Recently in Prints, Drawings, Paintings Category


In the inaugural issue of Biblia, A Publication Devoted to the Interests of the Princeton University Library (June 1930), an introduction was penned by PAR (Philip Ashton Rollins, Class of 1889), co-founder and the first Chairman of the Friends of Princeton University Library.

“Dr. Osler originated for Oxford University’s benefit an adjunct which he styled Friends of the Bodleian. Presently Harvard University … duplicated the scheme; and, as a result, her Friends of the Library have, during the past five years, been vigorously furthering her effort to improve … [its] collections of books. Following Harvard’s example … a group of men some two months ago launched in Princeton’s interest an association known as Friends of the Princeton Library.”

“The aim of the association is the obtaining of printed and manuscript material for Princeton, doing this indirectly through creating an intimate acquaintance between Princeton’s library and such Princetonians and other sympathetic folk as may desire the library’s betterment. Lovers of books can, by making or inducing gifts of volumes, do much to strengthen Princeton. If the goal is to be reached, the association’s membership should include all the persons who have fondness both for Princeton and for printed pages.”

On Sunday, March 25, 2012, the Friends of the Princeton University Library will hold the third biennial Book Adoption Party from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. in the Chancellor Green Rotunda. To get your own invitation, click here:

Image: John Young-Hunter (1874-1955), Philip Ashton Rollins, 1934. Oil on canvas. American paintings

McArdell of the Golden Head

| 1 Comment
James McArdell (ca. 1728-1765) after a painting by Adriaen Brouwer (1605/06-1638), Untitled [A Blacksmith’s Forge], between 1740 and 1765. Mezzotint. Inscription: “Done from a Capital Picture of Brouwer in the Collection of B: Cleeve Esqr. by Jas. Mc.ARdell. Sold by J. Mc.Ardell at the Golden Head in Covent Garden. [scratched] Price 2s.” Graphic Arts GA 2011.00654.

“James MacArdell [sic] was born in Cow-lane (afterwards altered to Greek-Street) in Dublin about 1729,” writes John Chaloner Smith in his 1883 reference set British Mezzotinto Portraits . “His talents were duly appreciated by the great painters of his time, especially by Reynolds, who considered … that his own fame would be preserved by MacArdell’s engravings, when the pictures had faded away.” —(GARF NE 265.S6 1883 pt. 2)

Developed in Holland and perfected in Britain, the mezzotint is an intaglio process in which the copper plate is covered with holes so that when inked, it prints completely black. Then, the printmaker scrapes and polishes the marks away, uncovering the highlights within the image. “In etching … you make the shades; in metzotinto the lights.” —wrote William Gilpin in his An Essay on Prints (Ex NE850 .G42 1768).

Unpublished Rowlandson Drawings

| 1 Comment

“Shelved in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections in the Princeton University Library—and totally unexplored so far as I know—are sixty-three … [Thomas] Rowlandson drawings,” writes Joseph Rothrock, professor emeritus, University of New Mexico and former curator of graphic arts.

“Almost all are laid down in a mid-nineteenth-century album acquired from Scribner’s on July 13, 1920 and donated to the Library in 1933. Its leaves, without watermarks or identifiable collectors’ marks, measure 9 1/8 by 12 1/2 inches. The drawings themselves are on both wove and laid papers with various watermarks. A light-table reveals on the reverse of many of the drawings one pen sketch, a variety of inscriptions and money accounts, and that the backs of several were used as watercolor palettes.”


“The album was part of a major gift to the Princeton University Library of Rowlandson’s illustrated books and of around two thousand prints by Rowlandson, Bunbury, Woodward, and Gillray. Well over half the prints are by Rowlandson and include many of his earliest etchings as well as numerous proofs, proofs delicately hand colored, and prints not listed in the estimable Grego.”


“The collector was Dickson Q. Brown, Princeton Class of 1895. Brown donated most of the material in 1928 and continued to augment it until his death in 1939.” The rest of Rothrock’s article and a complete listing of the drawings can be found in Princeton University Library Chronicle 36, no. 2 (winter 1975): 87-110.


