Rockwell Kent

The Wood Engravings of Rockwell Kent

Born in Tarrytown, New York in June of 1882, Rockwell Kent was an American painter, graphic artist, writer and adventurer. A profoundly independent and thoughtful man, he acquired through his personal experience and skills a great respect for the dignity of labor and an appreciation of indigenous societies and cross-cultural encounters.

In his formative years, Rockwell Kent spent much of his life in the area of New York City. He attended the Horace Mann School, a private school and member of the Ivy Preparatory School League. In the fall of 1900, Kent studied composition and design at the Art Students League under painter, printmaker and curator Arthur Wesley Dow. He studied in the summers between 1900 and 1902 at one of the first plein air painting schools in America, Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art, under Impressionist painter William Merritt Chase. 

In the fall of 1902, Kent entered the New York School of Art, founded by William Chase, where he studied under painter Robert Henri, one of the pioneers of the Ashcan School of American realism. He became an apprentice during the summer of 1903 to painter and naturalist Abbott Handerson Thayer, one of the first to write about disruptive patterning to break up an object’s outlines, now known as Thayer’s Law. Kent earned his Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from New York’s Columbia University which prepared him for occasional work as an architectural renderer and carpenter. While at Columbia, Kent developed a close friendship with Carl Zigrosser who later founded New York’s Weyhe Gallery and became Curator of Prints and Drawings at Philadelphia’s Museum of Art.

Rockwell Kent was a transcendentalist and mystic in the tradition of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. He found his inspiration in the austerity and primordial beauty of the wilderness. After his five-year residence on Monhegan Island in Maine, Kent lived for extended periods in Minnesota, Newfoundland, Alaska, Vermont, Tierra del Fuego, Ireland and Greenland. His landscapes and seascapes from these locales show a Symbolist viewpoint of the natural world. Kent published ten memoirs, complete with illustrations, of his travel years. The first of these volumes was the 1920 “Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska”, an account of his and his eldest son’s 1918 fall and winter exploration of Fox Island in Alaska’s Resurrection Bay. 

Kent spent his early years as a painter in New Hampshire where he painted a series of landscapes and several views of Mount Monadnock, the most prominent mountain peak in southern New Hampshire. These works were first shown at the Society of American Artists in a 1904 New York City exhibition. In 1905, he began his five-year stay on Maine’s Monhegan Island; the series of paintings he produced during this period were shown in 1907 at New York’s Clausen Galleries to critical acclaim. The New Hampshire and the Monhegan paintings are the foundation for Kent’s reputation as an early American Modernist painter. 

In the 1920s, Rockwell Kent began a career in illustration and contributed drawings for the covers of many leading magazines. Acknowledging Kent’s success with his 1920 illustrated “Wilderness”, publisher George Palmer Putnam and others incorporated Kent as ‘Rockwell Kent, Inc” to support him in his Vermont homestead while he completed his Alaskan paintings for a 1920 exhibition at New York’s Knoedler Galleries. Approached by publisher Thorne Donnelley for an illustrated version of “Two Years Before the Mast”, Kent suggested he instead illustrate an edition of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick; or, The Whale”. After researching whaling lore and visiting whaling museums, Kent created two-hundred and eighty illustrations for the 1930 three-volume set of “Moby Dick”, of which one thousand copies were printed by Donnelley’s Lakeside Press. 

In 1927, Kent purchased Asgaard, an Adirondack farmstead in upstate New York, which became his residence and studio for the remainder of his life. In the summer of 1929, he traveled to Greenland on a painting expedition. Determined to paint and write, Kent spent two years between 1931 and 1935 living in a tiny fishing settlement above the Arctic Circle. His paintings from this period include some of the largest and most lauded of his career. Becoming more politically active as World War II drew near, Kent, on commission from the Treasury Department, painted two murals at the Federal Triangle Post Office in Washington DC that supported, in small letters of a Native Alaskan language, the decolonization of Puerto Rico.  

In spite of his critical views on American foreign policy, Rockwell Kent remained America’s foremost draftsman of the sea. He produced a series of pen and ink maritime drawings for the American Export Lines during World War II. In 1946, Kent completed a second series for the Rahr Malting Company, a worldwide supplier to breweries, wineries and distilleries. These works were published in the 1946 “To Thee!: A Toast in Celebration of a Century of America 1847-1947”, a volume Kent wrote and designed to celebrate American freedom and democracy and the important role immigrants play in forming America’s national identity. 

In 1948, Kent was elected to the National Academy of Design as an Associate member; he became a full Academician in 1966. Kent passed away due to a heart attack at his Adirondacks home in March of 1971 at the age of eighty-eight. He had participated in the 1936 formation of the American Artists’ Congress and later served as an officer of the Artists’ Union of America as well as the Artists’ League of America. In 1948, Kent had sought election as a New York Congressman under the American Labor Party banner. 

New York’s Columbia University houses Rockwell Kent’s personal collection of thirty-three hundred working sketches and drawings, most of which were unpublished. The Archives of American Art of the Smithsonian Institution houses an extensive collection of Kent’s correspondence. His work is contained in many private collections and is both housed and exhibited in major museums throughout the United States. 

Top Insert Image: Photographer Unknown, “Rockwell Kent”, circa 1920, Vintage Print

Second Insert Image: Rockwell Kent, “Dan Ward’s Stack, Ireland”, 1926-1927, Oil on Canvas, 86 x 112 cm, Hermitage State Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Third Insert Image: Rockwell Kent, “Workers of the World, Unite!”, 1937, Wood Engraving on Paper, Cover Illustration for 1937 Issue of the New Masses, 20.3 x 15.2 cm, Plattsburgh State Art Museum, New York

Fourth Insert Image: Rockwell Kent, “Endless Energy for Limitless Living”, 1946, Oil on Canvas on Board, 111.8 x 121.9 cm, Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio

Bottom Insert Image: Rockwell Kent, “Mountain Climber”, 1933, Wood Engraving on Paper, 20 x 14.9 cm, Smithsonian American Art Museum

Jacques-Charles Derrey

Jacques Charles Derrey, “Untitled (Taking a Swim)”, 1935, Engraving on Paper, Edition of 60, 37.7 x 39.4 cm, Private Collection

Born in Toulouse in September of 1907, Jacques-Charles Derrey was a French engraver, painter and educator. He spent most of childhood and youth from 1914 to 1929 in Nantes with his maternal grandfather Félix Pommier, a painter and the curator of the Musée des Beaux-Arts. As a student at the Georges Clemenceau high school in Nantes, Derrey won first prize in its 1925 general drawing competition. He began his formal art training at the École des Beaux-Arts in Nantes in 1927. Derrey relocated to Paris in 1930 and studied at its École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts under impressionist painter Lucien Simon and portraitist and engraver Louis Roger until his graduation in 1935. 

