Wednesday, March 27, 2024

660. A Foundling Abandoned

At the beginning of the story of Daphnis and Chloe (which Ricketts and Shannon illustrated with wood-engravings), the two main characters are discovered individually as foundlings, one by goatherd Lamo, the other two years later by the shepherd Dryas. Both discoveries were sketched by Ricketts, but only the scene of Dryas finding Chloe after following a ewe into a sacred cave, was executed for the book. 

This scene provided an opportunity to depict Chloe's (and also Daphnis') special origin with a circular well and the interior of a cave with statues of three nymphs and a panel with a Greek inscription. 

This sacred space offered an appropriate, solemn beginning for a love story on Lesbos, more than the depiction of the landscape where Daphnis was found.

Charles Ricketts, pencil sketch, Lamo finding Daphnis
[British Library: 1946,0209.62]
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license)

Apparently it took Ricketts and Shannon a while to drop one of the two scenes, because Ricketts made (and kept) not only a pencil drawing of Lamo and Daphnis, but also an advanced sketch, pen and ink with black chalk, touched with white bodycolour. (Both have been pasted into an album and photographed somewhat askew).

Both, the pencil sketch (11.4 x 15.4 cm) and the drawing (9.6 x 12 cm), depict the shepherd in a rural landscape with some trees and the foundling in the lower right hand corner.

Charles Ricketts, drawing, Lamo finding Daphnis
[British Library: 1946,0209.63]
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license)

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

659. An Unused Broom

In 1893, one of the books Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon jointly provided with wood-engravings was published, Daphnis and Chloe. The story by Longus is set on the Greek island of Lesbos. The thirty-seven scenes depicted (one of which appears as a publisher's emblem in the colophon) are largely set outdoors. There is one print with a simultaneous indoor and outdoor scene (as in a Japanese drawing) and there are ten that take place entirely indoors. 

Charles Ricketts, sketch for a wood-engraving for Daphnis and Chloe (not executed)
[British Museum, London: 1946,0209.59: Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license]

The British Museum preserves some sketches that were not executed in wood-engraving. One is described as: 'whole-length figure sitting in a room, broom propped against adjacent wall. c.1893'. It is a pen and ink drawing, touched with white bodycolour, 10,4 x 12,3 cm.

Of the remaining sketches, this is the only one that also takes place indoors, although on the right we look out through an open door. A basket hangs on the wall to the right. The only drama in this sketch is the leaves swirling in as a contrast to the tired-looking woman.

This autumnal scene was apparently rejected for the book but, remarkably, Ricketts kept the sketch in a scrapbook.

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

658. Charles Ricketts about Frans Hals

In letters, in his diary and in his book The Prado, Charles Ricketts mentioned the name of the Dutch painter Frans Hals several times. Fifty key works by Hals are now on show at the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam. (Read more about the exhibition here.) Time to take stock of Ricketts's views on Hals.

Frans Hals, 'Portrait of a Man' (c.1634)
[Mauritshuis, The Hague]

Between 1901 and 1930, the name occasionally comes up in Ricketts's work.

On a visit to Paris in 1901, tired by the noise of cars, horses, people, horns and bells, both Ricketts and Shannon needed some time to let the paintings in the Louvre speak to them. Six hours a day they wandered around there, looking for their favourite works, but Titian and Leonarda da Vinci were hiding from their eyes, and:

for some days painters whose qualities are utterly exterior charmed, or rather interested us most, i.e. Veronese and Hals, both unusually excellent in the Louvre.
(Diary, 6 June 1901; see also Self-Portrait, 1939, p. 58).

The following three comments are from his 1903 book The Prado. In a review of Velasquez's 'The Spinners', Ricketts says that this work was created in fits and starts over a long period of time, eventually making it look completely different from what the painter initially envisaged:

This is possible, for Velasquez was not in temper or in art a spontaneous painter, and let it be said that those other men of facile execution and vision (like Frans Hals, for instance) are really 'improvisers' contenting themselves with what comes to hand. Their facility is of the wrist, not of the intellect: theirs is more a memory of the fingers than of the brain.
(The Prado, 1903, p. 85)

In a review of Titian's work, he mentions Hals again - only now he spells his first name as if it were German, with a z:

No artist, however objective, is able to eliminate his personality from his portraits - be he Franz Hals, who swaggers, or Goya, who is nervous, irritable, and unbalanced.
(The Prado, 1903, p. 140)

Another comparison with Veronese's work was made by Ricketts in a paragraph about Titian's 'facility of holding the spectator [...] by a more gradual process of appeal underlying the fine outer aspect of the work':

Some painters we have no occasion to look at more than once, for their work repeats one thing only; this is true of most pictures by Veronese and Franz Hals; their works fail to hold more than one impression. This is not due to their summary and emphatic workmanship alone; their minds were of the same pattern.
(The Prado, 1903, p. 144)

Ricketts missed a degree of depth in Hals's work that he did find in the paintings of the artist he admired most (and about whom he wrote a separate book), Titian.

Frans Hals, 'Portrait of a Man' (c.1650-52)
Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna

In August 1903, Ricketts made an art trip on his own. In Vienna, he visited the Liechtenstein family's private museum (a 'sunny Rococo' palace 'with a garden entrance') where he admired a portrait by Frans Hals from c.1650-52. It hung in a room full of masterpieces:

In one room hung with 21 pictures there are 11 fine Van Dyck portraits, the magnificent full length Hals, and 2 sketches by Rubens.
(Letter to Charles Shannon, 27 August 1903: BL Add MS 58085, f. 30)

In February 1912, Ricketts and Shannon travelled to the Netherlands and saw some Hals paintings:

We liked what we saw of Holland, that is, The Hague and Amsterdam, the country was invisible owing to fog. At Haarlem we saw nothing save the Frans Hals pictures, the town was invisible, merely white mist


I was enchanted with Ver Meer and one has to go to Holland to see Frans Hals. I hear with consternation that they intend cleaning his Haarlem pictures; that would be a national disaster as many of the pictures in Holland have been overcleaned. It would be more, – it would be a world-disaster!

(Letter to Richard Roland Holst, mid to late February 1912: Typed transcription, BL Add MS 61715, f. 137-8)

In November 1916, he mentioned the importance of the Haarlem collection to D.S. MacCall.

During the Summer of 1921, Léonce Bénédite, the director of the Luxembourg Museum in Paris, came to stay at Chilham Castle. He was 'full of anecdotes about Degas, Rodin, Puvis, their relatives and scandals', Ricketts said and in a letter he concluded:

Have you noticed that realistic artists seem always a little inferior as men, – Hals, Courbet, and Monet?
(Letter to Richard Roland Holst, Summer 1921: Typed transcription, BL Add MS 61719, ff. 100-2)

In 1924, Ricketts discussed Hals's position with painter/critic Jacques-Émile Blanche:

Your estimate of Frans Hals is true only if you compare him to the greatest masters. I demur over the value you set on his last works. Fromentin has analysed this question (in relation to Manet) in a way that I consider final.
(Letter to Jacques-Émile Blanche, Christmas 1924: Bibliothèque de l'Institut de France: MS 7055, f. 7)

About the later work of Frans Hals, Blanche had written:

Hals, except in the paintings of his old age (Haarlem Museum), enveloped in an atmosphere of poetry and mystery, was a simple master of the brush; his drawing was that of a calligrapher, with a lively, witty style and a fairly restrained realism.
Hals, si ce n'est dans les toiles de sa vieillesse (musée de Haarlem) envelopées d'une atmosphère de poésie et de mystère, fut un simple maître de la brosse; son dessin avait été celui d'un calligraphe, de style alerte, spirituel, d'un reealisme assez court.
(Jacques-Émile Blanche, Manet. Paris: F. Rieder & Cie, éditeurs, 1924, p. 40)

Ricketts, apparently, did not agree with the 'poetry and mystery' qualification.

The next time Ricketts mentioned the painter Hals was in a letter to Eric Brown, director of the National Gallery in Ontario, who was then in London to purchase paintings. Ricketts was his  adviser. A Hals was for sale at Agnew's and Ricketts wrote:

I do not care hugely for the Franz Hals it is a powerful pot boiler done late in his earlier manner i.e. it was intended to show he was still valid &, I think, vulgar. 
(Letter to Eric Brown, 17 May 1925: National Gallery of Canada)

The Van Horne mansion in Montreal, c.1890
[Collection of the McCord Stewart Museum]

In 1927, Ricketts travelled to the museum in Ontario and to other places in Canada and the USA. In Montreal, he was shown the private collection of Sir William Van Horne (who had died in 1915). To Shannon he wrote about the Dutch paintings:

He has 4 good Rembrandts, 3 Franz Hals good & unusual.
(Letter to Charles Shannon, 23 October 1927: BL Add MS 58085, f. 89)

Two days later, in a letter to Mary Davis, he wrote that there were four Frans Hals paintings.