Lovers, sympathetic and otherwise

lovers7.jpgSympathetic Lovers, Feb. 6, 1797
lovers5.jpgAged Lovers, Jan. 2, 1797

Lovers. Eleven plates designed by George Moutard Woodward (ca. 1760-1809) and etched by Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) ([London: Hooper & Wigstead, 1797-98]). Graphic Arts Collection (GA) Oversize Rowlandson 1797f. Gift of Dickson Q. Brown, Class of 1895. Not illustrated: Drunken Lovers, Quarrelsome Lovers, and Dukes Place Lovers.

lovers1.jpgForgiving Lovers, March 15, 1798
lovers4.jpgAvaricious Lovers, no date

lovers8.jpgSpiritual Lovers, Jan. 2, 1797
lovers2.jpgCountry Lovers, March 15, 1798

lovers3.jpgBashful Lovers, March 15, 1798
lovers6.jpgPlatonic Lovers, Jan. 1, 1797

Platonic Lovers
It is not that delicate frame,
Nor the roseate hue of that skin
In my breast that has kindled the flame
Which burns up my vitals within

Those shortly must vanish away.
And leave not an atom behind,
To me richer charms you display,
In the Beauties that dwell in your mind.

Physiognotrace portrait of Thomas Jefferson

jefferson plate.JPG
jefferson print.JPG
Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin (1770-1852), Physiognotrace portrait of Thomas Jefferson, n.d. [1804]. Engraving and copperplate. 7.1 x 6.6 cm. Graphic Arts French prints. Gift of Charles Scribner Jr., Class of 1943.

The French musician Gilles-Louis Chrétien (1754-1811) invented the physiognotrace (physionotrace in French) in 1887. He used the apparatus to trace the silhouette of a sitter and at the same time, create a reduced copy, which could be used to engrave a lifelike image on a copper plate. Chalk drawings and oil sketches were also made using this technique. One of Chrétien’s earliest sitters was Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), who paid for the privilege while in Paris.

Eight years later, the French émigré Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin (1770-1852) brought a physiognotrace to the United States and Jefferson, now age sixty-one, again sat for a portrait. According to records at Monticello, Jefferson purchased 48 prints of his own portrait and collected a number of other portraits of friends and colleagues, which sold for about $25 each.

Both a print and the copper plate are on view in our Leonard L. Milberg Gallery for the exhibition, Capping Liberty: The Invention of a Numismatic Iconography for the New American Republic, on view through July 8, 2012.

See also Howard Rice, “Saint-Memin’s Portrait of Jefferson,” Princeton University Library Chronicle 20 (Summer 1959): 182-92.

See also Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, Monticello:

Bartolomeo Pinelli's Rome

peep box1.jpg
Barolomeo Pinelli (1781-1835), La Lanterna Magica (The Magic Lantern), 1815. Etching. Graphic Arts Theater Collection

If you want to know about the culture and costumes in Rome during the early nineteenth century, look no further than Bartolomeo Pinelli. His portfolios of etchings include Collection of Roman Costumes, Another Collection of Roman Costumes, The Carnival of Rome, Roman History, Costumes of the Roman Countryside and so on.

These unbound sets have often been broken up, sold individually, and reassembled into personalized compilations for private collectors. Graphic Arts holds such an album titled Twenty-Seven Etchings Illustrative of Italian Manners and Costume (1844), “comprising Picturesque Costumes of Rome, in twelve plates; The Carnival, in five plates; and Adventures of Massaroni, in ten plates.”

Our theater collection holds several views depicting popular entertainments, including a peep show and a Punch and Judy show. In the first, the showman raises the top of the box to light the picture inside from the front, showing a scene during the day. When he closes the top, the light comes from behind through holes in the back and gives the impression of a nighttime scene. If he does this carefully, it should look to the viewer as though the scene is changing from day into night. His wife provides the musical accompaniment.

punch and judy.jpg
Bartolomeo Pinelli (1781-1835), Il Casotto dei Burattini in Roma (A Puppet Show in Rome), 1815. Etching. Graphic Arts Theater Collection

Happy Birthday Dickens February 1812

dickens taylor.jpg

E. Goddwyn Lewis (1827-1891), Charles Dickens, 1869. Pastel on paper, author age fifty-seven. Gift of Thomas W. Hotchkiss, Class of 1989. Morris L. Parrish Collection, Rare Books and Special Collections

This portrait was drawn by Lewis the year Charles Dickens (1812-1870) collapsed due to a mild stroke and was forced to give up public readings. Only one year later Dickens suffered another stroke and passed away. Very little is known about the artist, except that he moved to Melbourne, Australia in 1880, where he worked until his death.