In 1934, Derrey won the Prix Blumenthal, a stipend given to young French artists through the foundation supported by American philanthropist Florence Meyer Blumenthal. For his 1936 intaglio engraving “Job sur Son Fumier”, he was awarded the Grand Prix at the annual exhibition of the American Academy in Rome. For a period of three years beginning in 1937, Derrey was a resident at the French Academy in Rome located at the Villa Medici.

Jacques Derrey created twenty-five etchings for Belgian playwright and poet Maurice Masterlinck’s “Le Trésor des Humbles (The Humble Treasury)”, published in 1949 by Éditions Dancette. He produced illustrations, ten etchings and burin engravings, for the classic 1955 “Versailles”, which included historic text written by Louis XIV. Derry created original engravings for François-Albert Buisson’s 1960 “Le Cardinal de Retz: Portrait”, a biography of Jean François Paul de Gondi, an archbishop and agitator in the 1648 civil war in France.

Derrey also executed a series of illustrations depicting various aspects of an Lacq industrial plant owned by the National Society for Petroleum in Aquitaine. Starting in 1963, he provided engravings of stamp designs to be printed for several French departments and countries overseas, including Comoros, Congo, Gabon, Madagascar, Senegal, Somalia, Upper Volta, and Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon. 

Along with his work as an engraver, Jacques Derrey drew and painted, using oils and gouaches, numerous landscapes in Italy, Corsica and the French provinces of Bearn and Brittany. He also executed work in fresco, most notably the fresco murals in the church of Sainte Marguerite located in the Paris commune of Perreux-sur-Marne. Derry’s work was exhibited in many salons and galleries including the 1936 Salon des Artistes Français where he won a gold medal, the Salon Comparaisons, the Salon Terre Latines, the Mignon-Massart Gallery in Nantes and Paris’s Marseille Gallery, among others. Derrey was a regular participant at the exhibitions of the Association de Deux Rives from 1970 to 1975.

In 1950, Derrey was appointed a Professor at the School of Fine Arts in Valenciennes and, two years later, became its Director until 1956. At that time, he became Drawing Master at the École Polytechnique in Paris where he founded an engraving workshop. He taught his vision of painting and general art at the school until his retirement in 1973. An ardent defender of contemporary Classicism, he was the author of several articles published in the magazine “La Peintre” and through publications of the school. 

Jacques-Charles Derrey was awarded the position of Laureate of the Institut de France in 1950 and named a Knight of the Legion of Honor in 1958. He died in Paris in May of 1975. Major retrospectives of Derrey’s work entitled “Entre Deux Rives” were held in January and February of 1988 at the Municipal Center for the Arts in Valenciennes and at the Musée National du Château de Pau from November of 1997 to March of 1998. An exhibition “Four Generations: A Family of Painters”, which included the work of Derrey, his grandfather Félix Pommier, his mother Juliette, and his son Charles, was held in the towns of Pénestin in 2004 and Saint-Marc-sur-Mer in 2012.

Middle Insert Image: Jacques-Charles Derrey, “Les Volets Bleus”, Date Unknown, Oil on Canvas, 46 x 55 cm, Private Collection

Charles de Sousy Ricketts

The Artwork of Charles de Sousy Ricketts

Born in Geneva in October of 1866, Charles de Sousy Ricketts was a versatile British illustrator, author and printer known for his work as a book designer, typographer, and designer of theatrical sets and costume. He was the only son of Charles Robert Ricketts, a Royal Navy veteran and amateur painter, and Héléne Cornélie de Sousy, daughter of the Marquis de Sousy. Ricketts spent his formative years mainly in France and received his education through his governesses. 

After the death of his mother in 1880, Charles Ricketts relocated with his father to London where, considered too frail for school, he became largely self-educated through reading and visiting museums. In 1882, Ricketts entered the City and Guilds of London Art School where he apprenticed to wood-engraver Charles Roberts. Later that year, his father died and he became dependent on the modest support of his paternal grandfather. On his sixteenth birthday, he met his lifelong partner Charles Haslewood Shannon, a fellow student three years his senior who was studying painting and lithography. The two men lived together in both a personal and professional partnership until Ricketts’s death.

After finishing their studies, Ricketts became a commercial and magazine illustrator; Shannon took a teaching post at London’s newly founded Croyton School of Art. In 1888, Ricketts took possession of painter James Whistler’s former house, The Vale, in Chelsea which soon became a gathering place of contemporary artists. Starting in 1889 until its final issue in 1897, Ricketts and Shannon produced “The Dial”, a journal of poetry, prose, and English Pre-Raphaelite and French Symbolist illustrations. This portfolio became a major publication of the Aesthetic Movement. 

Charles Ricketts, in collaboration with Shannon, illustrated their close friend Oscar Wilde’s 1891 ”A House of Pomegranates” and the 1894 “The Sphinx”. Ricketts and Shannon worked together on the type and illustrations for editions of “Daphnis and Chloe” in 1893 and “Hero and Leander” in 1894. After initially running a small press, they founded London’s Vale Press in 1896 which published more than seventy-five books including a thirty-nine volume edition of Shakespeare’s work. Ricketts designed illustrations as wells fonts, initials, and borders specific to Vale Press. He also executed woodcut illustrations of Art Nouveau design and androgynous figures for their publications. After a 1904 fire at their printer Ballantyne Press destroyed their engraving woodcuts, Ricketts and Shannon made the decision to abandon publishing; Ricketts destroyed all the typefaces he had designed for Vale Press.

Beginning in the early 1900s, Ricketts placed his focus on painting and sculpture. He had a deep knowledge of earlier painters and was particularly influenced by the works of the Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau and the French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix. Among Ricketts’s many paintings are the 1904 “Betrayal of Christ”, the 1911 “The Death of Don Juan”, “Bacchus in India” painted in 1913, “Jepthah’s Daughter” painted in 1924, and the 1915 “Montezuma”, now at the Manchester Art Gallery. Over the course of his career, Ricketts produced about twenty sculptures among which are “Silence”, a memorial to his friend Oscar Wilde, and two bronze works entitled “Paolo and Francesca” and “Orpheus and Eurydice”.

From 1906 to his death, Charles Ricketts was a celebrated theatrical set and costume designer. His first commission was for a private production of s double billing of Oscar Wilde’s plays, “Salome” and “A Florentine Tragedy”, at King’s Hall in Covent Garden. In 1907, he designed costumes and stage sets for Aeschylus’s “The Persians” also performed at King’s Hall. During the early 1900s, Ricketts designed both costume and sets for many commercial theater productions including Hugo Hofmannsthal’s “Electra” in 1908, “King Lear” at the Haymarket in 1909, and two of Bernard Shaw’s plays, “The Dark Lady of the Sonnets” in 1910 and “Annajanska, the Bolshevik Empress” in 1918.

