Wednesday, August 28, 2019

422. Charles Shannon's Lithographs for The Savoy (1)

Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon would never contribute anything to the infamous magazine The Yellow Book. In a letter to Richard le Gallienne, Shannon wrote: 'Ricketts and I have decided not to appear in your Yellow Book, as it might lead to complications over the fourth Dial'. This issue of their own magazine was to appear in March 1896, it was long in the making (and number 3 had been published in October 1893, before The Yellow Book started). They admitted that the first issue of The Yellow Book appealed to them: 'We think the Yellow Book looks extremely well and bright' (See Books from the Library of John Lane Publisher. London, Dulau and Company Ltd., 1929, p. 98.)

Charles Shannon, 'The Letter', lithograph in The Savoy, No. 1 (January 1896)
After Beardsley was dismissed as editor of The Yellow Book, he was given the opportunity by Leonard Smithers to fill a new magazine with drawings and stories. This was christened The Savoy. Shannon would contribute four lithographs to the first three issues (January to July 1896). 

Were the lithographs in Shannon's own publications - the issues of The Dial and three Portfolios - printed by the artist from the original stones, those in The Savoy were so-called transfer lithographs. In his catalogue of Shannon's lithographs Ricketts would state:

My experience obtained while assisting or merely watching the proofing of lithographs, and clinched by the fate of prints published in the "Dial," points to there being nearly always a slight deterioration between the first printing and any subsequent issue, if the stone has been "rolled up" and put on one side even for a small space of time. In the editions of the "Dial," where as many as three hundred and ten proofs have sometimes been taken, deterioration has taken place. This disadvantage need not exist in transfer-lithography as the drawing is usually transferred to a hard surface, a polished stone (the friction in printing being thereby reduced to a minimum), on which a chalk drawing cannot be made, while several transfers can continue the reproduction indefinitely.
(Charles Ricketts, A Catalogue of Mr. Shannon's Lithographs. London, E.J. van Wisselingh, 1902, p. 19).

Printing the lithographs himself took Shannon many hours of course and since the edition of The Savoy was ten times as high as that of The Dial, there was no escaping it: the 3,000 lithographs were printed as transfers by Thomas Way. However, Shannon also printed a number of these as separate proofs on Van Gelder paper. Of 'The Letter' (published without a title in The Savoy's first number) there were 25 proofs in red and black, while The Savoy's version is in grey.

Charles Shannon, 'The Letter', proof, printed by the artist, signed in pencil (British Museum)
Shannon's contribution was highly esteemed by, for example, the critic of The Academy, and the poet Ernest Dowson.

The British Museum describes the first lithograph, 'The Letter' as follows: 'Two girls, whole-length in profile to right, huddled together reading a letter'. 

Ricketts, in his catalogue, described it more precisely: 'A slight sketch of two girls in wide muslin skirts perusing a letter.' 

The second issue of The Savoy contained two lithographs by Shannon. The first of these was called 'Salt Water' (it was printed in green). The British Museum's description gives: 'Young nude woman standing on a beach, whole-length and in profile to left, stooping slightly and holding the hands of two small children, the boy striding towards the sea and the girl leaning back'. (See The British Museum.)

Charles Shannon, 'Salt Water', lithograph in The Savoy, No. 2 (April 1896)

According to Ricketts's the work depicts: 'A young girl bather bends facing the sea and wind. She holds two small children by the hand.' Here the BM description is more detailed. Of this lithograph, Shannon printed 35 separate proofs in black, in red, and in green.