Minstrel Shows

minstrel print.jpg
Grand Opening of Cleveland, Gorman, and Bayard’s Minstrels at Washington, ca. 1895. Colored lithograph. Graphic Arts Theater Collection.
minstrel print2.jpg

Minstrel shows featured white actors wearing blackface in a standard three-part musical comedy show. The popular American entertainment had its start in the 1840s and continued through the turn-of-the-century, when they were overtaken by Burlesque.

Late in the nineteenth century, many companies of black performers were also touring the country, offering minstrel shows of their own. One of the best was W. S. Cleveland’s Colossal Colored Carnival Minstrels run by William S. Cleveland (1860-1923).

The original company consisted of forty performers including the composer and performer James Bland (1854-1911), who dropped out of Harvard University to pursue a career in music.

There is an interesting moment when the white and black companies merge to produce mammoth spectacles. On August 27, 1895, Cleveland’s company played Washington D.C.’s Academy of Music and the Washington Post reported, “Cleveland’s latest effort in the amusement line is a sort of combination of burnt cork and genuine negro minstrelsy [sic] … For the opening attraction, Mr. Cleveland promises one of the largest minstrel companies that has ever visited Washington.”

“The first part is said to be a distinct innovation. When the curtain rises a complete minstrel show of white performers, including orchestra, &c., is seen; a second curtain is drawn disclosing a complete troupe of colored performers; the third curtain brings to view a troupe of eleven Arabs, while the fourth and last curtain brings to view a troupe of ten Japanese, making a total of eighty-one performers in all.”

The finale was declared “excruciatingly funny.”

Bals masqués de l'opéra


Composer, conductor, and party planner, Philippe Musard (1792-1859) was called “king of the quadrilles.” In the 1830s, he began conducting bals masqués (masked balls) at the Paris Opera.

According to Richard Semmens, (The Bals Publics at the Paris Opéra) “The range of possibilities for what was termed a “ball” … was quite considerable. At one extreme were the carefully regulated bals parés at the other were the elaborately staged bals masqués. In fact, it was not until the inauguration of the famous “Bals Musard” in 1837 that a masked public ball began once more to dominate all others in Paris.” (MUS GV1748 .S46 2004)

In his Dictionary of Paris, Charles Dickens wrote “Public balls [and] the bals masqué de l’opéra have always been popular in Paris. It is the fashion nowadays to say that these balls are no longer what they were, that they are lifeless and that half the fun has gone from them. There is some truth in the complaint, for fifty years ago they were all the rage; the costumes then were droll and grotesque; people then took trouble and went to some expense to dress themselves so that each one should add his share to The gaiety of the scene; therefore, of souse, the dancing was more vigorous and hearty. For a few years, from 1830 to 1836, the dancing was very wild; from that date it has never been completely uproarious….”

“Still the sight is one to be seen. …The whole floor of the theatre is boarded over, and one may walk without interruption, except that caused by the crowd, from the back of the stalls to the back of the stage. …There are those who go to the bals masqué de l’opéra merely as a thing of fashion, others go to enjoy themselves; and the line of demarcation between the dancers—that is between the great crowd—and those that stand aloof in the foyer and in the passages where people walk up and down and see their friends is clearly marked. Some of the fine folk disdain the crowd; we may be certain that the feeling is reciprocal.”


Artist unknown, Bals masqués, 1853. Lithograph. Graphic Arts Theater Collection.

Listen to a quadrille by Musard:

William H. Walker is moving


William Henry Walker (1871-1938), Santa Speeding Down Road in Motorized Sleigh, 1903. Charcoal on paper. Signed and dated in ink, l.c.: ‘Wm. H. Walker 1903’. Published in Life Magazine, December 10, 1903. Graphic Arts GA 2006.01951


William Henry Walker (1871-1938), Elves Serving Dinner to Santa and Mrs. Claus, 1903. Charcoal on board. Published in Life Magazine December 10, 1903. Graphic Arts GA 2008.01214

In the William H. Walker Cartoon Collection MC068, housed in Mudd Library, there are approximately 1,000 pen-and-ink cartoon drawings, which Walker published in Life magazine between 1894 and 1922.

