If you can get along to London’s Tate Britain before the 25th September, I recommend Painting with Light, an exhibition celebrating the links between early photography and art in Victorian and Edwardian Britain.

It cannot be described as a glamorous blockbuster, and the images are generally small and intricate.  Not for the faint hearted, it nevertheless repays close attention (and, just, the entry price). The subject is overdue closer scrutiny, as very often painting and photography-as-art are treated in isolation.


Jane Morris (wife of William) posing for artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Doyens of the Pre-Raphaelite, aesthetic and impressionist movements used photographic images as inspiration, as an alternative to the preparatory sketch, or as aid to composition. Photography presented a new, revelatory way of seeing the world, and therefore seeing art. From the 1850s books and journals were illustrated with photographs instead of engravings and lithographs, and the publications of learned Victorian societies were the forums for this conversation.

Many who had trained as artists became photographers, especially portraitists. From the introduction in 1851 of the wet plate process, which produced sepia-tinted positive prints, the number of professional photographers increased from 51 to 2,534 by 1861.


The Lady of Shallot by Henry Peach Robinson, 1861

As technologies for the taking and developing of photographs improved, many artists saw landscape in new ways.  The beauty and ‘truth’ of wonderous mother nature – which Romantic artists like Constable and Turner sought to capture – was traditionally deemed to lie in the accurate rendering of detail, based on close observation. Now artists became more concerned with immersing the viewer in atmospheric effects of light, shade and colour.

Many photographers were, in turn, inspired by artists to push technical boundaries and experiment with lenses, exposures, chemical treatments etc.

I see photography in this period as essentially another form of printmaking. A couple of engravings from steel plates feature in the exhibition, demonstrating that traditional printmakers still had an important part to play in the creation, reproduction and dissemination of art.

Ultimately, this show goes to prove that whatever the chosen means of expression, art advances through the imagination and talent of the artist, and their impact on the viewer.


Since last month’s post inspired by my caricature of Mary Anne Clarke (see Mrs Clarke in the House) several readers have asked me about collecting satirical prints.

Reproduction, © Bloomsbury Auctions

James Gillray’s The Plumb-pudding in danger, Pitt and Napoleon carving up the globe. Sold for £15,000 at Bloomsbury in June 2015.

Well it so happens I have penned an article on just that subject for a special supplement to the Antiques Trade Gazette (cover date 26th March 2016)

The early 1780s witnessed a new phenomenon, the professional caricaturist.  And it was a uniquely British phenomenon. Only in Britain were the three conditions – freedom of expression, party politics, and a receptive market – combined.

Read my article on the Georgian heyday of the single-sheet satire here:  Georgian satire: the shock of the old

There is plenty to interest the bibliophile in the newly-published supplement.  It can be read online in full here:  Books, Maps & Prints

Mrs Clarke in the House

March 18, 2016

Introducing Mary Anne Clarke (c.1776-1852), society hostess and royal mistress.


Mrs, M.A. Clarke. Hand-coloured etching by Charles Williams. London: S.W. Fores, February 1809

She pauses in front of the doors to the House of Commons, lifting her veil from her face and turning directly to the viewer, the hint of a knowing smile playing across her lips. By her side she holds a huge fur muff, the hand-warmer of choice of the fashion-conscious lady.

The elegant, alluring, and assured woman betrays no lack of confidence as she prepares to be cross-examined inside the Chamber for her role in a royal scandal surrounding the second son of King George III.

Clarke was the mistress of Frederick, Duke of York between 1803 and 1806. The Duke was forced to resign as Commander-in-Chief of the army in March 1809 after claims in Parliament that Clarke had received money in return for obtaining promotions. It seems she added names to lists which the Duke signed off, apparently not reading them very closely. Renounced by HRH, Clarke threatened to publish revealing memoirs and was able to extract huge pensions from the government to keep them suppressed. She proved herself an astute political operator.

