Wednesday, September 22, 2021

530. Hand-Coloured by Miss Gloria Cardew (2)

Six years ago I wrote a blog about the hand-coloured Vale Press books to which the name of Miss Gloria Cardew is attached (blog 202. Hand-Coloured by Miss Gloria Cardew). In the meantime, there are some new facts to report, on the one hand due to the discovery of an unknown interview with the artist, and on the other hand due to the emergence of more Vale Press books coloured by her. 

Miss Gloria Cardew
The Ladies Field, 11 December 1898

Nothing was known about Cardew's life until now, except that she was about twenty years old when she first exhibited work at Karslake & Co. It is therefore suggested that the name is a pseudonym. Although a few photos have been published, I had not seen the one accompanying this blog before. She worked between 1897 and 1902 and then disappeared from the scene.

The author (E.M.E.) of the untraceable magazine The Ladies Field, 11 December 1898 (there is one copy preserved in the British Library), interviewed her, but does not quote her directly. 

However, two new facts emerge: that she spent several years in California and that she began her career as a colourist by colouring her own photo portrait. Below is the main part of the article (with thanks to John Aplin).

E.M.E., ‘Miss Gloria Cardew. Hand Colourist of Book Illustration’, in The Ladies Field, 11 December 1898, p. 84:

Miss Gloria Cardew, who is young and enthusiastic, produces choice work as a colourist. Not only does she possess the true feeling for colour and its [one word illegible], but she has also dexterity in the application of colour to black-and-white drawings; hence the finished results obtained by her. I have seen many beautifully illustrated books coloured by Miss Cardew with the greatest skill. […]  it may be mentioned that the Duchess of York has just accepted a volume of “Children’s Singing Games,” coloured by Miss Cardew, for her little son, Prince Edward.

Miss Cardew’s work, dainty and delicate as it is, seems specially adapted to the illustration of fairy-tales, poems, fanciful subjects, and, particularly, all kinds of books for children, to whom the educative value of good colour is of paramount importance. In examining the artistic books to which I have alluded, what impressed me more even than the colouring was the infinite fund of patience brought to bear upon the work, especially in cases where many facsimile copies of one book are required.

In the course of my visit to Miss Cardew, she showed me her first attempt at hand-colouring. It was her own photograph; and that was the simple beginning of what has now grown into an elaborate graceful art. Miss Cardew has spent some three or four years of her life in California, and I cannot help thinking that her colour-sense must have been greatly influenced, and to some extent developed, by the brilliant colour effects to be seen in that dry atmosphere. Certainly she has a rare perception of colour, as well as a marvellously delicate touch.

Messrs. Karslake and Co., 61, Charing Cross Road, who are agents for “The Guild of Women Binders,” exhibit Miss Gloria Cardew’s work, and, I believe, transact business for her. I learn from Mr. Karslake that the colouring of an illustrated book increases its value by 200 per cent. Moreover, there is a demand for these embellished volumes, chiefly, of course, among collectors and connoisseurs. The colouring is copyright, and cannot be infringed by colour-printing. Therefore, each book is practically an artist’s proof.

It appears that Miss Cardew has undertaken to colour 100 numbered copies of the “Song of Solomon”—with Mr. Granville Fell’s fifteen plates—on large Japanese paper, and twelve out of the hundred are to have a set of the large plates printed on white vellum, in addition to the impressions on Japanese paper. Besides these plates, the text of this volume contains sixteen decorative drawings.I have seen one complete specimen, and it is indeed a work of art.

Mr. Cyril Davenport, of the British Museum, is among those who are interested in this revival of hand-colouring as initiated by Miss Cardew. As may be supposed, she is kept constantly busy, and finds her occupation so absorbing and fascinating that she is prone to neglect such every-day matters as outdoor air and exercise. Fortunately, however, her friends do not permit of too close a pursuit of brush and water-colour.

I marvel exceedingly at Miss Gloria Cardew’s gift of patience.