Recently, we found eight additional charcoal sketches in graphic arts, which will now be moving over to Mudd so that researcher will have access to all drawings in one convenient location.

Born on February 13, 1871, Walker started drawing cartoons for Life in 1894 and joined the staff full-time four years later. The magazine, still barely ten years old, successfully promoted Walker’s combination of serious politics and humor. Drawings at Mudd Library focus particular attention on the administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

Other drawings moving to Mudd include:
The Father of Our Country as Seen by His Children, n.d. [ca. 1907].
Do You Ever Think of Being Married? Think? Think!! Why, I worry! 1898.
Two Seated Women with Books, 1898.
Woman on Steps Calls to Boys in Sailor Suits, 1898.
Cadet. Lieut. Capt. Col. Gen., 1909.

Gates of London

london gates.jpg
london gates2.jpg
london gates3.jpg

Sutton Nicholls (active early 18th century), Gates of London, no date [1731]. Engraving. GA 2005.01593

This eighteenth-century print describes the ten London gates, each within a black border with a compass and description beneath. They are Ald-Gate, Bishops-Gate, Moore-Gate, Cripple-Gate, Alders-Gate, New-Gate, Lud-Gate, Temple Bar, Kings-Gate, the King Street gate at Westminster.

The engraving was first published in a portfolio entitled London Described; or Perspective Views and Elevations of Noted Buildings by the London print and map seller John Bowles in 1731 (only one copy in OCLC). According to the British Museum, “most of the prints had been issued before, but this one is only mentioned in Bowles’ 1731 catalogue, not the 1728.”

Engravings of the individual gates were used in various editions of Stow’s The History and Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, and elsewhere. For information on the restoration of Temple Gate, see

A Parody on Milton, one shilling colored

milton par.jpg
milton par1.jpg

Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827) after a design by George Moutard Woodward (1760-1809), A Parody on Milton!, 1808. Etching. Graphic Arts Rowlandson Collection. Gift of Dickson Q. Brown, Class of 1895.

On she came—such as I saw her in my dream—
Grease was in all her steps—Geneva [gin] in her hand,
and every Gesture, reeling ripe for fun!!

This is a slight variation on lines from Paradise Lost (Book 8):
…When out of hope, behold her, not far off,
Such as I saw her in my dream, adorn’d
With what all Earth or Heaven could bestow
To make her amiable; on she came,
Led by her heavenly Maker, though unseen,
And guided by his voice; nor uninform’d
Of nuptial sanctity and marriage rites:
Grace was in all her steps, Heaven in her eye,
In every gesture dignity and love.

George Eliot

eliot2.jpgCurrent condition
Sir Frederic William Burton (1816-1900), Portrait sketch of George Eliot, 1865. Chalk drawing. M.L. Parrish Collection of Victorian Novelists CO171, Gift of Morris Longstreth Parrish, Class of 1888.

mw01625.jpgNational Portrait Gallery London

Educated in Dublin, the Irish painter Frederic Burton moved to London in 1858, where he joined the pre-Raphaelite circle around Dante Gabriele Rossetti. He was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and then in 1874, Burton became the third director of the National Gallery.

Around the time Burton settled in London, the British writer Mary Ann Evans (1818-1890) began publishing under the pseudonym of George Eliot. Her romantic novel Romola was released in Cornhill Magazine from 1862 to 1863, and with the proceeds she and her life partner George Henry Lewes moved to a house on Regent’s Park.

In 1864, Eliot wrote about seeing a painting by Burton, in which a mailed knight is kissing the arm of a woman “by an uncontrollable movement.” The work was Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs (1864), now in the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin. “[It] might have been made the most vulgar thing in the world,” she continued, “[but] the artist has raised it to the highest pitch of refined emotion.” The following year, she arranged to have Burton make her portrait, which is now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery. Princeton holds a preliminary sketch.

William Blake's History of England

| 1 Comment
blake brutus2.jpg

William Blake (1757-1827), The Landing of Julius Caesar, [1793] and The Landing of Brutus, [1793]. Watercolors finished in ink. Provenance: Colonel Gould Weston. Robert H. Taylor Collection (RHT), Rare Books and Special Collections. Gift of Robert H. Taylor, Class of 1930.

blake brutus1.jpg

On October 10, 1793, William Blake issued a prospectus of upcoming work. He had completed America, A Prophecy and was about to publish Europe, A Prophecy. One title Blake described was The History of England, which was to be a small book of engravings, priced three shillings. No copies are known to exist. The twenty historical engravings would have included both “The Landing of Brutus” and “The Landing of Julius Caesar.” The Robert Taylor collection at Princeton University holds Blake’s watercolor studies for these two plates.