The proceedings were, naturally, lapped up by caricaturists like Charles Williams (fl. 1796-1830), who swiftly etched this plate for sale on the 25th February 1809. Williams was a professional etcher of satires for London publishers about whom almost nothing is known. Like most satirical printmakers of his time, he favoured the etching technique as a fast medium capable of responding to the latest events within days. His more illustrious contemporary Thomas Rowlandson issued more than thirty satires on the Clarke affair, predominantly using etching.


Stipple portrait of Mary Anne Clarke from the ‘Lady’s Monthly Museum’ (1809)

Though a very simple composition – one of only a handful of caricatures in which Clarke is the sole or central figure – I find the image intriguing. Why did Williams present Clarke in this ‘attitude’ (in the artistic sense of the word)?

Some women who broke the mould and entered the public or political realm attracted the antipathy of the (overwhelmingly male) journalists, pamphleteers and cartoonists. And it is difficult, I think, to conclude that the characterisation of Clarke here is sympathetic. Rather is male chauvinism at play – Clarke as a symbol of the brazen woman of questionable virtue, enjoying her time in the limelight a little too much?

I’m certain Williams is pandering to the sense of novelty and mild titillation engendered by a self-confident, attractive young woman strolling into the heart of the political Establishment, effectively to give evidence against a senior royal. There is an undeniably journalistic feel to the image: Clarke poses like a latter-day red carpet celebrity for the paparazzi.

To no one’s surprise, the Duke was cleared of any personal wrongdoing and was reinstated to his command in 1811. As for Clarke – after conviction for libel over one indiscreet publication too many and jail time in 1813 – she moved first to Brussels, then to Paris. She died at Boulogne in 1852. Her life inspired a novel, Mary Anne, by her descendant Daphne Du Maurier.

The caricature by Charles Williams is available for sale:  http://jenningsprints.tumblr.com/post/135311403528/the-scandalous-woman-who-took-on-the-british

“See you at Chelsea”

September 23, 2015

I will be exhibiting che15-short-logofor the first time at The Chelsea Antiquarian Book Fair, held on November 6th – 7th at the stunning Chelsea Old Town Hall in the King’s Road, London SW3 5EE.

The Chelsea fair has become a fixture in the calendar for book and print collectors and dealers from Britain, Europe and America. Warmer than Boston, more intimate than York, less formal than Paris – Chelsea has it all. Customers return year after year to this lively and friendly event.

‘See you at Chelsea’ has become a phrase familiar to everyone in the British rare book and works on paper trade.

I look forward to meeting old friends, established clients and especially new collectors.  With Christmas around the corner, are you looking for an unusual and memorable present? Or is there a subject, artist, genre or period of history that especially attracts you?  Perhaps you are thinking of collecting books or prints but are unsure of where to start, what to look for, who to approach or what on earth I mean by half calf gilt, aquatint, or slightly foxed…

If so, come and talk to me on the Stage at the back of the Main Hall (Stand 87, you can’t miss it!).

Whether you are in the business, a collector or simply curious about rare, antiquarian and collectable books, prints, maps and ephemera, then the Chelsea Antiquarian Book Fair is not to be missed.

The Fair is Open on Friday 6th November 2pm to 7pm and Saturday 7th November 11am to 5pm.

To Find out More:  http://www.chelseabookfair.com/

For Free Tickets please click this link:  http://www.chelseabookfair.com/register-for-tickets/9e2ec72ab6aeb74beab8efce48491cbb

For a Preview of some of the Stock I will be bringing to Chelsea:  https://jenningsprints-public.sharepoint.com/SiteAssets/Bristol%20BF.pdf

Painting Paradise

March 24, 2015

Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden explores the many ways in which the garden has been celebrated in art through over 150 paintings, drawings, books, manuscripts and decorative arts from the Royal Collection.

The exhibition runs from 20th March to 11th October at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

Jan Brueghel the Elder, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, 1615

Jan Brueghel the Elder, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, 1615

The display is arranged chronologically – cleverly incorporating garden-feature props – and explores what gardens have meant to people over the centuries.