After World War One, Ricketts continued his theatrical design with Shaw’s “Saint Joan” at the New Theater in 1924, “Henry VIII” at the Empire Theater in 1925 and “Macbeth” at the Princess Theater in 1926. He also designed costumes and sets  for the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company’s 1926 production of “The Mikado” at the Savoy Theater. Most of Ricketts’s designs for “The Mikado” were retained by other designers of the company for more than fifty years. Ricketts final theater designs were for the 1931 production of Ferdinand Bruckner’s “Elizabeth of England” preformed at London’s Cambridge Theater and a production of Donald Tovey’s opera “The Bride of Dionysus” staged posthumously in Edinburgh after Ricketts’s death.

As a writer, Charles Ricketts published two monographs on art as well as essays and articles  on a wide range of subjects for publications. Using the pen-name of Jean Paul Raymond, he wrote and designed two collections of short stories published in 1928 and 1933. Under the same pen-name, Ricketts wrote the 1932 “Recollections of Oscar Wilde”, an extremely personal memoir that was published after Ricketts’s death. Ricketts’s last years were were greatly effected by Charles Shannon’s serious fall and resulting permanent brain damage. The strain of the situation with the addition of overwork to finance the household contributed to the decline of Ricketts’s health and ultimately his death.

Charles de Sousy Ricketts died suddenly at age sixty-five from coronary heart disease on the 7th of October in 1931 at the Regent’s Park house. He was cremated and his ashes partly scattered in London’s Richmond Park, and the remainder buried at Arolo, Lake Maggiore in Italy. Charles Shannon outlived him by six years and died in March of 1937.

Note: The New York Public Library’s assistant curator Julie Carlsen, along with Henry W. and Albert A. Berg of the English and American Literature Collection, have written an interesting article on Ricketts and Shannon’s designs for the bindings of Oscar Wilde’s work published by Vale Press. The article can be found at:

Top Insert Image: George Charles Beresford, “Charles de Sousy Ricketts”, October 1903, Sepia-Toned Platinotype Print, 15.5 x 10.7 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London

Second Insert Image: Charles de Sousy Ricketts, Page from Ricketts’s “The Prado and Its Masterpieces”, 1923, Published by E.P. Dutton and Company, New York, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: Charles de Sousy Ricketts, Illustration and Text from Michael Field’s “The Race of Leaves”, 1901, Woodcut, The Ballantyne Press, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: George Charles Beresford, “Charles Haslewood Shannon and Charles de Sousy Ricketts”, October 1903, Modern Print from Original Negative, 11 x 15.7 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London

Frank Stella

Frank Stella, “The Circuit Series”, 1982-1984, Woodcut and Relief Prints on Hand-Dyed Paper

Born in Malden, Massachusetts in May of 1936, Frank Philip Stella is an American painter, printmaker and sculptor known for his work in the fields of post-painterly abstraction and minimalism. He learned about the abstract modernist painters, such as Hans Hofmann and Josef Albers, during his studies at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. Stella entered Princeton University with a major in history; there he met and became friends with abstract painter Darby Bannard and modernist art critic and  historian Michael Fried. 

Stella’s frequent visits to the many art galleries in New York City stimulated his artistic development. His work bears the influence of his exposure to the abstract expressionist work of such artists as action-painter Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline,  known for his signature style of black on white abstraction. After graduation, Stella moved to New York City where he established a studio and permanent residence. In 2015 he moved his studio space to Rock Tavern, a small New York town on the edge of the Stewart State Forest.  

After Frank Stella moved to New York, he focused exclusively on his painting and found his success after two accidental, but innovative, paintings. Known as the Black Paintings, they consisted of penciled lines drawn on raw canvas where the open spaces were partially filled with black house paint. Since that time, Stella has consistently developed increasingly complex variations of selected themes over the years. He has constantly challenged himself by working in sculpture, lithography, silk screen printing, etching  and offset lithography. 

After having established himself as a painter, Stella began making prints in 1967. He initially worked predominately with lithography, but also did intaglio prints and screen prints. Stella’s prints, like his paintings, were created in series and continued the aesthetic he had brought to his paintings. For his print production, Stella began working in 1967 with master printmaker and publisher Kenneth Tyler, owner of the print atelier Gemini Graphic Editions Limited. Known for the quality of its work, this print atelier drew many famous artists to its workshops including Jasper Johns, David Hockney, Roy Lichtenstein, Anthony Caro, and Robert Rauschenberg.

The sixteen prints of Frank Stella’s 1982 -1984 “Circuits Series” represented a dramatic shift in his attitude toward printmaking. While working on a series of sculptural relief paintings, Stella had the idea that the remnants from his sculptural work could be rolled with ink and used for relief printing. He noticed that the outlines of the different shapes cut from sheet metal had been incised into the plywood backing boards. Stella was struck by the layered network of lines and curved shapes traced onto the wood.

From this point in time, Stella’s print practice would be the influence for his work in other mediums, with each project pushing the boundaries of his printmaking. Working with Kenneth Tyler, he experimented with the “Circuit Series” in tandem with his developing relief paintings. By layering woodblocks and collaging them with etched metal plates, then printing them on specially crafted, hand-dyed sheets of oversize paper, Stella produced prints of innovational scale, complexity and bold color. This series was the first time Stella used color-stained paper and magnesium plates for printing. 

“The “Circuits Series” was inspired by the race tracks that Stella visited in the different parts of the world: the Talladega in Alabama, the Pergusa and Imola racetracks in Italy, and the Estoril in Portugal. Stella incorporated twisting and circular shapes within the series to convey the high-speed courses. In all the images of the series, the visual image of the racetrack remains consistent; however, the curvilinear shapes are sometimes highly irregular and become increasingly enhanced by the use of multiple colored inks. 

