Thomas Bush Hardy artist

We visit an artist known as a marine artist. #ThomasBushHardy (1842-1897) was born in Sheffiel, England. Amazingly, he was mostly self taught and even so he is regarded as one of the finest marine water-colourist.

The watercolour in my collection has little to do as a marine painting. It is a view of Beaugency in the Loire Valley in France and hence the water in the image is the Loire River. We stand on the river bank and look along the 12th century stone bridge (it has 26 arches) toward the village. We see the tower of the Eglise Norte Dame and the Tower of Caesar, Place Dunois. The four bells of Saint-Fermin bell tower play the Orleans, Beaugency, Norte-Dame de Clery, Vendome. A tune you will be whistling soon after your arrival here.

An important place, historically, as it was a main crossing point on the Loire River. Joan of Arc led her French troops in defeating the English here in 1429.

The watercolour is signed, titled, and dated on the lower left and here we will take note of the year in which this was painted. It reads 1897. This might have been the last work which Hardy created since he died in 1897.

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David Cox the Elder

The Today, we visit an English landscape painter known for being one of the most important members of the ‘Birmingham School‘. We visit #DavidCox the Elder (1783-1859). Cox studied in Birmingham and started his working career painting miniatures. From there he progressed to painting backdrop scenes for theatres. This brought him to London, where he decided to turn professional. Cox’s talents peaked around 1841. His works were a precursor to Impressionism. He simplified his works by decreasing detail and combining it with abstraction. Cox used this generalisation to focus on the overall effect of the work. Cox painted with a boldness and pushed the boundaries of technique leading to the later impressionist.

This step into something new can be seen in the second artwork shown – #EtonCollege. Here we see the lack of detail – the slight abstraction of the image – the reliance on the overall effect to produce a satisfactory artwork. The first work shown uses less abstraction but does show Cox’s concern with the depiction of light, atmosphere, and weather. Cox was known for his use of chalk as his drawing material rather than graphite and his use of a rough and absorbent ‘Scotch’ wrapping paper. Both of these assisted his development of a rougher and freer painting style.

Cox did paint in oils but he is best known for his watercolours.

The first artwork ‘Landscape near Martigny’ is attributed to David Cox while the second ‘Eton College’ is signed and titled on the verso. Two works which show the wonderful skill and artistry of a man at the acme of his skill and art.

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Van Gelder Zonen papermaker

In my collection is an etching which is today’s subject. The etching itself is a fine impression of a 19th century street scene. It is most likely a Dutch or Belgium city. Although the words on the shop front are definitely French – the picture has a Dutch feel to it. It is expertly etched with good tonal difference and architectural/perspective accuracy. Other than the image there is no clue as to whom the artist is. But that is not today’s consideration.

I wish to look at the watermark which lies in the bottom right corner. Like most watermarks, they are invisible until the paper is backlit. We also find the letters ‘olland in the top right corner. I take it that the ‘H’ has been cut off. So the paper is from a Dutch paper mill.

As you can see there are no lines on the paper so it is not ‘laid paper. It appears to be rag paper. Rag paper was hand-made in trays (up to 48″ x 60″) by workers in factories. When looked at closely, it is very fibrous. This would mean the paper is certainly 19th century or earlier. From the early 1880s, most paper being made came from wood pulp – except for specialty papers.

The watermark is for #VanGelderZonen – paper makers in Holland since 1685. The company closed in 1982 after going through several re-formations. The Van Gelder’s became the owners of the paper mills in 1783. They had four factories – Wormer, Velsen, Apeldoorn, and Renkum. Most often seen of their watermarks is their name ‘Van Gelder Zonen’ which first appeared in 1845.

This brings us a bit closer to identifying the artist. It gives us a bit more context and a narrowing of the timeline in which I need to look.

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Chinese Rose Medallion

In the few pieces of porcelain I have collected there is a piece of #rosemedallion from China. It was most likely made around 1830 to 1840 for the European export market. The classic Rose Medallion decoration usually includes a number of panels painted (depending on the size and shape of the piece) with depictions of people, birds, and flowers. The predominant colours being green, pink, blue, yellow, black, and gilt. You, of course, will notice that my piece was broken and has been repaired. Repairs were once done quite differently than today with our modern adhesives.Repairs to such things as porcelain were not easy. So, repairs were done to items which were valuable in some sense. The tools used would have been similar to dentist tools. A small drill, diamond sparks, metal files, pliers, hammer, wire, solder, plaster, and cement. Tiny holes were drilled into the porcelain (not completely through) and staples would be inserted after a fine layer of plaster or cement was placed onto the broken edges. Repairs were done this way because until our epoxy resin adhesives were invented all adhesives were made of natural materials and thusly water soluble.

This type of repair looks, to our eyes, quite crude but by doing it this way it ensured that the repaired crockery would withstand the regular cycle of use and washing up required by any item of tableware in the kitchen.

This piece was once a loved member of a dining set. To be repaired as it has been shows the value it held to its’ then owner. I know it can be repaired, today, to the extent that you would not know it had been broken if you were not told. But I think their is an argument for keeping it as it is and not mending it.

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Chinese Scrimshaw

Since we have been in the Far East for a number of the past few chapters, I thought we might look at something that is more folk art from there. #Scrimshaw is the art of carving or engraving on bone or ivory.

