Wednesday, September 25, 2019

426. Exhibition Catalogue Design 1898

For the 'First Exhibition of Original Wood-Engraving' in the Dutch Gallery, E.J. van Wisselingh's London art gallery, a catalogue was designed by Charles Ricketts and printed at the Ballantyne Press. The show opened on 3 December 1898.

Such catalogues, usually, were not subject to criticism, but in this case D.S. MacColl, in The Saturday Review of 10 December 1898 (pp. 778-779) made an exception. 

He started out very positive:

A charming exhibition is now open at the Dutch Gallery in Brook Street. It brings together the work done in original wood-engraving by Messrs. Ricketts and Shannon and their associates, Messrs. Sturge Moore, Reginald Savage and Lucien Pissarro.

After praising Ricketts's and Shannon's work for The Dial, and their early wood-engravings for Daphnis and Chloe, and before praising Shannon's new work in another medium, the chiaroscuro wood-engravings, he paused to criticise the exhibition catalogue:

The First Exhibition of Original Wood Engraving (1898) [catalogue, page 1]

Mr. Ricketts’ later work in “Hero and Leander,” “Cupid and Psyche,” and some of his books seems to me less perfectly balanced, more strained, form sacrificed in the effort at gesture and intense expression, or swept into decorative curves. The discussion of his type and books I must leave for another time, since it demands a detailed treatment. 

The criticism only focused on the cover (also the title page):

I will only raise one point for the moment, taking the title of the catalogue as a text. This, giving the name of the exhibition and its address, is printed like the old colophons in one block without a break, and not only is it difficult at a glance to pick out and read these two statements, but the arrangement requires minor dislocations. The word “engraving” is divided between two lines; “Hanover” ends one line, and “Square” begins another. I contend that lucidity would be the gainer by a different arrangement, and decoration need not in the least suffer. 

These unfortunate truncations had been the subject of earlier criticism when the first publications of the Vale Press were given eccentric title pages in which rules of poetry were sometimes hindered by the decorations or initials. Ricketts would later express his regret about his youthful, ill-considered typographical designs, although he rejected any criticism of his fonts.

But the small catalogues for Van Wisselingh were part of the occasional printing process, which did not involve much typographical ingenuity. They were merely mentioned in passing in his own bibliography of the Vale Press - Ricketts didn't think they were important. The catalogues are now, of course, of great historical importance.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

425. A Thomas Sturge Moore Exhibition: Phoenix and Unicorn

Tomorrow the exhibition Phoenix and Unicorn & In Conversation: Coming into the Light will open in Dulwich College (London). The exhibition consists of two parts. There is a section on Thomas Sturge Moore, curated by Jan Piggott, showing books and prints in six display cases (with additional texts). The other section shows the work of contemporary wood engravers, such as Gaylord Schanilec.

Phoenix and Unicorn & In Conversation: Coming into the Light

The phoenix and the unicorn in the title refer to some designs by Sturge Moore. Curator Jan Piggott will deliver a lecture on 14 October, 'Revival of Wood Engraving Book-Design', which will be followed by a lecture on W.B. Yeats and Sturge Moore by Roy Foster. Later, the British Art Journal will publish an article on Sturge Moore's book designs.

It may not be the great exhibition that Thomas Sturge Moore's work deserves, but nowadays it is a small miracle if a show is dedicated to one of the lesser gods of the art world at all.

To mark the event, here is a lesser known portrait of Sturge Moore, a drypoint etching by Alfred Hugh Fisher (1867-1945), not dated but probably around 1920. This copy from the collection of Vincent Barlow is a presentation proof inscribed to A.J. Finberg, author of an article on Sturge Moore's wood-engravings in The Studio (1915).

Alfred Hugh Fisher, 'Thomas Sturge Moore' (drypoint, c. 1920) (c.22.5 x 15 cm)
[Collection Vincent Barlow]

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

424. Advertising The Vale Press in The Studio

In blog 421 (Advertising The Vale Press Books in 1896) I wrote about the earliest advertisements for Vale Press books that appeared in weeklies such as The Saturday Review in March 1896, and I mentioned a slightly later advertisement in The Studio.

This advertisement appeared in the issue of April 15, 1896. At the end of each year, the instalments were bound together, and, as a result, single copies of this leading art magazine are rare. Morover, the advertising sections in the front and back were removed by the bookbinder, and most copies of The Studio in libraries and museums therefore lack the advertisements; a good reason to reproduce it today. It can be surprisingly hard to find a copy with the advertisements in place. The April 1896 issue had 16 pages of ads in the front and 4 pages in the back (numbered from Ad. I to Ad. XX). More ads were printed on the inside of the front cover, and on both sides of the back cover.