Biblical notions have permeated garden design from the outset – the word ‘paradise’ derives from the ancient Persian for an enclosed, protected space and through the book of Genesis has become intertwined with visions of the Garden of Eden.

The precedents of classical antiquity were, as one would expect, prominent in the minds of the Renaissance gardeners. A small c.1550 pen and ink and chalk drawing by an unidentified draughtsman (once attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci) is one of the first attempts in Italian Renaissance art to depict a garden accurately.  It probably shows part of a villa garden used for cultivating medicinal herbs, with regular rectangular beds.

That's me on the left!

That’s me on the left!

By way of total contrast, I particularly enjoyed the magnificently large and sweeping vista of Hampton Court rendered in oil by Leonard Knyff (1650 – 1722). The bird’s-eye prospect of the Palace perfectly exemplifies the Anglo-Dutch formality of patterned parterres and avenues fashionable at the time.

Leonard Knyff, A View of Hampton Court, c.1702-14

Leonard Knyff, A View of Hampton Court, c.1702-14

Knyff’s drawings were turned into etchings by Jan Kip, a fellow Dutchman born in Amsterdam. Kip’s series of plates known as ‘Britannia Illustrata’ were first issued in 1707 in a single volume of eighty. The distinctive views of country seats, instantly recognisable by their aerial perspective, are as much concerned with the formal landscape gardens as with the houses themselves. I myself have recently acquired the plate of Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire.

The freer style of landscaping that emerged in the 18th century, by such luminaries as William Kent and Lancelot “Capability” Brown, is well represented. This incorporated formal structures and wilderness elements. The exhibition ends with some contemporary interpretations, via the age of Victoria, the first monarch to hold garden parties at Buckingham Palace.

Well worth a visit.

Bonaparte and the British

February 17, 2015

To mark the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo – the final defeat of the brilliant French general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) – the British Museum have put together a wonderful exhibition of British and French satirical prints.

The free display runs from 5th February to 16th August and is well worth a special visit.

The period of Britain’s struggle with Revolutionary and then Napoleonic France between 1793 and 1815 coincided with the richest seam of talent for caricature that this country has ever produced.

The compositions of Charles Williams, George Moutard Woodward, Richard Newton, Thomas Rowlandson and the incomparable James Gillray combined originality, perceptive wit and considerable artistic flair. The attacks could be brutal – both in terms of the narrative and visually, with grotesquely distorted faces and forms. But in some cases the subversion of the traditional rules of draughtsmanship as laid down by the art establishment was extremely inventive and, it occurs to me, ahead of its time.

The corsican spider. In his web. Etching by Thomas Rowlandson

The Corsican Spider. In his Web. Etching by Thomas Rowlandson

The satire is complemented by more sober works and official portraiture. A collection of anonymous and very competent watercolour sketches of the battlefield are dated two days after the fighting. They bear grim testament to the savagery and scale of the slaughter on that Sunday in June 1815. The ghostly pale bodies of soldiers, stripped bare by trophy hunters, are still seen lying on the ground in of one of the drawings.

Among other printed material on show is this poster advertising a reconstruction of Admiral Nelson’s great victory over a French fleet on the Mediterranean coast off Egypt in August 1798.

Charles Dibdin, the theatre manager at Sadler’s Wells in London’sAN01514979_001_l Islington, installed a water tank and attracted large patriotic crowds, their morale perhaps needing a boost as Napoleon’s victorious progress across the Continent continued.

It features a wood engraving of the French flagship L’Orient exploding at its centre.

Accompanying cabinets of curios include a group of metallic souvenirs collected by none other than Lord Byron from the field of Waterloo during his visit in 1816 – soldiers’ decorations etc.

On a totally unrelated subject, I was pleased to observe that prints were accorded their rightful prominent place in the decorative schemes of several room-recreations at the Geffrye Museum, during a recent visit. Next time you find yourself in east London’s trendy Hoxton do pop in!