Van Horn possessed a 'Portrait of a Dutch Gentleman', a 'Portrait of a Dutch Lady', both dated 1637 (current owner: The Phoebus Foundation, Antwerp), and the 'Portrait of Samuel Ampzing', c.1630 (current owner: the Leiden Collection of T.S. and D.R. Kaplan). He also had a portrait called 'The Jolly Toper' (attributed to Frans Hals). These were all hanging in the Reception Room (cf. Mary Eggermont-Molenaar, The William Van Horne Collection. A Dutch Treat. 2015, p. 402).

During the same trip, in Toronto, Ricketts visited the house of Frank Porter Wood, who owned two Frans Hals paintings:

His two Frans Hals are superb, one latish you dont know – head & shoulders
(Letter to Charles Shannon, 1-2 November 1927: BL Add MS 58085, f. 102)

These paintings were later bequeathed to the 
Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto: 'Portrait of Isaak Abrahamsz. Massa' (1626) and 'Portrait of Vincent Laurensz van der Vinne' (c.1655).

The same month, in New York, Ricketts visited the Metropolitan Museum, where:

The Veronese Mars & Venus hangs between two marvellous F Hals.
(Letter to Charles Shannon, 13 November 1927: BL Add MS 58085, f. 111)

The museum owns eleven Hals paintings. Later, in the Frick Collection, he admired another Frans Hals, 'Portrait of a Man', c.1660:

the Spencer Hals, man with cuffs
(Letter to Charles Shannon, 18 November 1927: BL Add MS 58085, f. 113)

The name of Spencer refers to the former owner, Frederick, 4th Earl Spencer.

Frans Hals, 'Portrait of a Man', c.1660
[The Frick Collection, New York]

In the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, he expressed the qualities of Frans Hals in general (we don't know which painting he saw):

very good Hals – he is always good
(Letter to Charles Shannon, 23 November 1927: BL Add MS 58085, f. 116)

Summarizing his view of the Canadian and American collections, he wrote:

Frans Hals is represented in perfection. – I am now speaking of private collections
(Letter to Richard Roland Holst, 7 December 1927: Typed transcription, BL Add MS 61720, ff. 151-5)

He repeated his remark about the richness of these private collections in a letter to Marie Sturge Moore, comparing the houses he visited with Shannon's and his own Townshend House:

The quality of the private treasure is unimaginable, in houses very inferior in type to Townshend House you will find famous Rembrandts, Titians & Franz Hals, & some of the best Goyas & Grecos are there, the Rembrandts being unimaginable.
(Letter to Marie Sturge Moore, 8 December 1927: BL Add MS 58086, ff. 171-2)

Finally, on a journey to Germany, he mentioned Hals in a letter to Francis Ernest Jackson after visiting the Alte Pinakothek in Munich, were he probably saw the portrait of Willem Croes, 1660-62. This painting (47,1 x 34,4 cm) was acquired in 1906:

An admirable small Franz Hals
(Letter Francis Ernest Jackson, 10 April 1930: Oregon University Library)

Whereas Ricketts was initially hesitant about the art of Frans Hals and detested his later work, over the years, as he became acquainted with the painter's masterpieces, he forgave him those more superficial paintings and even concluded that his work was 'always good'.

(John Aplin provided all transcriptions of letters and diary notes.)

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

657. Vale Press Collectors: Beda and Waldemar Zachrisson

Last week I wrote that no Vale Press books could be found in Scandinavian libraries, but that was not quite true. While there are no complete collections, a single collecting couple has donated eight books published by the firm of Hacon & Ricketts to the University Library of Gothenburg (Göteborg). These eight books bear the bookplate of Waldemar and Beda Zachrisson.