The National Gallery of Australia holds the most comprehensive collection of Frank Stella’s innovations in print, with over eleven-hundred prints, experimental proofs, and matrices, including more than one-hundred twenty related to the “Circuits Series”. Images from the series are in private and other public collections including Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery in New York, the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska, and both the Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Top Insert Image: Bob Berg, “Frank Stella, New York Studio”, May 1995, Color Print, Getty Images

Second Insert Image: Frank Stella, “Imola Three I”, 1982, “Circuits” Series, Relief and Woodcut with Aquatint on Handmade, Hand-Colored Paper, 167.6 x 132.1 cm, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: Frank Stella, “Estoril Five II”, 1982, “Circuits” Series, Relief and Woodcut with Aquatint on Handmade, Hand-Colored Paper, 167.6 x 132.1 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Christopher Gregory (New York Times), “Frank Stella, New York City”, 2019, The Renate, Hans & Maria Hoffmann Trust

François Louis Schmied

The illustrations of François-Louis Schmied

Born in Geneva in November of 1873, François-Louis Schmied was a French painter, wood engraver, illustrator and bookbinder of Swiss origin. He is considered a major artist of the Art Deco era, particularly for his work in the publishing field. Schmied established himself in Paris whee he later was naturalized. He is the father of engraver Théo Schmied, who directed his father’s workshop beginning in 1924. 

François-Louis Schmied began his formal training at the Guillaume Le Bé School, named after the notable engraver and designer who specialized in Hebrew typefaces. Schmied next studied under Swiss painter and draftsman Barthélemy Menn who introduced the principles of plein air painting into Swiss art. Through his studies with Menn, Schmied became acquainted with such artists as Eugène Delacroix, Henri Rousseau, and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. The enlivening use of color by these artists made a lasting impression on the young Schmied who continued his studies under painter and wood engraver Alfred Martin.

In 1911, Schmied’s work was brought to the attention of one of the period’s most elite book clubs, Les Sociétés du Livre Contemporain. These French societies were comprised of the elite members of the country whose function was to sponsor the production of lavish, limited editions by outstanding authors and artists. Impressed with Schmied’s previous work, the club commissioned Schmied to collaborate as engraver and typographer with artist Paul Jouve on an illustrated version of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”. A painter, sculptor and illustrator, Jouve was most notable for his works of Africa’s animals. 

“The Jungle Book”, like its medieval predecessors, took years of preparatory work. The project came to a halt with the outbreak of World War One; Schmied enlisted in the French Foreign Legion for his service. After being wounded at the Battle of Somme and suffering the loss of an eye, he returned to Paris to complete work on “The Jungle Book”. The volume was finally published in 1919 and won accolades from the French book world. Schmied’s reputation was assured and commissions began to arrive. Always a perfectionist, he never compromised his high technical standards in his search for each book’s perfect match of illustrations and text. 

One of Schmied’s most tasking projects was the 1922 “Salonique, la Macédoine, L’Athos”. As printer and engraver, he was responsible for converting the pointillist-inspired paintings of Jean Goulden into forty-five woodcut engravings for printing. Schmied meticulously executed the illustrations with large areas composed entirely of dots and slashes. This work was followed in the same year with a commission from George Barbier, famous for his fashion illustrations. This collaboration produced two of Schmied’s best works “Les Chansons de Bilitis” and “Personnages de Comédie”, both published in 1922. The books embodied Barbier’s elegant Art Deco style with an exotic palette of sienna, teal blue, jet black and luminous gold, all printed accurately in color by Schmied.

François-Louis Schmied emerged as the leading Art Deco book designer with his 1924 “Daphné”. In order to draw the reader into the Byzantine world of the book’s hero, Emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus, he used a bold typeface highlighted with strong initial letters. Schmied’s borders, vignettes, and tailpieces used an austere and geometrically abstract form to embellish the text. Rich somber colors and rigorous design in his full-page illustrations harmonized with all the other elements. This volume, together with the 1925 “Le Cantique des Cantiques”, are considered by collectors as the pinnacle of his career. 

Schmied continued to design, print and publish several major volumes until the early 1930s. The ensuing Depression era began a chain of events that led to Schmied’s financial ruin, and ultimately to his demise. Luxury items, like Schmied’s books, were among the first commodities that lost their value in the depressed market. Although he tried to buy his books back to maintain their monetary worth, Schmied was caught in an economic downward spiral. By the mid-1930s, he had lost his workshop and his prize possession, his yacht La Beau Brune.

François-Louis Schmied’s friends in the government gave him support in the form of a minor commission at a desert outpost in Morocco, over two-thousand kilometers from his Paris home. Part of his duties was to help alleviate the misery of the people under his authority. In January of 1941, as a result of his ministrations to his public during an epidemic, François-Louis Schmied died of the plague.

Top Insert Image: François Louis Schmied, “Self Portrait”, 1904, Pencil and Charcoal on Paper

Second Inset Image: François Louis Schmied, “Bathers, Valleè du Draa, Morocco”, 1938, Tempera on Board, 40 x 19.5 cm, Private Collection

Third Insert Image: François Louis Schmied, “Le Vanneur”, 1936, Tempera on Paper on Masonite, 111 x 140.5 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: François Louis Schmied, Illustration for Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book”, Woodcut Engraving with Gold Highlights, 1919, Private Collection

Jean Alaux

Jean Alaux, “Cadmus in Combat with the Dragon”,  1830, Engraving, 38.6 x 29.5 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, France

Born in 1786 in the port city of Bordeaux, Jean Alaux was a French history painter, one of four brothers who all became painters. He received his first art lessons from his father. Alaux’s formal training was under history painter Pierre Lacour and Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, a Parisian painter known for his portraits and melodramatic mythological scenes. In 1807, Alaux was admitted to the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

Beginning in 1808, Jean Alaux began entering his work in the Prix de Rome; however, he took a hiatus from his own work to assist his older brother Jean-François Alaux on a large-scale panorama. Subsequently, Alaux entered his “Briseis Weeping Over the Body of Patroclus” in the 1815 Prix de Rome. This work, inspired by Homer’s “Illiad”, was awarded the major prize at the exhibition. Alaux was elected to the French Academy in Rome and, from 1816 to 1820, received an annual pension.

While at the Academy, Jean Alaux became a friend of Neo-classical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres and associated with such artists as painters François-Édouard Picot and Michel Martin Drolling, and sculptors David d’Angers and Jean-Jacques Pradier. Alaux’s first oil painting at the Academy was “Cadmus Killing the Dragon at the Fountains of Dirce”, purchased by the Duke of Orleans and later destroyed in a a fire at the Royal Palace during the 1848 French Revolution. Alaux painted two other mythology-based scenes during his stay at the Academy: “Episode in Combat with the Centaurs and the Lapithes” and “Diamedes Carrying Off the Palladium”. 

Alaux returned to France in 1821 where his reputation grew as his new works were well received. In 1825 he painted the historical work  “The Baptism of Clovis”, which depicted the warlord King Clovis’s baptism by Saint Remigius, the Bishop of Rheims, surrounded by a crowd of spectators. This work was followed by “States General of 1838”, “The Assembly of the Notables at Rouen in 1596”, and “States General of 1814”. 

