Chinese Porcelain

I certainly am not knowledgable enough in the area of Chinese porcelain and it is not something that I regularly collect but every once in a while I come across a piece that catches my eye. Such is the case with this piece of Kangxi (1662 – 1722) porcelain – I think. The blue colour is derived from cobalt oxide which is then painted onto a white clay. It then is covered by a clear glaze and baked in a kiln oven at very high temperatures. Blue and white porcelain wares appear to have their beginning in the Tang dynasty (618-907). The quality of both porcelain and artwork improved and some believe peaked during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). During the 14th century this blue and white porcelain began to be mass produced with quality being carefully monitored.

The blue and white pottery industry became more important during the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. It was at this time that it became a commodity on the international trade market and expanding to become a worldwide commodity. Blue and white wares are common to this day in daily life in forms ranging from dinner sets to vases.

And to finish a small piece made with a yellow and brown glaze with a favourite dragon image.

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Robert Scott engraver

Today, a friend from Church gave me an old bible. It was the second volume out of a set. Covers intact but some water damage had occurred to the pages. Printed in 1815 (New Testament) and 1817 for the minor prophets section from the Old Testament. This printing introduced me to #RobertScott the engraver.

Robert Scott was born in Lanark, Scotland in 1777. At the age of ten, he was articled to Andrew Robertson, an engraver in Edinburgh. His career began with book illustrations but Scott soon found his niche. Scott decided early in his career to focus on engraving because it was a more economically profitable career. Scott’s most significant works were landscapes. He engraved the illustrations to George Barrie’s History of the Orkney Islands, 1805, and to Scenery of Allan Ramsay’s Gentle Shepherd, 1808. He also for many years contributed plates to the Scots Magazine and worked with artist John Bell providing the landscape backgrounds for Bell’s Poets of Great Britain. Scott ran his own business in Edinburgh and employed numerous assistants. His publishing house was equipped for copperplate engraving, etching, mezzotinting, aquatinting, and lithography. Scott introduced the art of steel engraving to Edinburgh. He died early in 1841.

The etchings displayed here are fine examples of his artistry.

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Albert Edward, Prince of Wales

I bought a picture at a charity shop in town this week past. Nothing new there. It was old, stained, and mediocrely framed. Due to its’ condition most people would pass it by but that is just not me. So, for only a few pounds, it was mine.And now the fun begins. The shop likely did as I in looking for information on the picture. I entered the name at the bottom of the picture into the web but nothing comes up in regards to this name. It is now time to study the picture and gain clues. The first thing I discover is that what I took in the shop to be a lithographic print was actually a drawing done in charcoal with added body colour (white) and other light touches of colour.

So, discovery number one. It is an artist rendering. Next, the boy has a falcon. Falconry was an aristocratic sport when this picture was done, 1862. We might deduce from that that the young man is an aristocrat. The young man is wearing Scottish garb. Thusly either Scottish or British royalty. The tam which adorns his head is a #Balmoral ribboned and the tartan we wears could be a royal tartan although without colours I am not sure. Now, if we do suggest that the young man is a royal and possibly at Balmoral, who might he be. In 1862 that royal would have to be Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. Later to be #KingEdwardVII. He is grandfather to our present queen. I have looked at images of Albert Edward and am convinced I am correct in naming the young man pictured as #AlbertEdward,PrinceofWales. There is also a clue in the picture which may mean nothing but I think it a cheeky clue to insert. The chain which is tethering the falcon is an ‘albert’ chain.

I hope you enjoy this image and I wish I could tell you more in regards to the artist for it is a fine likeness even though stained. It has live and will continue to live a well loved life.

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The Genius of Paper

I thought I would begin this year with a short chapter on something which must be one of man’s greatest inventions. #Paper is something which we take for granted nowadays and are now limiting or trying to eradicate some of its’ uses. But paper is in so many ways a fundamental part of the arts. Paper is an amazing concept. We fold it, mould it, pierce it, print on it, paint on it, etc. The pieces which I display in this post show a number of combinations to which paper has been put to use. The first is a keepsake card/bookmark with moulded and pierced edges surrounding a printed etching. The second is another with moulded edges (far more extensive) enclosing a printed image. The final piece is one which has been embossed, impressed, pierced, cut, coloured, layered, and printed. The creation of something unique and personal. Paper an invention which changed the world and continues to influence the world of art. An amazing and versatile creation.

