The Lay Figure Speaks
Colour-printing by means of “process blocks” is in the air. So far the more simple the attempt the more satisfactory has been the result. At the Grafton Galleries most excellent work is shown in a style that recalls the flat tints of some of the Japanese printers. Indeed, for this one subject alone the exhibition justifies its existence; it is a revelation in the possibilities of the craft.
The Christmas number of The Sketch may also be commended highly for its full-page plates, which are, like the early Venetian blocks, in two colours, but not, like those, confined to an effect of a pen or charcoal drawing on a dark-coloured paper, with the high lights put in white chalk or pigment. These show a modern and quite distinct convention which is charming in its own way. The plate on page 47, of A Girl on the Ice, or the Man with Balloons, on page 42, are capital examples of this class of work, which is destined no doubt to acquire great commercial popularity.
It is good news to hear that a class for teaching “illustration,” with special reference to the technique of reproduction by process, is contemplated at the Slade School. Should the scheme come into practical working, Mr. Joseph Pennell, who is chosen for its instructor, will be obviously the right man in the right place, and Professor Fred Brown will add to the services he has already rendered to art, by recognising the importance of this subject in the present state of the picture market.
Those interested in the technique of reproduction by process should study a pen-and-ink drawing by C. D. Gibson, reproduced by half-tone, on page 153 of The Century Magazine for Nov. 1893. The result has much of the quality hitherto deemed peculiar to an etching.
In the same number, Mr. Childe Hassam’s studies of New York will come as a surprise to those who do not know the oils and pastels of this very clever American artist, whose studio, in the centre of the city he loves to paint, is crowded with vivid, modern, and superbly decorative studies of its streets and parks, which are consistent transcripts of the actual life around him. His method has great affinity to some of the best work of the New English Art Club. Both “derived from Paris,” some will say. Possibly! but the difference between a perfectly naturalised art and one roughly transplanted, slight as it may appear to a casual observer, is vital. What looks very French in London or New York, looks at times very English, or American, as the case may be, in Paris, and Mr. Childe Hassam is distinctly local and individual.
Recognising that many of the drawings of the illustrated periodicals to-day are worthy of framing or of careful preservation in a portfolio, Black and White announces that proofs of its most important engravings can be obtained entirely separately on thick paper at a trifling cost. This is an innovation worth making. Collectors of special subjects, or of one man’s work, will welcome it, while to those who “grangerize”—extra-illustrate is the catalogue term—it will be a great joy.
The Dial, a sumptuous folio of plates and letterpress is surely the finest magazine in the world. If, indeed, a work which appears at long and irregular intervals—No. 1 in ’89, No. 2 in ’92, and No. 3 in ’93—can be ranked as a periodical. As it is impossible to do adequate justice to the book in a short notice, it must suffice to mention the most important features: Three exquisitely dainty lithographs by C. H. Shannon, Romantic Landscape, White Nights, and An Intruder; two very powerfully imagined pen-drawings, Phædra, and Ariadne, by C. S. Ricketts, and Centaurs, and the Lotus-Eaters, by Reginald Savage.
The Note on Gustave Moreau is a fine piece of contemporary criticism of a class seldom attempted in our tongue. “Charles R. Sturt,” its author, should not allow it to remain long without companion studies. In short, the number, whether you do, or do not, sympathise with the ideas which are so ably set forth by pen and pencil, is a unique instance of the exceeding vitality of art which is essentially English, although it appears an exotic to the man in the street. Fantastic, imaginative, and bizarre, the illustrations to The Dial are first art, and almost equally literature, so that to a sympathetic critic it is hard to write a notice without rhapsody which is superfluous, as to those who appreciate it it needs no praise, and no praise would make it acceptable to those who are not in sympathy with it. Perhaps no modern journal of so limited a circulation has ever had so much attention awarded it by foreign artists.
The Lay Figure.
“The Lay-Figure Speaks.” Rev. of The Dial, vol. 3, 1893. The Studio: An Illustrated Magazine of Fine and Applied Art, vol. 2, 1894, p. 114. Yellow Nineties 2.0 , edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2020. https://www.1890s.ca/Dial3-Review-The-Studio-1894/