According to the Cambridge Companion to William Blake (Marquand PR4147 .C36 2003), “Most of Blake’s early drawings appear to come from incomplete or abortive projects, but one can observe the emergence of some of his mature themes. His series of watercolors of The History of England (Burlin 51-69) was begun at least as early as 1780, for in that year he exhibited The Death of Earl Goodwin (Burlin 60) at the Royal Academy. Though the series was never finished - he was evidently still thinking of engraving some of the designs as late as 1793 - some themes can be discerned.

The British Museum holds a copy of the watercolor The Death of Earl Goodwin.


Fingal meets Coban-Carglas, daughter of King Torcul-Torno

Richard Westall (1765-1836), Fingal and Conbancarglas (also called Fingal meets Conban-Carglas), no date. Watercolor on paper. Robert H. Taylor Collection (RHT), Rare Books and Special Collections. Gift of Robert H. Taylor, Class of 1930.

Collector Robert Taylor not only acquired a first edition of the Gaelic poem cycle Fingal, published by James Macpherson in 1762 but also purchased a large watercolor by the British artist Richard Westall depicting one scene from this epic.

To put Westall in an art historical context, Thomas Rowlandson entered the Royal Academy at the Old Somerset house in 1772, William Blake followed in 1779, and Westall enrolled in 1785. He painted works for John Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery, which was established in 1786 and later, served as Queen Victoria’s drawing master.

Westall illustrated many works of literature and we hold dozens of books decorated with his plates including works by John Milton, William Shakespeare, and Walter Scott. This undated watercolor illustrates an episode from Ossian’s poem, in which Fingal meets Coban-Carglas, daughter of King Torcul-Torno.

See also: James Macpherson (1736-1796), Fingal, An Ancient Epic Poem, in Six Books: Together with Several Other Poems, Composed by Ossian the Son of Fingal. Translated from the Gaelic language, by James Macpherson … (London: T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, 1762). Robert H. Taylor Collection (RHT) 18th-1010 Oversize

Anti-Slavery Broadside

| 1 Comment
house that jack1.jpg
David Claypoole Johnston (1799-1865), The House that Jeff Built, 1863. Etching. Graphic Arts GA 2012 in process.

house that jack2.jpg

house that jack3.jpg
The Philadelphia-born artist D. C. Johnston was proficient as a lithographer and engraver. He drew, etched, and published this narrative broadside, which uses a simple nursery rhyme to make a powerful condemnation of slavery. The ‘house’ in the title refers to the slave pen seen in the first vignette. ‘Jeff’ is Jefferson Davis (1808-1889) the President of the Confederate States during the American Civil War.

Here are the twelve texts:
1.This is the house that Jeff built.
2.This is the cotton, by rebels, called king (Tho’ call’d by Loyalists no such thing) that lay in the house that Jeff built.
3.These are the field chattels that made cotton king, (tho’ call’d by Loyalists no such thing), that lay in the house that Jeff built.
house that jack4.jpg

