Gleeson White produced a large number of monograms. These were intended, like his bookplates, for friends, associates, and family; they were also for commercial concerns. For example, he designed a monogram for the publisher Chatto and Windus, and Arcadian images for George Bell. These were produced during his time as art-editor at Bells (189397), and embellish many of the companys imprints during this time.
Left: A page of preparatory designs for a monogram for Chatto & Windus. Right: A monogram for the publisher George Bell.
These small works of art are simplified versions of the bookplates. Creating an intense image in a tiny space, Gleeson White presents bold initial letters within a series of floral bouquets. Typically, these are made up of carefully-drawn varieties of flower and shrub: acanthus, daffodils, thistles, daisies, tulips and many others. The effect, in each case, is again one of great natural vitality, embodying an optimistic pantheistic view of nature in which sinuous stems and blossoming flowers animate the surface; noticeably absent is the imagery of mortality.
The most pleasing are these were made for home consumption. He created several monograms for his wife, most of which remained in manuscript. However, Gleeson White was most occupied, again, with designs he did for himself; some were made into prints, though most were unpublished. These are vibrant, floral images, the work of a restless inventor who must have been sketching and drawing for home consumption when he was not writing, designing book covers, or creating head and tail-pieces and endpapers.
A series of monograms by Gleeson White for his own consumption. Left to right: (a) A design with one of the artist’s favourite flowers – tulips. (b) A sheet of experimental compositions. (c) An image combining flower and cosmic symbolism in the form of a radiating sun.
Shown on the right below are some other examples on a sheet. The recipients are mainly unknown, although the ‘HN’ is for Harry Napper.
Taken together, Gleeson White's monograms and bookplates are fascinating, miniature works of art. They showcase the artists considerable design skills while offering an optimistic imagery of natures plenty; they also provide an insight into a man whose creativity was intimately connected with, and inspired by, his immediate circle.
- The Applied Art of Gleeson White: Bookplates
- Gleeson White as a Book Cover Designer
- The Gleeson White Archive in the Houghton Library. Harvard University
The formerly unpublished material appearing here is drawn from the Gleeson White archive, Houghton Library, Harvard University and from the family archive. I am indebted to both.
Created 7 April 2020