In transcribing the Internet Archive version of the following article from the Magazine of Art, I have followed the house style of the Victorian Web and converted titles of books and artworks to italics. Click on images to enlarge them. —George P. Landow
early half a century went by before lithography was to be regarded in England as an original and spontaneous method for recording artistic impression. Mr. Whistler began in 1877 in work upon the stone, and joined his efforts to those of M. Fantin-Latour and others in Paris to use and awaken interest in lithography for the sake of its own inherent qualities. His Early Morning appeared in Mr. Theodore Watts's paper, Piccadilly, in 1878, and other drawings such as the Limehouse and Nocturne — exquisite studies in wash gradation — which, though executed in 1877, were only issued nine years later, in portfolio form.
Left: Nocturne and Early Morning by J. M. Whistler. These lithographs do not appear in the original article.
Then came amongst amongst others the Little Model Reading, and afterwards the Brittany and the Luxembourg series, in all of which the draughtsman's artistic taste as well as his artistic views are daintily and firmly recorded. Generally speaking, Mr. Whistler prefers to use the chalk for line work only, and wash for tint work, reserving the latter, rather than stumping, for the covering of spaces; while the modern dodges have, so far as am aware, been entirely neglected by him. It should be observed that all Mr. Whistler's earlier work was executed direct upon the stone, the rest for convenience sake upon transfer-paper; and it may be added that he has attempted in a limited sense chromo-lithography by touches of colour here and there upon the design. Slight though these are they of course have necessitated a separate printing for each colour.
In due time Mr. Way — who, with the Messrs. Hanhart, and Vincent Brooks, Day and Sons, had by his admirable printing rendered artistic lithography possible in this country persuaded a number of artists to experiment in the method, believing that an acquaintance with its qualities would not only ensure its adoption but would develop such enthusiasm as would ensure the triumph of the art. Several members of the Hogarth Club willingly responded, and the results were collectively issued. Among the chief of these was the admirable figure by Sir James Linton: and Messrs. C. E. Holloway, E. J. Gregory, Charles Green, Buxton Knight, Thomas Waite, and Edwin Hayes, with a few more, were included in the band. The work was of course experimental consisting of one-hour sketches; and they were executed at Mr. Way's own house: but although twenty years have passed, and though every draughtsman expressed his pleasure in the work and process, none of these artists save Mr. Holloway cared to pursue it. In 1893 a similar effort was made by the Art Workers' Guild, when Messrs. Frank Short, [W. R.] Lethaby, H. Paget, A. Mackworth, J. Pennell, and G. McCulloch met to produce twenty-minutes' drawings on the stone. The result was in this case more satisfactory, and must be counted in the development of the new taste. Then others continued the experiment; Mr. Robert Macbeth on a large scale, and Mr. Mortimer Menpes and Mr. Anning Bell more tentatively. But, for the most part, they have left the field free for men more constant and appreciative than themselves; and when considering those who are really identified with the English school, we must eliminate the names of those who have merely coquetted with the art.
Left: Back-Court, St. Batholomew by T. R. Way. Middle: Lord St. Cyres by Will Rothenstein. Right: Liebes Lied by Hubert von Herkomer.
Among the earlier men to whom lithography cane naturally is Professor Herkomer. When the process was still spurned by those who did not understand it, or whose judgment had been prejudiced by the miserable productions of commercial lithographers uttered and passed into currency for the most, part from abroad — he produced many plates of Bavarian life, of which a few have been made known to the greater public as subjects of several of the most dramatic pictures of his earlier period. For minor purposes too, he made use alike of stone and transfer paper, employing brush, stump, chalk, and pen although, even in these later days, he has produced a series of plates for his "Violin Pieces," and has shown power and delicacy, and a sympathetic and dainty touch in these drawings upon the stone, he is one of the few, notwithstanding, who is not enamoured of the process. "However artistic," he tells me, "however well done, there remains the cheap work." Not necessarily, I think: as the exquisite results produced by many men have proved — results which not only could not have been better obtained, but could not have been obtained at all, by any other method.