Drawing room, 1870 at The Geffrye Museum

Drawing room, 1870 at The Geffrye Museum

Witches and wicked bodies

January 13, 2015

A very Happy New Year to all my subscribers!

On Sunday I managed to catch the final day of the ‘Witches and wicked bodies’ exhibition at the British Museum.

The bulk of the display is prints and drawings from the BM collection, supplemented by loans from the V&A, the Ashmolean in Oxford, Tate Britain, the British Library and an unnamed private collector.

Agostino Veneziano fl.1509-1536)  The Witches' Rout

Agostino Veneziano fl.1509-1536) The Witches’ Rout

The gallery was packed with visitors – some decidedly ‘gothic’ in appearance – who enjoyed extraordinary imagery from classical Greece (some decorated pottery was included) through to the Pre-Raphaelites.  Between sets of shoulders I glimpsed a high quality selection of artistic responses to evil, the occult and that which lies beyond the understanding of men.

Beyond the understanding of men, yes – but perhaps not necessarily of women. A fear of the potentially malevolent power of women over men forms a continuous thread through the centuries, no doubt revealing a male anxiety to maintain the patriarchal order of western society.

The Renaissance works I found particularly striking, possessed as they are of remnants of the medieval imagination and lacking the contrivances of more modern periods – this was after all a time when witchcraft and sorcery were real concerns, so to speak, in people’s daily lives.

Castiglione's Circe changing Ulysses's men into beasts, etching c.1650

Castiglione’s Circe changing Ulysses’s men into beasts, etching c.1650

Giovanni Battista Castiliglione‘s Circe encapsulates female indifference to the sufferings of men as she nonchalantly surveys the companions of Ulysses whom she has somewhat casually turned into various animals.

A group of witches from Goya's Los Caprichos series, 1799 etching

A group of witches from Goya’s Los Caprichos series, 1799 etching

The fluid and sinuous style of Francisco de Goya was uniquely suited to depictions of grotesque bodies doing grotesque deeds, and this exhibition could not have been contemplated without a smattering of his etchings.

Artists of the Romantic period and into the 19th century saw traditions of witchcraft through the filter of literature and drama. I did enjoy reacquainting myself with Henry Fuseli’s 1785 mezzotint ‘Wierd Sisters from Macbeth’ – a print that has been through my hands – the three hags with their craggy, hairy, very masculine profiles.

Fuseli's Wierd Sisters

Fuseli’s Wierd Sisters, 1785

In a previous post I featured George Scharf (1788-1860), a Bavarian-born watercolourist and lithographer of topographical views, natural history subjects and contemporary London life. He fought with the British Army at Waterloo and settled in London in 1816 (‘In appreciation of George Scharf‘, 29/04/2009).

I was delighted to acquire a c. 1817 lithograph by Scharf for my stock recently – more precisely, three lithographs on one sheet.

Two are views of the Maidenhead Inn which stood on Dyott Street, London WC1, in what was the notorious St. Giles slum; the third image (lower right) shows the remains of the Manor of Totten Hall, otherwise known as Tottenham Court. It stood at the present junction of Euston, Hampstead and Tottenham Court Roads, not far from Euston station.


According to Rowland Dobie’s ‘History of the United Parishes of St Giles in the Fields and St George Bloomsbury’ (1829) by the early nineteenth century the Maidenhead had become established as a “liquor-shop and public-house of the vilest description, and the haunt of beggars and desperate characters”. By the time Dobie was writing, the inn and its immediate surroundings had been demolished and the land turned into a stone yard under the control of the parish. It seems that the Totten Hall – this remaining building (once part of a larger complex) is identified as ‘King John’s Palace’ in some contemporary book plates – was also pulled down around this time.

So it seems that both buildings disappeared shortly after Scharf made this print, almost certainly from his own drawings. Social and architectural historians of London are in his debt.