Bookplate of Wald & Beda Zachrisson

Wald or Peter Anders Waldemar Zachrisson (1861-1924) chose the printing trade and during several years was apprenticed to or worked for printers in Vienna, Berlin, Leipzig, Hamburg and St Petersburg. Influenced by the ideas of William Morris, Zachrisson set out to reform Swedish typography, (co)founding the Swedish Typographic Association in 1893, founding a printing museum and a printing school and publishing a typography yearbook, Boktryckeri-Kalender (1892-1921).

Boktryckeri-Kalender 1902-1903

The yearbook showed pictures of the modern equipment available in his own print shop, some of which could apparently be operated by the youngest clerk. In 1908, he employed 200 people, including lithographers and bookbinders.

Advertisement in Boktryckeri-Kalender 1902-1903

His wife, Beda Zachrisson (born Carlberg in 1867), outlived him by more than 20 years, and died in 1944. Not all their books ended up in Gothenburg University Library. For example, Sotheby's once sold an incunabulum, Historia romana (Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, Bernhard Maler and Peter Löslein, 1477), part 2 of which had the couple's bookplate.

The collection in Gothenburg is a carefully chosen selection of books that illustrated the example of the Printing Revival from the time of William Morris. The collection of 99 volumes includes editions from the Kelmscott Press, Doves Press, Ashendene Press, Eragny Press, Vale Press and other presses from 1890 to 1920. [Read more about Waldemar Zachrisson prints collection and about the contents of the collection.]

There are twenty books printed at the Kelmscott Press (including A Note by William Morris on his Aims in Founding the Kelmscott Press) [Gothenburg also owns a copy of the Chaucer edition], five books from the Doves Press (including The Ideal book or Book Beautiful) and eight from the Vale Press. 

Zachrisson owned copies of the following Vale Press books:

Milton's Early Poems (1896), 
Pissaro's and Ricketts's De la typographie et de l'harmonie de la page imprimée; William Morris et son influence sur les arts et métiers (1898), 
Rossetti's The Blessed Damozel (1898), 
William Blake's Poetical Sketches (1899), 
Ricketts's A Defence of the Revival of Printing (1899), 
Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1901), 
Ecclesiastes; or, The preacher, and the Song of Solomon (1902)
Marlowe's Doctor Faustus (1903). 

It is impossible to say what drove Zachrisson to select these eight titles, other than that he wanted to collect some examples of the Vale Press. It seems he tried to buy at least the theoretical texts about printing from most of the private presses (in this case, only the bibliography with Ricketts's important introduction is missing). He was clearly not concerned with English literary texts or Ricketts's illustrations.

In an article in his own yearbook, Zachrisson wrote a paragraph about the Vale Press (see for a digital copy Internet Archive):

Next to the Kelmscott books, I would like to put in time sequence, if not in rank, the works from 'The Vale press', a printing house of half private character, founded in 1887 by the artists Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon. One of the Vale books was featured in the Boktryckerikalendern 1898-99, namely 'The Revival of Printing'. However, as the Vale books are particularly distinguished for their wood-engravings and are otherwise interesting, we reproduce here two of them, one of them is Poetical Sketches by William Blake, printed in Vale type with woodcuts by Charles Ricketts by the Ballantyne Press and the other is Les Ballades de Maistre Francois Villon. The latter book, published in 226 copies, is provided with woodcuts, initials and borders drawn and cut by Lucien and Ester Pissaro and printed in Vale type by the Eragny Press, an affiliate of the Vale press. (Wald. Zachrisson, ‘Tankar om bokutstyrsel, III’, in: Boktryckeri-Kalender 1902-1903. Göteborg: Zachrisson, 1903, p. 105-[129].)

Images of a Vale Press and an Eragny Press book
in Boktryckeri-Kalender 1902-1903

Earlier, in the 1898-99 edition of his yearbook, Zachrisson had published images of the Vale Press edition of A Defence of the Revival of Printing (probably his own copy) and of the pre-Vale edition of Hero and Leander (1894), but it is not clear whether he owned a copy of this book. This edition of the Boktryckeri-Kalender opened with an illustrated article about William Morris and the Kelmscott Press.

[Thanks are due to Marja Smolenaars, who sent me a link to Libris, the Swedish catalogue, and to Stefan Benjaminsson, Humanistiska biblioteket, Göteborgs universitetsbibliotek, for answering a query.]