The Studio, April 15, 1896, page Ad. XI
The advertisement of the 'Vale Publications' appeared on page Ad. XI among advertisements for carved oak sideboards, lithographs and art books ('for the artist and student').

The text is reproduced after a page set in Vale Type. However, there is no separately published 'notice' or 'list' of books with this exact wording. Part of the text corresponds to that of a 'Notice' from January 1896, but the headline and intro do not appear in it.

The Studio, April 15, 1896, page Ad. XI

Notice (c January 1896)
The text and lay-out of the first column correspond exactly to the first four paragraphs of the Notice (but the last paragraph is missing). The second column begins with a text printed on the second page of the Notice, but the rest is new and does not appear in this Notice or in any other prospectus. However, the books mentioned in The Studio - from the Milton edition to The Passionate Pilgrim - are those that appear in the same order in The List of Books to be Published by Messrs. Hacon and Ricketts, at the Sign of the Dial, LII Warwick St. Regent Street. The List probably dates from February, and announces the Milton for March 1896; the other books would be ready in April and May (a claim that wasn't fulfilled). Although all these books are mentioned in the advertisement, the wording is different.

Notice (c January 1896)

The last lines - 'Prospectuses can be had on application [...]' - of course do not appear in the prospectuses themselves. At the Ballantyne Press (where the Vale Publications were printed), the text of the advertisement has been set specifically for this advertisement to display the Vale Type. It was then photographically reduced in size for a block (as illustrations were), and printed in The Studio.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

423. Charles Shannon's Lithographs for The Savoy (2)

Charles Shannon contributed lithographs to the first three issues of The Savoy, then no more. His contributions were always prominently placed in the front, only preceded by the designs of Aubrey Beardsley. In the first issue, their contributions are followed by those of Charles Conder, Joseph Pennell, Louis Oury, William Rothenstein, F. Sandys, James McNeill Whistler, Max Beerbohm, and Jacques L. Blanche. In short, the editors had a lot to choose from, but both in this first and later issues Shannon kept his leading position.

The Savoy, 'Art Contents' (No. 2) and cover (No. 3) (both 1896)
Although these four lithographs were published in 1896 (between January and July), they all date from 1895. There is also a small edition printed by the artist himself. Of the last two lithographs, 'The Dive' and 'Stone Bath', 25 proofs are printed on two types of paper. The Savoy printed three lithographs in grey, and one in green. 

Charles Shannon, 'The Dive' (The Savoy, No. 2, April 1896)
The second number of The Savoy contained two of Shannon's lithographs (see last week's blog), the second of which was called 'The Dive', depicting (quoting Ricketts's description): 'A girl in the act of plunging into the water; her companion peeps through a doorway.' The British Museum owns one of the signed copies (not the transfer-lithograph), and it is described as follows: 'Nude girl diving into a stone pool; another female figure watching through doorway at left'.

Charles Shannon, 'The Dive', proof, signed  (British Museum)
The third number of The Savoy was published in July 1896 and contained Shannon's lithograph 'The Stone Bath', depicting 'Two nude women and a child in a bath-house; one standing and resting her head on a ledge; the other sitting and leaning forward supporting the child in the water' (The British Museum owns one of the proofs). Ricketts added that the girl on the left leans on 'a parapet'.

Charles Shannon, 'The Stone Bath' (The Savoy, No. 3, July 1896)
Rainforth Armitage Walker (1886-1960), under his pseudonym Georges Derry, published an essay on Shannon's lithographs ('The Lithographs of Charles Hazelwood Shannon', in: The Print-Collector’s Quarterly; December, 1914, p. 392-420) in which he praises these two works as part of a series of Stone-Bath lithographs:

Each one is marked by some particular quality of pose or grouping, charming either from its originality or its gracefulness. For instance, in The Stone Bath [...], the delicately drawn thigh and right leg is beautifully contrasted with the angle of the stone against which the figure leans, and the whole body is given a vitality - almost a color - from the contrast of living, muscular flesh with hard, smooth stone. Again in The Dive [...] the sense of quick motion is given by the wisp of hair which flies up, from the sudden plunging forward of the figure.

From Ricketts's catalogue we know that the order of publication in The Savoy was somewhat different from the order of production of the four lithographs:
1. Salt Water (The Savoy, 2);
2. The Letter (The Savoy, 1);
3. The Stone Bath (The Savoy, 3);
4. The Dive (The Savoy, 2).

The format of both prints - the proof and the transfer lithograph - are the same, but the more attractive, less smooth paper makes the proofs look more subtle.