Scharf’s prints always have their own, almost indefinable, idiosyncrasies. In this humble lithograph one senses the authenticity and immediacy of the original sketches that inspired it.

I really think that lithography, more than any other medium of printmaking, is suited to depicting architecture, and particularly stone structures. Something to do with the vaguely grainy quality of the image, reflecting the texture of most building stone? And after all, a lithograph was traditionally created from a block of limestone.

I was this morning invited, along with other arts/heritage bloggers, to preview the Royal Childhood exhibition at Buckingham Palace as part of a visit to the State Rooms, before they open to the general public for the summer season tomorrow.

A privilege to be able to wander through the gilded opulence of Nash’s theatrical interiors in select company, unhindered by hordes of the great unwashed. In fact the very polite and helpful staff in their smart uniforms considerably outnumbered the visitors.

A pity that the exterior of the Queen’s London residence – a somewhat austere and faintly institutional-looking building I always think – gives no hint of the lavish warmth and gaiety that greets the visitor within. But that’s by the by.

The exhibition itself didn’t spark much interest personally – a couple of displays of toys, family gifts and childhood outfits, padded out with photographs and film footage of royal kiddies, centred on the ballroom. A lot of smiling Will and Kates posing with little George, for the tourists.

The only item I could find of mild interest to the bibliophile or ephemerist was the below invoice addressed to Queen Victoria from bookseller, publisher and photographer Joseph Cundall (1818-1895), of 12 Old Bond Street.


His bill, dated 1845, itemises exclusively children’s books, for the royal progeny.

Cundall traded from addresses in Old and New Bond Streets (in collaboration with others) in the course of an illustrious career in the book and photographic arts, before accepting the post of supervisor of publications at the South Kensington Museum (later the V&A) in 1866.

He specialised in children’s illustrated books and in the later 1840s became increasingly interested in the photographic possibilities of illustration. He was a founder member of the Royal Photographic Society of London.


So how did I fare on my debut at the UK’s premier antiquarian book fair last month?


Well the answer is… not badly at all.  Certainly I am glad I took what seemed to be something of a gamble. I covered my costs and made a little extra besides, met some new contacts – several cricket collectors in particular – and, not least, gained some valuable insights and experience.

The opening day of this three-day annual fixture in the bibliophile’s calendar (a Thursday) was successful, my stand busy throughout. The following two days, as I knew they would, tailed off quite dramatically, in terms of both sales and visitors to my stand.


I got wildly differing reactions from almost every exhibitor I talked to; I’ve learnt that the fair experience as a seller is a very personal one, dependant entirely upon individual circumstances. Trying to measure one’s comparative success or failure against the reports of one’s peers is a fruitless exercise in this situation.  I can only judge results against my own expectations.

Total visitor numbers through the doors of Olympia’s National Hall over the three days were down 19% on the 2013 edition; the total take was down by 18%. The average take per exhibitor was, as you would expect, also down, by 15%.

The dates booked (22nd – 24th May), a Bank Holiday weekend with school Half Term looming, were less than ideal perhaps, but they were the only dates available at the venue.

Interestingly, the three-day median take was UP fractionally on 2013. This seems to reinforce a trend in recent years of a buoyant “top end” of the antiques market, which seems to have rebounded more strongly than ever after the initial economic shock of 2008. Certainly the middle-tier plate books – tomes once considered the staples of a private library – are struggling to sell.


My sporadic bursts of intense activity between quieter periods contrasted somewhat with the steady stream of visiting trade and collectors paying their respects to my stand-mate, a dealer in early Continental books of some years standing. Watching these knowledgeable visitors – some clearly longstanding friends as much as customers – scour his shelves was instructive and actually a little humbling.

There is simply no substitute for international networks built up over the course of many years, and the building of what some might call a “personal brand” – or simply a reputation for integrity.

I have much to learn and a lot of work – and networking – to do. But I’m glad I did Olympia 2014.