During the liberal constitutional reign of Louis Philippe I which began in July of 1830, Alaux worked at the Galerie des Batailles under the auspices of the Chàteau de Versailles. He painted three historical works for the gallery: the 1836 “Battle of Villaviciosa”, “The Capture of Valenciennes” in 1837, and the 1839 “The Battle of Denain”. 

In 1846, Jean Alaux was appointed director of the French Academy in Rome. During his directorship, he and his students were forced to temporarily flee to France during the siege of Rome in 1849 when Garibaldi’s defending forces fought the invading French army. Alaux continued his directorship at the Academy until his retirement in 1852. Jean Alaux died twelve years later in Paris on the second of March in 1864. 

Jean Alaux’s work can be found in many private and public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of New York which holds his 1817 “Léon Pallière in His Room at the Villa Medici, Rome”, the British Museum in London which houses a collection of Alaux’s etchings, and the Harvard Art Museum, among others.

Top Insert Image: Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, “Portrait of Jean Alaux”, Date Unknown, Engraving

Middle Insert Image: Jean Alaux, “Narcisse”, 1818, Oil on Canvas, 95.3 x 76 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Jean Alaux, “A Man with Gun Seen from Behind”, Date Unknown, Black and White Chalk on Brown Paper, 57.7 x 39.1 cm, Private Collection

Lucas van Leyden

Lucas van Leyden, “The Standard Bearer”, circa 1510, Engraving, 11.8 x 7 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Lucas van Leyden, “The Pilgrims”, circa 1508, Engraving, 15.1 x 11.9 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Painter and printmaker Lucas van Leyden was born in the city of Leiden in the province of South Holland, the Netherlands. He was among the first Dutch artists of genre painting, an accomplished engraver and woodcut printmaker. 

There is some controversy over the date of his birth as there is no confirming documentary evidence available. Finnish painter and art historian Karel van Mander suggests that Lucas was born in 1494 and was a prodigy having executed, in 1508 at the age of fourteen, his earliest dated engraving “Mohammed and the Monk Sergius”. Other scholars believe it more likely that Lucas was born circa 1489, which would have made him nineteen years old at the execution of the early print.

Outside of his existing dated artwork, there is very little historical documentation of Lucas van Leyden’s life. He is first mentioned in a 1514 register as a member of the civil guard in Leiden. In both 1515 and 1519, Lucas’s name appears in a list of crossbowmen for the city of Leiden. It is known that Lucas married Elisabeth van Boschhuysen, the daughter of a Leiden magistrate, sometime around 1515.

There is equally some controversy on the artistic training of Lucas van Leyden as there is very little documentation on his relationship with the two men responsible for his training. It is likely Lucas  received his first instructions in art from his father, Huygh Jacobsz, who is listed in Leyden’s municipal archives as being a painter in the city in 1480. There is evidence that Lucas was in the workshop of Cornelis Engelbrechtsz, who is considered the first important painter from the city of Leyden. 

Several scholars believe that Lucas van Leyden’s early paintings and engravings suggest that he had entered Engebrechtsz’s workshop with an already well-developed personal style, most likely influenced  by the teachings of his father. Lucas was familiar with the numerous works of the engraver Marcantonio Raimondi, whose motifs Lucas reworked in his early paintings and engravings. Raimondi’s studies of nudes inspired Lucas in his later works, particularly in his altarpieces where he was an early adapter of the Italian-style nude figure. 

Lucas was friends with and influenced by both master engraver Albrecht Dürer and Romanist painter Jan Gossaert. Albrecht Dürer’s diary entry and his silverpoint portrait drawing of Lucas, now in the Musée Wicar in Lille, confirm the two artists met each other in Antwerp in 1521. According to Karel van Mander, Lucas made a second journey through the southern Netherlands, circa 1527, at which time  he met Jan Gossaert in the city of Middleburg.

Lucas van Leyden is thought to have developed the technique of etching on copper, instead of iron, plates. The softness of the copper plate made it possible to combine etching and line engraving in the same print. One of the earliest examples of Lucas’s use of this technique is his 1521 portrait of the Holy Roman Emperor Masimilian. Lucas was also among the first engravers to use an aerial perspective in his prints.

Seventeen paintings directly attributed to Lucas van Leyden survive in collections; a further twenty-seven paintings are known through contemporary copies or drawings of them made by printmaker and publisher Jan de Bisschop in the later seventeenth-century. From 1513 to 1517, Lucas created a series of woodcut engravings called “The Power of Women”, a theme which was extremely popular in Renaissance art and literature. Consisting of two large and small sets of prints, the series includes “Samson and Delilah”, “The Fall of Man” depicting Adam and Eve, and “Herod and Herodias”, shown with their daughter holding the head of John the Baptist on a plate.

Lucas van Leyden’s health deteriorated drastically following his trip to southern Netherlands in 1527. Lucas, who thought he had been poisoned by an envious colleague, was often ill and bedridden. He died in the summer of 1533.

Top Insert Image: Lucas van Leyden, “The Apostle Peter”, circa 1510, Engraving, 11.4 x 6.9 cm, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam,

Middle Insert Image: Lucas van Leyden, “Christ Before Annas”, 1521, Engraving, 11.4 x 7.6 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Bottom Insert Image: Lucas van Leyden, “The Beggars (Eulenspiegel)”, 1520, Etching and Engraving, 17.5 x 14.1 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Jan Muller

Jan Muller, “The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian”, circa 1699, Engraving, 53.6 x 33.8 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York 

At the end of the sixteenth and early in the seventeenth century, Dutch Mannerist artists turned their attention to the German master Albrecht Dürer and other northern Renaissance artists, creating a revival of interest in their works. Printmakers copied these earlier designs or made new compositions emulating the style of their predecessors. 

Born in 1571 in Amsterdam, Jan Muller was one of these reproductive engravers. He most likely received his initial training in engraving from his father, Harmen Jansz Muller, an engraver and owner of The Gilded Compasses, a publishing business in Antwerp. Jan Muller’s work is generally associated with the school of Hendrick Goltzius, the most prominent of the Dutch Mannerist engravers, with whom Muller was employed until about 1589.

Though Jan Muller made engravings based on his own designs, he was essentially a reproductive engraver for works by Haarlem Mannerists or Prague artists, such as painter Bartholomeus Spranger and engraver Hendrick Goltzius. Muller had contact with many artists in the Prague area including, by relation through family marriage, Dutch sculptor Adriaen de Vries, who was working at Emperor Rudolf II’s court.

During the late 1590s, Muller would often be employed by Emperor  Rudolph to reproduce the designs of artists working at the royal court. The work he produced were characterized by an array of engraving techniques including areas of hatching and broad, sinuous lines. From 1594 through 1602. Muller traveled in Italy and lived in both Naples and Rome, where he continued to make engravings, including what are considered his most accomplished works. 

