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ENGLISH ANTIQUE ENGRAVING, ENGLISH STYLE OF THE XVII-EARLY XX CENTURIES.

THE ORIGIN OF ENGRAVING IN ENGLAND.
The English school in engraving is much younger than the Italian, German, or Dutch school. The history of English engraving should probably be kept from the end of the XV century. The first known engravings are placed in the book “Mirror of the world”, published in 1480 in Westminster by the English first printer William Caxton. The illustrations in the book are made in the technique of woodcut.

Later, other techniques – copper engraving and woodcut-were also used in England. However, all the oldest engravings of the island were exclusively illustrations for books, were made at a very mediocre level and did not represent an independent artistic value.

Until the seventeenth century, the vast majority of engravers in England were foreigners, coming mainly from Germany and Holland. However, many of them settled on the island forever and made an undoubted contribution to the formation of the English school of engraving.

The fate of the famous Dutch master John Farber the elder (1660-1721), an outstanding portrait artist and engraver, one of the pioneers of the mezzo-Tinto (gravure printing) technique, is indicative in this regard. John Farber came to England as a young man, and his entire creative life was spent on the island. Among his works are many portraits of prominent figures of the Anglican Church, as well as Roman emperors and ancient philosophers. He was also close to academic circles, resulting in a series of portraits of the founders of the Cambridge and Oxford universities.

Farber is a senior. Portrait Of William Smith

Farber is a senior. Portrait Of William Smith

However, far surpassed Farber Sr. in fame was his son and pupil John Farber Jr. (1695-1756), who became the most famous mezzo-Tinto master in England in the first half of the XVIII century.

Note that the mezzo-Tinto method later became a kind of hallmark of English engraving.

THE EMERGENCE OF THE ENGLISH SCHOOL OF ENGRAVING.
Chronologically, the formation of the English school of engraving coincides with the period of the rise of British pictorial art, which is quite logical. In the XVIII century, a number of outstanding engravers appeared in England, working in various techniques – incisive engraving, etching, and others.

But the main stylistic feature of the English school was the widespread use of complex decorative techniques that make it possible to apply in the drawing not just dark lines or dots, but smooth halftones. Aquatint, dotted lines, and the already mentioned mezzo-Tinto became such methods that brought the engraving as close as possible to painting.

England is especially famous for its color engraving on metal. Many outstanding painters of that time understood that they owed their fame to the engravers who replicated their paintings. The famous Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), founder and President of the Royal Academy of arts, did not even demand money from engravers for the right to reproduce their paintings.

Many painters themselves were engaged in engraving. The founder of the English original school of painting, William Hogarth (1697-1764), began his career as a silver engraver. He never parted with this art all his life. It was the engravings that gave him his livelihood. So, having written his famous series of paintings under the shocking title “the life of a prostitute”, he immediately made prints from the paintings, which were in great demand among buyers. The paintings in this series have only survived through Hogarth’s engravings, since the originals were burned in a fire in 1775.

W. Hogarth. Illustration for the poem Hudibras. One thousand seven hundred twenty five

W. Hogarth. Illustration for the poem Hudibras. One thousand seven hundred twenty five

Inspired by financial success, Hogarth did the same with his other famous cycles – “Mota’s Career”, “Fashionable marriage”. All the artist’s works were sold in unprecedented numbers. It was fashionable to buy Hogarth’s prints in all walks of life, from the aristocrats who bought the originals to the small shopkeepers and dockworkers who willingly decorated the walls of their homes with inexpensive reproductions.

FAMOUS ENGRAVERS OF ENGLAND.
John Smith (1652-1742) is the first among the outstanding English engravers of the period of origin and flourishing of the national school of engraving. He worked in the mezzo-Tinto technique and was perhaps the most famous master of this technique in Europe. Most often, Smith reproduced the work of his outstanding contemporary, the painter Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723). And just copies of his work could not be called. Rather, it is more appropriate to talk about the interpretation of the subjects of neller’s paintings. The artist himself treated John Smith with great respect and highly valued his work.

D. Smith. Portrait of Frederick c Prince of Wales. One thousand seven hundred twenty four

D. Smith. Portrait of Frederick c Prince of Wales. One thousand seven hundred twenty four

It is necessary to say a few words about the history of the mezzo-Tinto technique in England. The beginning of the spread of this method was a book published in 1662 by John Evelyn with a detailed description of mezzo-Tinto. Invented shortly before this technique was honed to full perfection by English masters, and already in the XVIII century this method was often called the “English manner”. Thanks to mezzo-Tinto, Europe was introduced to the work of artists such as Reynolds, Neller, Peter Lely, Thomas Lawrence, and many others.

Prominent mezzo-Tinto masters were George white (1671-1732), James Mcardel (1729-1765), Richard Huston (1722-1775), and Richard Irlom (1742-1822).

R. Irlom. A scene from King Lear.One thousand seven hundred ninety two

R. Irlom. A scene from King Lear.One thousand seven hundred ninety two

In addition to mezzo-Tinto, the technique of the dotted line, or “stipple” as it was called in England, invented in the sixteenth century in Venice, is widely used in England. In England, it was significantly improved, and the technique of colored dotted lines was created here.

Of Bartolozzi. Dance. One thousand seven hundred eighty two

Of Bartolozzi. Dance. One thousand seven hundred eighty two

The greatest achievements in the creation and improvement of the colored dotted line belong to Francesco Bartolozzi (1727-1815), an Italian by birth who worked in England, William Ryland (1732-1783), Thomas Burke (1749-1815). The color works of these masters were highly valued in England and abroad, and Bartolozzi became the only engraver elected a member of the Royal Academy of arts.

T. Burke. Cupid and Aglaia.One thousand seven hundred eighty four

T. Burke. Cupid and Aglaia.One thousand seven hundred eighty four

Thomas Strange (1721-1792), famous for his copies of paintings by old masters, stands out in the technique of incisive engraving. Connoisseurs of landscapes sought to buy prints by Luke Sullivan (1705-1771), William Woollett (1735-1785), and Francis Vivares (1709-1772). William sharp (1746-1824) was considered a recognized master of the portrait in this technique. The already mentioned William Hogarth worked in the etching technique.

Vivares. Panorama of the Wye river. One thousand seven hundred sixty nine

Vivares. Panorama of the Wye river. One thousand seven hundred sixty nine

In General, the XVIII century is considered the period of the highest flowering of British engraving art. Masters of England enjoyed well-deserved fame in Europe, and to bring an engraving as a gift from a trip to England was considered a sign of good taste. Color British engraving was a standard of excellence in the eyes of Europeans. To this day, antique engraving remains an important element of the English style in the interior.

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