Wednesday, April 3, 2019

401. Exhibition at the Heath Robinson Museum

Some works by Ricketts and Shannon are on display during the exhibition 'The Beardley Generation' at the Heath Robinson Museum in London (see here for the museum's website). 

William Heath Robinson (1872-1944), trained at Islington School of Art, was an illustrator who showed influences of Aubrey Beardsley, Walter Crane, Arthur Rackham, and others - there seems to be no direct link between Heath Robinson and Ricketts or Shannon. 

Heath Robinson Museum (website)
'The Beardsley Generation', curated by Geoffrey Beare, displays works by Beardsley, Ricketts, Laurence Housman and the Robinson Brothers (Heath Robinson had two brothers who were also illustrators). (See Beare's video on the show.)

The focus is on the implications of new technological possibilities, as the museum's website explains:

The exhibition will explore the impact that new photographic means of reproduction (process engraving) at the end of the 19th Century had on illustration. Older artists who had relied on the craft wood-engraver to work up their sketches for publication were swept aside and a new generation of artists, well versed in the requirements of process engraving, were much in demand. The new technology also resulted in an expansion in the production of illustrated books and periodicals.

The work of Ricketts and Shannon is represented by one book and two drawings.

In one of the cases lies the well known edition of Daphnis and Chloe - the subject of last week blog 400 by Rebecca Mitchell. 

Number 21 and 22 in the show are original drawings by Ricketts. Both were reproduced in The Pageant of 1896: 'Psyche in the House' and 'Oedipus and the Sphinx'. The second drawing was reproduced in photogravure (by the Swan Electro Engraving Company). The first one was reproduced as a half-tone.

The image of 'Psyche in the House' is now better known for its publication in The Vale Press edition of De Cupidinis et Psyches Amoribus in 1901, five years later. The book contained five illustrations, four of which were based on earlier designs and some had been published in magazines. 

Charles Ricketts, 'Psyche in the House'
(The Pageant, 1896)
The image of 'Psyche in the House' had been reworked as a wood-engraving with considerable changes. Most importantly, the pair of hands holding a chalice (on the left) and the black surface around the open window (on the right). The format is different: Ricketts added a section to the left, and made the second version a square drawing.

Charles Ricketts, 'Psyche in the House'
(De Cupidinis et Psyches Amoribus, 1901)
There are many other changes, such as the position of the flowers on the tiled floor, the lever on the right hand hatch, and the cut-off upper side of the image. However, the main symbolism of the illustration remained untouched.