After 1602, Jan Muller continued to produce engraved portraits and a few other works. Upon his return to Amsterdam, he virtually abandoned his engraving and managed The Gilded Compasses, which he had inherited. Muller’s inheritance from his father included all his father’s engraved copperplates, artwork and printed paper along with the tools and their accessories. Between 1624 and his death in 1628, Jan Muller produced only four known compositions and one painting, whose provenance is  firmly attributed to him through his inventories and will.

Top Insert Image: Jan Muller, “The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian”, Detail, circa 1699, Engraving, 53.6 x 33.8 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Bottom Insert Image: Jan Harmensz Muller, “Two Wrestlers”, 1588-1592. Engraving, 16.8 x 21.2 cm, Rijksmuseum, The Netherlands


Benoît Audran the Elder

Etchings by Benoît Audran the Elder

Born in Lyons, France, on November 23, 1661. Benoît Audran the Elder, second son of engraver Germain Audran, was an engraver, He received his primary instruction in engraving from his father; Benoît Audran later continued his studies under his uncle, the master engraver  Gérard Audran, who was appointed engraver to King Louis XIV. 

Although he never equalled the style of his uncle’s work, Benoît Audran established his own reputation with his many engravings of historical subjects and portraits. His style was bold and clear, in both the drawing of his figures and the fine expression of his characters. Benoît Audran’s many portraits include those of the French statesman Jean Baptiste Colbert; Joseph Clement of Bavaria, Archbishop of Cologne; and Swiss soldier and politician Samuel Frisching,. 

Benoît Audran the Elder also produced  several hundred engravings based on the works of various master artists. These include: “The Baptism of Jesus Christ” after the work of Italian Baroque painter Albani; “The Savior with Martha and Mary” and “St. Paul Preaching at Ephesus”, both after the neoclassical painter Eustache Le Suerur; and “The Accouchement of Marie de Medicis”, after Flemish artist Paul Rubens. Among Audran the Elder’s best works are the two engravings:, “The Seven Sacraments”, after the paintings of Nicolas Poussin, and “The Bronze Serpent”, after Charles Le Brun’s 1649 painting of the same name.

Benoît Audran engraved two plates, one in 1716 and one in 1717, which depicted David in his struggles with Goliath. Both of these works are ascribed as being based on the work of Mannerist Italian painter Daniele de Volterra, who is remembered for his association with Michelangelo.

Benoît Audran the Elder became a member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1709 and was appointed engraver to King Louis XIV, a post which included a pension. Audran died in 1721 in the village of Ouzouer, near Sens in north-central France. 

Note: Inscription content on “David and Goliath” engravings: Lettered with dedication to the Prince de Chelamar, with his titles, followed by ‘Benoit Audran, graveur ordin. du Roy, dedie cette copie d’une des deux peintures de Michel Ange Buonarotta qu’occupent les surfaces d’une grande pierre, representant le même sujet du combat de David et de Goliath en deux differentes attitudes, laquelle a été présenté par son Ex. a Louis le Grand à Marly le 25 Juillet de l’année 1715 au nom de Monseign. Judice son frère, Grand Maître du Palais Apostolique.’ With date ‘A Paris le 31 Decembre 1716’

Top Insert Image: Benoît Audran the Elder, “Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Colbert”, 1676, Engraving, Palace of Versailles Research Center

Bottom Insert Image: Benoit Audran the Elder,, “George Monck, First Duke of Albemarle”, 1707, Engraving After Adriaen van der Werff, After Frabcis Barlow, Private Collection

Benton Murdoch Spruance

Lithographs by Benton Murdoch Spruance

Born in June of 1904 in Philadelphia, American artist Benton Murdoch Spruance was a painter. educator, and lithographer. Growing up in an affluent suburb, he worked as an architectural assistant after graduating from high school. Spruance studied at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Architecture, and also attended etching and drawing classes at the Graphic Sketch Club, a free art school. 

After working in a logging camp for several months in 1924-1925, Benton Spruance enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, whose 1928 Cresson scholarship enabled him to study overseas in France. He studied at the Académie Montparnasse under cubist painter André Lhote, and later was introduced to lithography at the acclaimed Paris print workshop of Edmond Desjobert, with whom Spruance would later work producing many of his lithographs. 

After returning to Philadelphia, Spruance began working for an interior design firm and taught part-time at Arcadia College. After receiving a second Cresson scholarship, he traveled to Paris to continue his painting studies with André Lhote. In 1933, Spruance had his first solo show at New York City’s Weyhe Gallery, a print and drawing gallery established in 1919. He was also appointed that same year as professor of the Department of Art at the Pennsylvania Academy. 

Although Benton Spruance continued to paint after his return from Paris, he was most active as a printmaker. His art in the 1920s and 1930s portrayed the life of ordinary men and women at both work and play. During this period Spruance’s style varied from naturalistic portraits to a precisionist approach of flattened and layered forms. It was these boldblack and white lithographic compositions with their wide tonal ranges and gradations which established Spruance’s reputation as a lithographer. During this period with the aid of two Guggenheim fellowships, he sketched landscapes throughout Europe and the United States.. 

During the period of the Works Progress Administration, from the late 1930s to the mid-1940s, a deliberate socially conscious agenda characterized Spruance’s lithographs. He began to work in a more highly charged expressionistic style and turned to wartime subjects as a prominent theme. Spruance also began producing psychologically charged portraits of women, which was followed later by themes based on biblical narratives and mythology. At the 1936 Summer Olympics in Germany, Spruance’s work was among the six hundred works of art at the competition held inside the Berlin Exhibition

From the early 1950s Spruance participated in the urban regeneration of the city of Philadelphia and, in 1953, was appointed to the Philadelphia Art Commission. One of his achievements was the passing of a 1959 law where one percent of the budget for every new building in Philadelphia had to be spent upon public art. Avid about the lithographic process, Spruance pioneered many innovations and techniques for the use of color in print making. During the 1960s he produced many color lithographs, which were mostly literary or symbolic in theme.

Despite the demand for his lithographic work, Benton Spruance continued his role as an educator. He started “Prints in Progress”, a program to teach printmaking, through demonstration and participation, to public school students. Spruance was both the chair of the art department at Arcadia University and held the chairmanship at the printing department of the Philadelphia College of Art. 

A prolific printmaker with over five hundred editions during his lifetime, Benton Spruance died in Philadelphia on the 6th of December in 1967. In 1968, Barre Publishers, Massachusetts, posthumously published Benton Spruance’s project “Moby Dick: The Passion of Ahab”, a portfolio which illustrated Lawrence Melville’s novel and contained twenty-six color lithographs that were finished in the years just before Spruance’s death.