The most prominent of the younger school of lithographers is unquestionably Mr. Charles Shannon. Since 1889 he has with admirable persistence produced some two score lithographs, all, with scarce an exception, drawn direct upon the stone, and printed with his own hand and press. The charm of his work is distinctly that proper to lithography itself, with an added daintiness and delicacy of the artist's own temperament. He can, as the French say, "make the stone sing." His work is not without faults, though tenderness is its chief note; his compositions are sometimes detracted from through the proportions, occasionally peccable, of his figures. But with such drawings as his portrait of Mr. Van Wisselingh his Linen Bleachers, The Sisters, and Sea and Breeze, he will always be remembered for the exquisite and perfect quality of his work. The public, moreover, are beginning to find this out. I am informed that in 1891 the artist issued eight portfolios of his lithographs; of these not one was sold. But when a year later their merit was suddenly discovered, they were bought up within the space of two months. That the purchasers were for the most part artists does not matter; or perhaps, indeed, it matters very much, for it shows a professional appreciation of line workmanship, as in the plates already mentioned: or of fine design, as in the Ministrants.
Mr. T. R. Way himself has contributed not a little to the success of his art, less in the direction of portraiture than in his townscapes drawn with pencil, stump, or brush. Sea-gulls at Charing Cross is not less interesting as an example of tint work than of the rare event it records, and his Disappearing London, of which Hack Court, St. Bartholomew'sis an interesting specimen, shows him in the artistic character peculiarly his own — that of the classicist. In conjunction with him Mr. C. E. Holloway has worked. This draughtsman's contributions to the Ten Auto-lithographs of the Lower Thames, drawn direct on the stone, for the most part in pure chalk, are achievements not perhaps the equals of those of M. Storm van Gravesande — especially in freedom; but they might well be studied in comparison with them.
Like Mr. Shannon, Mr. George Thomson is a lithographer inspired with sufficient enthusiasm to have a press of his own and to take his own impressions. Delicacy and daintiness of touch are his, whether in head or figure drawing, or in representation of riverside landscape or Thames township. In the Strand on the Green or in Under Kew Bridge, texture of grain, silveriness of quality, and precision of touch are alike charming; and in his Brentford Eyot he renders for us an atmospheric effect with a success more often sought by lithographers than obtained.
The spirit of French lithography pervades the work of Mr. Will Rothenstein, whose work, essentially unacademic, successfully aims at being artistic in feeling and amusant in design. His Millamant is a skilful rendering of a seventeenth-century lady with powdered hair and his portraits of Sir Henry Acland, Mr. Robinson Ellis, Viscount St. Cyres, and otherOxford scholars and athletes, as well as those of De Goncourt and Zola, show a power of rendering apart from the artist's appreciation of the stone. Mr. Raven-Hill, like Mr. Phil May, on the othe hand, prefer to use the surface of the transfer paper as though it were a surface for ordinary drawing purposes: and the former, with the studies of his infant daughter, and the latter with We're a rare old, fair old, ricketty, racketty crew, present us with lithographs which to all intents and purposes arc chalk drawings of well calculated, masterly touch — artists' sketches thrown rapidly hut with unerring effect upon the stone. Again, the portrait of Mr. Le Gallienne by Mr. Wilson Steer reveals the hand that may achieve sensitive and notable work in the process here used with some indecision.
The latest movement in lithography — an original movement, too — belongs exclusively to England. If the adherents of older classic method show some tendency to scoff at innovations of the more modern school as nouveau jeu, not for a moment to be tolerated or acknowledged, they combine at least in protesting against, or at least in criticising with some hostility, this heterodox departure, introduced by Mr. Goulding, the celebrated printer of etchings.
This craftsman, hardly less an artist than those to whose work's he ministers, has not lone since combined with his brother, Mr. Charles Goulding, to introduce a new method of printing lithographs which shall do for the lithographic stone or transfer-paper, when it leaves the artist's hand, what he does for the etcher's copper-plate. That is to say, by stumping and manipulation to smooth down in the proof what was left bald upon the stone — to impart the tone and quality demanded by the artist: to humour and, in short, interpret. To those who applaud lithography as an absolutely autographic method, Mr. Goulding's innovation must appear to some degree revolutionary: but judged by results, the impressions when they leave his hands have qualities and beauties which we might look for in vain elsewhere. The process, indeed, enables even a beginner in lithography, through his printer's assistance, to produce work in which lack of experience is little evident, and for which effects, painter-like and pleasing, need not be wanting. What the result of experience on the part of both artist and printer cannot yet be foretold.
