurice Greiffenhagen (mentioned in the Contents as Grieffenhagen) (1862-1931).

The issue contains one drawing by Charles Shannon. His name is only mentioned in the table of Contents (page [15]).

Table of Contents in Judy's Annual for 1887 (1886)
Shannon illustrated a story by Philip Richards, 'A Phantom Fan'. The story is rather silly, and not worth re-telling in detail. Suffice to say, that a 'gallant man', named Bertie Brown, is officially engaged to Lily Grant, but can't stand his friend's stories about his love-sickness, and when he visits another young lady, Gladys Dawlish, he presents her with a fan. She handles it so expertly that Bertie finds himself enamoured with her.

He said - 'and meant it': "You are looking very beautiful to-day."

This is the moment that Shannon has illustrated.

C.H. Shannon, illustration in Judy's Annual for 1887 (1886, page [42])
'Up went the mystic fan again, and, in a moment, both heads were behind it.'

Then Bertie Brown marries a third young woman, 'Hilda K.', his barrister friend Wigster pays off the two ladies whose engagements were broken off by Bertie, and Wigster ends up marrying one of them.

The magazine was cheaply produced, as we can see on the page that bears the illustration: some words are incomplete ('ortnight' for 'fortnight'), some lines are warped, and raised space occurs in three places on page 42 alone.

Page 42 in Judy's Annual for 1887 (1886)

Shannon's illustration does not show his later subtle rendering of the female figure, it is a hasty and sketchy drawing, produced to earn a penny. At the time, Ricketts and Shannon did a lot of hackwork, most of them drawings for magazines, but also for some books. Shannon was born on 26 April 1863; when he delivered this drawing he was 23.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

246. A Ricketts Detail: Darkness and Light

In a wood engraving from Daphnis and Chloe (page 51) - see last week's blog - some details show how Charles Ricketts adorned some corners with daily scenes that create an intimate atmosphere. 

Charles Ricketts, wood engraving for Daphnis and Chloe (page 51)
Another detail is a closet that hangs near the fireplace, on the wall, somewhat out of reach and rather high. On top of that we see a small object with a wisp of smoke.

Charles Ricketts, wood engraving for Daphnis and Chloe (page 51, detail)
One might think it is probably an incense burner, but judging by the form it is more likely that Ricketts drew a small oil lamp. It is dark outside - we can see that, because the door is open and the snow descends from the dark sky. A light in the room would not be superfluous, even if the cooking fire gives more light than the small lamp. The room doesn't seem to be too dark, though. Only at the back, near the stables, a dark patched area is visible. We don't see any shadows either. What time is it?


1866 Charles Ricketts 2016

In 2016 this blog will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Charles Ricketts's birth on 2 October 1866.
Contributions are most welcome.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

245. A Ricketts Detail: Playing Children

The wood engravings that Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon made for their edition of Daphnis and Chloe (1893) are full of playful details. Some of these are not related to the story at all, some of them have a function in creating an atmosphere.

An example is shown below, with playing children in a house in Mitylene.

Charles Ricketts, wood engraving for Daphnis and Chloe (page 51)
The wood engraving (158x125 mm) opens the Third Book of the story. Playing children are in the foreground at the feet of the elder family members, who are seated around a fire with a kettle. In the background part of the stable can be seen. A door on the left gives way to the snowy landscape. An emblematic roundel is in the upper left corner.

The scene depicts the doings of a family when winter has come and 'a great Snow' had fallen and 'blinded all the paths', and 'all was thus taken up with their domestick affairs'.

And therefore no man drove out his flocks to pasture, or did so much as come to the door, but, about the Cocks crowing, made their fires nosehigh; and some spun flax, some Tarpaulin for the Sea; others with all their sophistry made gins, and nets, and traps for birds. At that time their care was employed about the Oxen and Cows that were foddered with chaffe in the stalls; about the Goats and about the sheep and those which fed on green leaves in the sheepcoats and the folds; or else about fatting their hogs in the styes with Acorns and other mast.
(page 52-53)

Some features of the wood engraving refer to this passage, but what makes Ricketts's and Shannon's illustrations for Daphnis and Chloe so compelling is the wealth of small 'unnecessary' details that bear no direct relation to the text, but do add to the feel of the story.

Charles Ricketts, wood engraving for Daphnis and Chloe (detail)
The two young children in the foreground are playing with some chickens. These have followed the mother hen that has come very near the fire and the cookery place where some crumbs may come their way.