Top Insert Image: Benton Murdoch Spruance, “Subway Shift, The Second Front”, 1943 Lithograph, 36.8 x 48.6 cm, Private Collection

Middle Insert Image: Benton Murdoch Spruance, Approach to the Station, 1932, Lithograph on Japon Paper, 27.9 x 35.3 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert Image: Benton Murdoch Spruance, Nero, 1944, Lithograph Edition of 30, 36.8 x 39.7 cm, Private Collection 

Cornelius von Haarlem

Cornelius van Haarlem, “The Fight Between Ulysses and Irus”, 1590, Engraving, 42.8 x 33.2 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Insert: Cornelius von Haarlem, Cain Killing Abel, 1591, Engraving, 33.3 x 41.5 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Dutch Mannerist painter Cornelius Comelisz, known as Cornelius van Haarlem, was born the son of wealthy parents in 1562 in Haarlem, the Netherlands. He first studied with Renaissance painter Pieter Pietersz the Elder in Haarlem. Later between 1580 and 1581, van Haarlem travelled to Rouen, France, and then to Antwerp, where he became a pupil of Flemish Renaissance painter Gillis Coignet for a year. 

Cornelius van Haarlem painted mainly portraits as well as mythological and Biblical subjects. Initially he painted large-size, highly stylized works with Italianate nudes in twisted poses with a grotesque, unnatural anatomy. Later, van Haarlem’s style changed to one based on the realist tradition of the Netherlands.

In 1581, van Haarlem settled in Haarlem, becoming a respected member of the community, and received his first official commission in 1583. The resulting militia company portrait of the Haarlem Civic Guard, a milestone in Dutch group depictions with its liveliness, earned him the position of official city painter and many future commissions.

Along with Karel van Mander, printmaker Hendrick Golzius and other Northern Mannerist artists, Cornelius van Haarlem established the Haarlem Academy which provided artists the opportunity to draw from models and plaster casts. Before this time, no Dutch artists studied the nude human figure, which was the principal motif of van Haarlem’s drawings and paintings. 

Between 1590 and 1593, van Haarlem worked on a large commission for four large paintings to decorate the Prinsenhof, part of the municipal complex in Haarlem. Following its completion, he received numerous major commissions from: the Civic Guard in 1599, the Commanders of the Order of Saint John in 1617 and 1624, the Court of the Stadholder in the Hague in 1622, and the hospital of the Helige Geesthuis in 1633. 

Cornelius van Haarlem served from 1613 to 1619 as a regent of the Old Men’s Home in Haarlem. From 1626 to 1629, he was a member of the Catholic Saint Jacob’s Guild and, in 1630, along with other artists, was involved in the formulation of new regulations for the Saint Luke’s Guild in Haarlem, a guild for painters and both gold- and silversmiths. Cornelius van Haarlem died on the 11th of November in 1638.

Works by Cornelius van Haarlem are on display at the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Louvre in Paris, the National Gallery in London, the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and other museums. 

Henri Marias


Henri Marais, “The Genius of the Arts”, 1789, Engraving on Paper, 31,6 x 22.3 cm, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Born in 1768, Henri Marais was a French engraver and printmaker, who often used the name of J. B. Marais.  He studied under engraver Jean  Massard who, due to his knowledge of engraving and scrupulous accuracy in his work,  was received in the Royal Academy in 1785 . Several of Marais’s engraved works are in The Victoria and Albert Museum including  “Venus et l’Amour”, “L’Hermite”, a portrait engraving of Frederick the Great, and “The Genius of the Arts”, shown above. Marais died in the 1830s, actual date unknown.

“The Genius of the Arts” was the frontispiece for “Tableaux, Statues et Bas-Relief et Camèes de la Galerie du Florence et du Palais Pitti” with prints after painter Jian-Baptiste Wicar and published by Etienne Lacombe. The allegorical figure is shown in neoclassical surroundings, with a column and a shield. It is apparently an idealized portrait of the neo-classical sculptor Jean-Guillaume Moitte. He is shown holding a laurel crown, which in portraiture suggests that the subject is a literary or artistic figure.

André Castiagne

André Castaigne, “The Killing of Cleitus by Alexander”, 1898-1899, Engraving, The Century Magazine

Jean Alexandre Michel André was a French artist, engraver and book illustrator. He became an important artist in the Golden Age of Illustration in the United States, producing paintings and literary illustrations in both France and America. As a youth, Castaigne read prodigiously and studied classic Greek, Latin, French, and German literature. At the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, under Alexandre Cabanel and Jean-Léon Gérôme, he trained to become a painter in the Salon tradition. 

Castaigne’s interest in visually interpreting history led him to become an illustrator as well as a portrait painter. His first of many illustrations appeared in “The Century” magazine around 1891, followed by over 160 illustrations before the end of 1895. Castaigne created more than thirty-six engravings about Alexander the Great for the 1898 to 1899 twelve-part series of “The Century” magazine. 

André Castaigne’s engraving entitled “The Killing of Cleitus” shows the killing of Cleitus the Black, an officer of the Macedonian army led by Alexander the Great. At the Battle of the Granicus in 334 BC, Cleitus saved Alexander, who was under attack by the Persian commander Spithridates, by severing Spithridates’ hammer arm before he could strike the fatal blow. On the eve of the day he was to take possession of the Macedonian government, Alexander organized a banquet in the palace at Samarkand. During the drunken banquet, Cleitus, hearing he was to be posted in the steppes of Central Asia, uttered many grievances against Alexander and his royal legitimacy. This led to Alexander in anger throwing a javelin through Cleitus’ heart. In all four known texts of this story, it is shown that Alexander grieved for the death of Cleitus.

Alfred-Ernest Robaut

Alfred-Ernest Robaut, “The Education of Achilles”, 1879, Lithograph on Heavy Wove Paper, Image 37 x 46 cm , Private Collection

This lithograph engraved by Alfred-Ernest Robaut was printed in 1879 in Paris by the Lemercier and Cie company, after the 1862 pastel drawing by Eugène Delacroix now in the Paul Getty Museum collection. The subject, the centaur Chiron teaching the young Achilles how to hunt, was also painted by Delacroix on a pendentive supporting the cupola dedicated to Poetry in the library of the Chamber des Députés at the Assemblée Nationale in Paris.

Born in Douai, France, in 1830, Alfred-Ernest Robaut was a French designer and engraver. He is best known as the author of the first catalog of works by painters Eugéne Delacroix and Jean-Baptiste Corot, whom he greatly admired.