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A Christmas Rose – A Legend

Today is Christmas and I offer (a poor effort of poesy on my part) a tale which is known near and far.

There is a tale told from old

Two thousand years plus a number more

Of starry skies and winds blown cold

From heav’n to earth with angels by score

To shepherds appearing at dark of night

Telling of a glorious delight

Quiver and shake in dread they fear

As news of great joy rings round their state

A King is born in Bethlehem near

Why stand thus still, for time does not wait

With haste to see your King new born

And Bethlehem gain ere the morn

Our flocks to care, the young lass, we allot

Haste then we with gifts to see that which is new

To Bethl’hem we traverse and tarry not

To see our King which was told to so few

Kneel in adoration in place so low

Gifts we have not only hearts to bestow

Pensive sits she and ponders all that was brought

Then rises and runs with pace and fast

O’er hill and dale with anxious thought

She hurries on while strength does last

To see this King in Bethlehem born

Tho’ clad in rags, so rough and torn

A stable warm with ox and ass

Manger blest, and parents rest

Sweet smell of hay and breath of kine

Animals nigh, kneel before their guest

Here shepherds bow, their homage pay

Good news to men they then relay

In vain she seeks a gift from near

But naught is found for such a King

Who lies in stable sleeping without fear

Dare she enter with nothing

In despair, she searches near and far

For that which is pure and without mar

A seraph nigh, with piteous eye

Whisks with wing, the snow aside

A rose, pure, white and fair, for her to espy

And gathering close, with ox and ass beside

She gifts a ‘Christmas rose’ to the infant King

And all heav’n and earth rejoice and sing

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Dolly Varden

It is at this time of year that Dickens becomes a household name. His story ‘A Christmas Carol’ is a stalwart on television and radio with numerous productions and remakes for every following generation. It is in so many ways a timeless tale and worthy of note. But there is a good possibility that you have never heard of #DollyVarden. Dolly Varden is a young lady in Dickens’ Barnaby Rudge. #BarnabyRudge was produced by Dickens during 1840-41 in serial form. It was intended to be Dickens’ first publication in book format but due to publication problems it was actually his fifth published book. If it had been published first, he might have struggled with other books because it is considered to be his weakest effort. Barnaby Rudge is largely set during the Gordon Riots of 1780. The Gordon Riots began as an anti-Catholic protest in London against the Papist Act of 1878. The protests devolved into rioting and looting. The riots also occurred at the height of the American War of Independence and rumours ran that they were influenced by France and Spain in an attempt to weaken Britain.

The mixed method mezzotint pictured is by #SamuelWilliamReynolds (the younger) and is taken from the painting by #WilliamPowellFrith. It was etched in 1844 and published by Thomas Agnew & Sons. Dolly is described by Dickens as “the very pink and pattern of good looks, in a smart little cherry coloured mantle”. A wonderful piece added to my collection..

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Creation or Copy

I have been contemplating a question. Which is greater, an artist who creates his own image or one who copies from another? To do this I have been looking at two oil paintings in my collection. So as not to influence the argument by using known artists and their fame, the works are done by artists of little renown. We will begin with a rendering of an icon of American modern art.

Welcome to ‘Christina’s World’. The original of this study hangs in the MoMA in New York as part of it’s permanent collection. It is roughly 32″ by 47″. It was created in 1948 by Andrew Wyeth. The study which is shown here is 10″ by 13″. The fine brushwork used is superb and painstakingly precise, although some of the fine work on the original has been lost due to the reduction in size. There are also a number of minor variations in the rendering, evenso, this is a finely painted study by RC Maddison.

Now we continue with a rendering of ‘Amiens Cathedral’ by Vernon Carder done in 1970. Painted in wonderful colours with hints of Impressionism yet rooted in Realism through the architectural presentation of the cathedral and dwellings. A somewhat dreamy image. The brushwork is less specific. There is a vagueness and blending of application which lends itself to the overarching presentation of the image.