4.These are the chattels babes, mothers, and men, to be sold by the head, in the slave pen;— A part of the house that Jeff built.
5.This is the thing, by some call’d a man, Whose trade is to sell all the chattels he can, From yearlings to adults of life’s longest span; In and out of the house that Jeff built.
6.These are the shackles, for those who suppose their limbs are their own from fingers to toes; And are prone to believe say all that you can, that they shouldn’t be sold by that thing call’d a man; Whose trade is to sell all the chattels he can from yearlings to adults of life’s longest span, in and out of the house that Jeff built.
7.These buy the slaves, both male and female, and sell their own souls to a boss with a tail, who owns the small soul of that thing call’d a man, whose trade is to sell all the chattels he can, from yearlings to adults of life’s longest span, in and out of the house that Jeff built.
8.Here the slave breeder parts with his own flesh to a trader down south, in the heart of secesh, thus trader and breeder secure without fail, the lasting attachment of him with a tail, who owns the small soul of that thing call’d a man, whose trade is to sell all the chattels he can, from yearlings to adult’s of life’s longest span, in and out of the house that Jeff built.
9.This is the scourge by some call’d the cat, Stout in the handle, and nine tails to that, t’is joyous to think that the time’s drawing near when the cat will no longer cause chattels to fear, nor the going, going, gone of that thing call’d a man, whose trade is to sell all the chattels he can, from yearlings to adults of life’s longest span, in and out of the house that Jeff built.
10.Here the slave driver in transport applies, nine tails to his victim, nor heeds her shrill cries, Alas! that a driver with nine tails his own, should be slave to a driver who owns only one, albeit he owns that thing call’d a man, whose trade is to sell all the chattels he can, from yearlings to adults of life’s longest span, in and out of the house that Jeff built.
11.Here’s the arch rebel Jeff whose infamous course, has bro’t rest to the plow and made active the hearse, and invoked on his head every patriots curse, spread ruin and famine to stock the slave pen, and furnish employment to that thing among men, whose trade is to sell all the chattels he can, from yearlings to adults of life’s longest span, in and out of the house that Jeff built.
12.But Jeff’s infamous house is doom’d to come down, so says Uncle Sam and so said John Brown. — With slave pen and auction shackles, driver and cat, together with buyer and seller and breeder and that, most loathsome of bipeds by some call’d a man, whose trade is to sell all the chattels he can, from yearlings to adults of life’s longest span, in and out of the house that Jeff built.

Joanna Southcott, Prophetess

Charles Williams (active 1797-1850), Spirits at work- Joanna conceiving- ie- blowing up Shiloh, 1814. Etching. Graphic Arts GAX 2012- in process. Published as the frontispiece for Scourge v.8 (July 1814). Note the book Joanna has been reading is The Art of Humbugging, chapter one. Above her head is a bag labeled: Passports to Heaven, five shillings each or two for Seven.

Joanna Southcott (or Southcote) (1750-1814), wrote prophecies “at the command of the spirit of God.” From 1792 to her death, Southcott attracted many followers as well as skeptics. Her most important prophecy came in 1813 when she announced that she would give birth to a messiah, called The Shiloh. Southcott was sixty-four years old but spent the last year of her life expecting a child by “the power of the Most High,” who was to “rule the nations with a rod of iron.”

Throughout the year, caricatures and cartoons were published ridiculing her. Here are two examples from July and November 1814. A baby was supposedly born in December and Southcott died soon after.

Charles Williams (active 1797-1850), Delivering a Prophetess, 1814. Etching. Graphic Arts GAX 2012- in process. Published in Scourge v.8 (November 1814). Joanna’s water has broken and four doctors prepare for the birth of The Shiloh. A ‘Preacher to the Virgin Johanna’ is bottling her water for later sale. Quotes come from Macbeth and the three midwives are reminiscent of the three witches who made prophecies in that play.

Rare Books and Special Collections holds over 100 books and pamphlets concerning Southcott. A favorite: Joanna Southcott (1750-1814), Prophecies Announcing the Birth of the Prince of Peace: Extracted from the Works of Joanna Southcott (London: W. Marchant, printer, Ingram-Court, [1814]). (Ex) BF1815.S7 S68 v. 5

John Martin

martin john4.jpgJohn Martin (1789-1854), An Extensive Coastal Landscape Scene, 1847. Watercolor heightened with gouache. Gift of Robert Taylor.

martin john2.jpgDetail of signature in the lower left

The Robert H. Taylor Collection includes eighteen drawers holding 112 prints, drawings, and watercolors. These works were placed on deposit at the Princeton University Library in 1972 and received as a bequest in 1985. Thanks to Mark R. Farrell, curator of the Robert H. Taylor Collection, for his help with this post.

The collection includes two works by the British artist John Martin, who was fifty-eight when he completed the watercolor shown here. At this time in his life, Martin split his focus between art and ecology. He founded the Metropolitan Sewage Manure Company in 1845 to manage the human waste flowing into the Thames and redirect it to agricultural use. Martin completed a number of small watercolors during this period rather than the mammoth oil paintings for which he was (and is) best known.