After brief studies, Robaut enter his father’s printing press in Douai, taking it over in 1853 and marrying the daughter of Constant Dutilleux, a painter and long-time friend of both Delacroix and Corot. As a draftsman and engraver, Robaut devotes himself mainly to reproduction engraving but also publishes numerous art history articles of his own writings.

From the 1860s, Alfred Robaut devoted himself to the reproductions of drawings and autographs by Delacroix and Corot, collecting testimonies, photographs, and documents on their lives. He died in Fonternay-sous-Bois, France, in April of 1909.


Anne Louis Girodet de Roussy Trioson

Anne -Louis Girodet de Roussy Trioson, Engraving, “Aeneas’ Sacrifice”, 1827

Anne-Louis Girodet was a French painter, born in 1767, whose works eemplified the first phase of Romanticism in French art. He began to study drawing in 1773, later becoming a student of the Neoclassical architect Étienne-Louis Boullée. With Boullée’s encouragement, Girodet joined in late 1783 the studio of Jacques-Louis David, a celebrated painter of the neo-classical and realistic style.

In 1789 Girodet won the Prix de rome for his painting “Joseph Recognized by His Brothers”, which showed David’s neo-classical influence. For Napoleon’s residence Malmaison, Girodtet painted in 1801 the composition “Ossian and the French Generals’, which melded images of legendary Irish heroes with images of the spirits of the generals who died during the French Revolution of 1789.

Girodet’s literary interests greatly influence his subject choices for his artwork. In 1808 he painted “The Entombment of Atala”. Girodet used a traditional composition of Christian iconography, The Entombment, for this canvas. Yet, in the manner of his master, David, his figures are aligned in a frieze-like manner and his drawing is precise. The dead Atala is somewhat unrealistically portrayed as an ideal beauty, and Girodet reuses the chiaroscuro effect of his earlier work “The Sleep of Endymion”: the light caresses Chactas’ back and Atala’s bust and lips. The picture, foreshadowing romanticism, is steeped in sensuality, emotion and religiosity, and the scene’s exotic setting and vegetation are a far cry from David’s austere decors.

Translation of Latin  text on engraving: “How acceptable was the long column of cups. The serpent tasted the food which was interposed between the bowls and polished cups, then turned and went beneath the tomb, leaving the altars where he fed.”

The Tempest

Benjamin Smith, “Act One, Scene One of the Tempest by William Shakespeare”, Untinted Engraving based on the Original Painting by George Romney, September 29, 1797, Published by J & J Boydell at the Shakespeare Gallery, Pall Mall, London

This engraving depicts the destruction of King Alonso’s ship caused by the tempest conjured by Prospero, seen on the right, who sent spirits to create the storm. Prospero caused the tempest in an act of revenge against his brother Antonio, one of the ship’s passengers, who had ursurped Propero’s position as Duke of Milan. Prospero’s daughter Miranda clings to him, begging for the lives of those on the ship. Prospero assured his daughter that he used his magic to prevent anyone from dying.

Benjamin Smith was a British engraver, publisher and print seller who was born in 1754 in London. He studied the art of stippling engraving under Francesco Bartolozzi,  one of the most famous engravers of the 1700s. During his career from 1786 to 1833, Smith engraved many plates from designs by William Hogarth, William Beechley, and George Romney. He also created portraits of the aristocracy such as the Marquis Cornwallis and King George III.

Employed for many years by J & J Boydell Publishing, Benjamin Smith was commissioned to engrave many plates for the Shakespeare Gallery and for the poetical works of John Milton in the years between 1794  and 1797. These are considered his best works and included the image above based on the painting by George Romney. Smith continued his engraving work until five years before his death in 1833, producing many works now in the collections of the British Museum and National Portrait Gallery.

Bernard Buffet

Bernard Buffet, Illustration for “Les Chants de Maldoror”, 1952, Drypoint Etching, Edition of 125

“Les Chants de Maldoror” was published by Les Dix of Paris and was printed by Atelier Daragnes in 1952. It was presented in-folio with leaves loose in two black cases with a limited edition of 125 copies. The 125 original etchings enclosed, each in a 12 x 16 inch format, were by Bernard Buffet. “Les Chants de Maldoror” was Buffet’s first illustrated book.

Gustave Doré

Gustave Doré, “Death of Eleazer”,1866, Engraving for the La Sainte Bible

According tothe Bible, during the Battle of Beit Zechariah, Eleazar identified a war elephant that he believed to carry the Seleucid King Antiochus V, due to the special armor the elephant wore. He decided to endanger his life by attacking the elephant and thrusting a spear into its belly. The dead elephant then collapsed upon Eleazar, killing him as well.

Eleazar’s death was a popular subject for art in the Middle Ages, where it was given significance as prefiguring Christ’s sacrifice of himself for mankind. This illustration by Gustave Doré is from the 1866 La Sainte Bible.

William Blake

William Blake, “God Judging Adam”, 1795, Copper Etching, 42.5 x 52.7 cm, Tate Museum

A nude and aged Adam, newly aware of his own nakedness and mortality, hangs his head before a fiery chariot bearing the divine maker whom he resembles exactly. For many years, this image was thought to represent Elijah in the fiery chariot. Recently, it has been connected to a passage in Genesis 3:17-19 in which God condemns Adam for tasting the forbidden fruit.

The print was made using a unique method of Blake’s invention. A plate etched in relief was used to print the design; then colors were painted onto millboard, or a similar surface, and printed onto the sheet like a monotype. Finally, Blake enhanced the print by hand with watercolor and ink.

Sonia Gechtoff

Sonia Gechtoff, Top Image: “Children of Frejus”, 1959, Oil on Canvas, Denver Art Museum    Bottom Image: “Tropics”, 1983, Color Etching with Embrossing, Edition of 50, Antique-White German Etchng Wove

Sonia Gechtoff was a prominent Abstract Expressionist painter who experimented with styles and materials throughout her life. She was born in 1926 in Philadelphia, into a family with art it its genes. Her father was a painter and her mother was a gallery owner. Gechtoff received her BA in Fine Arts from the Philadelphia Museum School of Art in 1950. At that time she abandoned figurative art in favor of the abstract.

Sonia Gechtoff also at this time started working with a palette knife to apply her paint on canvas rather than the traditional brush. Sonia refined her palette knife technique, and by the late 1950s, the slashing marks, often applied in a vortexlike way, were a hallmark of her work. In the 1980s, she expanded that technique with increasingly larger and less-controlled acrylic paintings that had elements of realism, architectural and landscape images. She continued to experiment and produce new work in a range of media throughout her life.

Sonia Gectoff, a mainstay of the New York art scene, passed away in February, 2018, at a hospice center in Bronx, New York at the age of 91.