Mr. Goulding has gone further. In the first place he has invented a new transfer-paper which possesses a surface free from the ordinary mechanical grain hitherto identified with lithography. Whether or not this is an improvement as the new adherents declare, or a sacrilegious innovation robbing the stone of its characteristic quality, as may be maintained by the rival school, I need not stop to discuss. Furthermore, Mr. Goulding obtains extraordinary painterlike effects by a first printing of a tint upon the paper, gradating it with the utmost care and feeling in relation to the subject to be super-printed upon it in black or coloured ink — all the while avoiding the unsympathetic flat tints of the school of Haghe and Harding, in which the colours were cold and conventionally used, and the lights cut out with sudden and often with jarring effect — generally artificial and wholly out of tone. Not a few of our leading artists have tried the method : and to many of them it has so strongly appealed, that in the near future we may assuredly look forward to the execution by them of numerous works of the highest charm and of great artistic importance.
Among the first to try it was Lord Leighton, who, as late as August 14th. 1895, wrote to me: “I have just lithographed for the forthcoming Centenaire de la Lithographie to be held in Paris, a small female head, in order to show my interest in and to help the British section. It is the first time that I have touched lithographic chalk and paper.” About the same time, Mr. Watts executed his beautiful Study of a Boy's Head and followed it up with a similar work which, whether Mr. Goulding's method be heterodox or not, will certainly be remembered as among the most charming were printed from the stone. I may here remark that between these works and Mr. Watts's previous essay with lithography, more than sixty years had elapsed; for as a boy, he privately practised his hand and youthful attempts at composition by designing illustrations on a stone of his own to one of the romances of Sir Walter Scott.
Tiger by Herbert Dicksee.
So, bitten by Mr. Goulding's mezzotint-ground transfer-paper and tempted by his delightful printing, many of our most reputable artists have produced plates, the beauty and charm of which are indisputable. Those who form the list include Messrs. Frank Dicksee, Frank Short, J. W. North. Oliver Hall, A. Hartley, Herbert Dicksee, P. Strang, C. J. Watson, with Sir James Linton, Mr. Alma-Tadema, Mr. E. A. Abbey, Mr. Herbert Marshall Mr. Corbet, Mr. Sargent, Mr. Alfred Parsons, Mr. Goscombe John, and Mr. Foottit. In the works of some of these, inexperience and tentativeness are manifest enough to place them in a lower rank than the rest. But taken as a whole, the collection of them, together with the more recent masterly work of Mr. George Clausen and the dainty fancies of Mr. Sainton, is to be regarded as an interesting supple ment to the works of artists abroad and a very valuable achievement in the field of English art.
So valuable, so beautiful, and so interesting, indeed, are the results of the new movement, that it is not to be believed that the productions to which I have referred in these articles on the Revival of Original Lithography will leave the public cold. The merits of the art are not less, in their way, than those of etching; to the vast mass of etchings which for the last score of years have found their way upon the walls and into the portfolios of art-lovers and collectors, it is vastly superior. The public need but assure itself of the truth of this to come to look with unprejudiced and appreciative eye upon these works of the British and foreign schools, and to learn that taste and knowledge both require that they should support the new manifestation in the future as they supported etching and mezzotint in the past. They need but satisfy themselves that it has nought in common with the machine-printed work that helped so greatly to discredit the older lithography, to see in it the freshest expression of the artist's power — to feel in it the thrill of the painter's emotion — to hear in it the most candid and the sincerest tones of the master's voice.
Spielmann, M. H. “Original Lithography. The Present Revival in England.” Magazine of Art. 20 (December 1896-November 1897): 289-96. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of Toronto Library. Web. 5 November 2014.
Last modified 9 November 2014