The collector Robert Taylor loved the British writers of the 19th century. It is somewhat surprising then to find an artist in his collection who was disliked by so many contemporary writers. William Thackeray called Martin’s work “huge, queer and tawdry to our eyes, but very much admired by the public.” The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote that Martin was “a poor creature” and exchanged nasty remarks about him in letters to Wordsworth. John Ruskin described Martin’s work as “mere manufacture, as much makeable to order as a tea-tray or a coal-scuttle.”

martin john6.jpg
martin john5.jpg
Romantic Landscape, 1836. Pen and ink wash drawing.

An exhibition of Martin’s paintings has just closed at Tate Britain, where his work faced the same mixed reaction as in the 19th century. “Hugely popular in his time,” notes the Tate press release, “Martin was derided by the Victorian Art establishment as a ‘people’s painter’, for although he excited mass audiences with his astounding scenes of judgement and damnation, to critics it was distasteful. In a sense ahead of this time, his paintings - full of rugged landscapes and grandiose theatrical spectacle - have an enduring influence on today’s cinematic and digital fantasy landscapes.”

A Peep into Friar Bacon's Study

rowlandson 59.jpg
Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827), A Peep into Friar Bacon’s Study, 1784. Etching. Graphic Arts Rowlandson Collection. Gift of Dickson Q. Brown, Class of 1895.
rowlandson 60.jpg
rowlandson 58.jpg

The central figure of this Rowlandson satire is King George III (1738-1820) in the guise of Roger Bacon (1214?-1294). Bacon was an English friar and practicing alchemist. After his death, Bacon gained a reputation as a sorcerer thanks to the Renaissance publication The Famous Historie of Fryer Bacon (earliest extant edition: London, G. Purslowe, 1627; available online).

The story was turned into the Elizabethan drama, The Honourable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, in which Bacon’s “brazen head” would magically answer any questions put to it. This print shows King George with Bacon’s “brazen head,” wearing his cape and waving his two magic wands.

Bacon wrote a three-part Opus (Majus, Minus, and Terilium), while King George creates three separate visions, each with a different government structure. In March of 1784, King George actually did dissolve Parliament and change the structure of the British government. The new Ministry is being led down the back stairs by a little devil.

Roger Bacon (1214?-1294) The Opus majus of Roger Bacon. Translated by Robert Belle Burke (Bristol England; Sterling, Va.: Thoemmes Press, 2000). Firestone Library (F) B765.B23 O2 2000

Timothy Cole's Woodrow Wilson

wilson cole print.jpg
wilson cole block.jpgPhotoxylographic block
wilson cole plate.jpg

Timothy Cole (1852-1931) after a painting by John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), Portrait of Woodrow Wilson, Princeton University Class of 1879 (1856-1924), print 1919, printing block 1918. Wood engraving and block. GC030 Timothy Cole Prints Collection.

In his Conversations on Engraving, Timothy Cole wrote, “Deeper and more vital questions now confronted the engraver than ever perplexed the masters of earlier schools. A certain orchestration of color was demanded…all involving a more subtle sense of tonal gradations and a completer apprehension of values than was ever displayed by the old school.” (GAX NE 1000.C67)

Cole’s answer to this was to develop an expertise in photoxylography (a description of which was posted earlier). Basically this meant developing the photographic negative on the block and carving through it.

Princeton is fortunate to not only own Cole’s wood engraved prints but also his blocks. Above is an example of a photoxylographic block.

You will notice that the print is larger than the printing block. Because the image began with a photographic negative, which could be made in any size, several printing plates could be prepared in different sizes. This block is made for a cabinet card and the print is larger so it would be suitable for framing.

Recent Comments

  • Howard Coblentz: I have a round seal shaped like a pear a read more
  • John Overholt: Wikipedia's entry for Sir Francis says: "Throughout Baring's lifetime his read more
  • Serge Rodrigue: It is a precious thing you have a book from read more
  • Colin Wicks: I have a copy of “A Round Game.” And it read more
  • Laurence Hilonowitz: I was a Customer, Friend of Bob Wilson. I Live read more
  • allen scheuch: Absolutely STUNNING! Those colors, those designs made my day! Thanks, read more
  • Olivier: Hello Diane, If you are still looking for an examplare read more
  • Stella Jackson-Smith: I have a framed picture by A.Brouet, signed with the read more
  • John Podeschi: I remember Dale fondly from my days at Yale (1971-1980). read more
  • Joyce Barth: I have some or all of this same poem. I read more