Which of these two are the greater accomplishment by the artist. Both have wonderful attributes which argue for supremacy. But does one need to come to a resolution to the question or can/should we just enjoy the art for art’s sake. I continue to ponder.

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Mughal Paintings II

Mughal paintings were generally created as miniatures either to be collated into book form or possibly as single artistic works combined into albums or folios. They originate in and around the Indian subcontinent. Emerging from the Persian miniature, the Mughal art of painting was also influenced by Indian Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism and thrived from the 16th to 18th centuries.

Mughal painting evolved by mingling or combining the Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu influences. There were artists who developed this art form even further by the application of European techniques especially those involved in the rendering of space and volume.

A rather odd thing in regards to Mughal painting is that they were usually a collaborative effort between a number of artists. The first artist would decide the overall composition, the second would paint what the first envisaged, and a third would focus on the portraiture- executing each and every face shown. Mughal art was generally secular, being illustrations to historical and/or literary works, portraits of royals and their courts, natural life and genre scenes.

Mughal era paintings began as elegant artworks displaying a richness of style and colour. Over time they became stultified. They became cold and rigid through lack of imagination and the over-copying of the first masters.

The three pieces from my collection here display the colourful and vibrant artistic style which first infused the artistic style.

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Mughal Paintings

#Mughalpaintings originate in Southern Asia at a time when that area was called Persia. They were generally created as book illustrations or as single works of art to be included into albums and flourished between the 16th and 18th centuries.

Mughal paintings concentrated on realistic portraiture, the depiction of animals, birds and plants as they really appeared. Making them, today, a tremendous source of information – historical, biological etc. The great painters of their day illustrated the Persian literary works but found that the Mughal emperors- wonderful diarists that they were – provided not only opportunity to lavishly decorate text but also illustrate their memoirs via portraits, historical events, courtly life, flora and fauna. Aside from the fact that they were well compensated for their endeavours. It was typical of Persian art to richly decorate the borders framing a central image.

The images of the Myna bird and the pair of Mallard ducks are typical of the style. The decorated border, the gold work all enclosing a central image. Even the great artworks of the time are unsigned for though we can assess who the leading artists were (through historical writings) we cannot attribute individual pieces of art to any one artist. Only a handful are actually signed in any way. There is an inscription on the image with the mallards but you will have to look closely. It resides along the bottom right corner of the central image – which makes it 1mm tall and 25mm long – and unreadable without a magnifying glass and there are two stamps on the verso of the Myna bird. I have contacted a specialist in the hopes of deciphering both inscription and stamp. Next we’ll look at three other Mughal paintings I have.

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Ohara Koson Woodblock Prints

This past week saw me add a couple of #woodblock prints to my collection. The artist is #OharaKoson (1877-1945). Koson’ history is somewhat vague. He was born Ohara Matao in Kanazawa in the province of Ishikawa and is believed to have begun his artistic studies in painting and design at the Ishikawa Prefecture. At some point he studied painting technique under Suzuki Kason. In the late 1890’s, Koson moved to Tokyo.

In Tokyo, Koson worked with a number of publishers. He concentrated on works which portrayed birds and flowers although he did produce works – triptychs- illustrating scenes from the Russo-Japanese war.

It was quite Normal for an artist to use several ‘nom de plume’ and Koson was no different. While working with publishers Akiyama Buemon and Matsuki Heikichi, his works were signed Koson. When he worked with Watanabe Shozaburo (from 1926), he became Shoson and while working with Kawaguchi, he signed as Hoson. It’s no wonder people get confused as to artists when they look at Chinese and Japanese art. It was through his association with Watanabe that Koson became popular internationally, especially in the United States. Koson produced prints until 1935 and he died in 1945 at his home in Tokyo.

The three woodblock prints I have are Crow on Cherry Tree @ 1910, Flowering Plum and Full Moon @ 1910, Badger and Bamboo in Moonlight @ 1910. They are superb examples of his technique even though they are fairly early productions in his artistic life. Koson’s depiction of birds and body details is masterful. Take note of his work on the feathers especially. They are done with meticulous care. Koson’s bird depictions are considered to be among the best in the 20th century.

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