It was originally practiced by sailors who carved whale bone to make crude tools. In their leisure time they carved pieces as artworks and less utile objects. Whale bone is ideal for carving as it is easy to work and was plentiful in years past. Sailors used rough needles which would likely have been used to mend sails. Often the etched images would be rubbed with candle black/soot/tobacco juice or ink to bring the etching into view. Today, scrimshanders (those who work with bone and ivory) use fine tools derived from dental instruments to work their etchings/carvings and even ink their pieces in various colours.

We often think about ivory when talking about scrimshaw. Trade in ivory is – on the most part – illegal, today. Pieces which might come up for sale need to be antique. Often, people will donate their pieces to a museum to avoid any hassle.

Scrimshaw is often found as part of jewellery whether bracelet, necklace, or brooch.

My collection has two small water buckets which are decorated with scrimshaw.

As far as I can tell, the scrimshaw is bone not ivory and the pieces are definitely old. They stand 5 1/4″ (135mm) and are 2 1/2″ (64mm) in diameter. Each rectangular piece of scrimshaw is roughly 1″ (25mm) by 1 1/4″ (33mm). Alas, one rectangular piece was missing when I acquired the small buckets. Even so, nice pieces.

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Chinese Snuff Bottle

I thowught we might return to China and look at something which was made to carry snuff or powdered tobacco. Snuff was considered as a remedy for common illnesses such as colds, flu, headaches and even stomach upset (smoking tobacco was illegal). The Chinese carried their snuff in small bottles – the Europeans used small ornate boxes.

Snuff bottles were made to fit in the palm of ones hand. Easy to carry and small enough to not be overly noticeable when being carried. Snuff bottles were made from a variety of materials – porcelain, jade, ivory, wood, rhinoceros horn, tortoise shell, ceramic and metal – but the most used was glass. The stopper usually had a small spoon attached.

Snuff bottles were decorated with paintings or carvings. The better the quality of the artwork the more valuable the bottle. The artwork was so good at times that one dare not use the snuff bottle lest one damage the artwork. Inside painted are bottles which bear pictures and often calligraphy on the inside surface of the glass. Usually the image is only one to two inches tall and is painted through the neck of the bottle in reverse. A very skilled artist might complete a simple scene in a week, something special in a few months but something truly fine and intricate only 3 or 4 in a year.

The #snuffbottle in my collection has painted on it – a buildings entrance or gateway on one side and a person in a hut on the other. Foliage flows around the bottle and birds can be seen on both sides. It stands just over 3″ (76mm – with stopper in) and 3/4″ (18mm)wide. It has a tourmaline stopper with a gold metal strip and a tiny gold spoon attached. A nice piece and very finely paintings ed.

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Edwin La Dell lithographer

The art of lithography – printing with stones – was invented in 1796. The stone would have a image drawn onto it using wax, oil or fat. An acid would then be applied etching the non-protected (untreated) parts of the stone. These roughened areas would retain moisture when next wetted. The oil-based ink then applied would adhere to the original drawing only – being repelled by the water in the etched areas. The stone is then pressed onto paper and the ink is transferred from stone to paper producing a printed page.

Originally, stone or metal plates were used for lithography but in modern lithography flexible plastic or metal plates are used. Colour lithography appeared in the 1890’s and was often used in the production of posters to promote artists works. With the ability to copy artworks there arose a need for limited editions so that artists could control the price and value of their artworks.

#EdwinLaDell (1914-1970) was a British printmaker, lithographer, illustrator and painter. Edwin’s early tutelage was at the Sheffield School of Art – a scholarship brought him to study at the Royal College of Art under John Nash. La Dell eventually became head of the Department of Lithography at the College. He was a war artist creating public murals and camouflage but his fame came from his post-war works – lithographs created for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, for the School Prints scheme, and his own series featuring Oxford, Cambridge, Kent and New York.

I came across a set of three prints, not long ago. They just happen to be of a favourite place of mine – Cambridge. The three show King’s College from the Backs, punting at Clare Bridge, and the Great Gate of Trinity College. All these lithographs display La Dell’s fine artistic eye and a man at the peak of his artistry. The last image is also in my collection – Fishing at Marlow- was created as part of the Lyons Tea Rooms series.

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Norwegian Art

Today, we visit a country not truly known as being a centre of the arts. Norwegian art is mostly grouped together with the other Scandinavian countries under the name Nordic Art. For most of Norways artistic history, it has been influenced by Denmark, Germany and Holland and after WWII by the USA art scene. Norwegian Art came into its’ own in the 19th century mostly through the efforts of its’ landscape painters and later through Impressionism and Realism later. For most people, Edvard Munch would be considered Norways greatest artist but there were fine artists before him.

Among them were Johann Christian Dahl, Johannes Flintoe, Adolph Tidemand, and Kitty Kielland (an early female painter).

The two small oils are winter #landscapes. One showing two remote buildings in the wintry hills and the other a lakeshore in the cold of winter. They are painted by Nini #Arntzen (I think that is what the first name reads – more confident about the last name) and dated 1895. Both are finely rendered with a nice use of colour and tone. Nicely layered allowing the play of light and shadow to highlight and accentuate. They both could use a light clean which would brighten the colours somewhat. Even so, two small oils which come from a time in a countries emergence as an artistic centre in the genre from which it began – landscapes of the country itself. The heart and soul of #Norway.

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Qianlong Ch’ien-Lung

I recently came across, what I think are two very fine #Chinese vases. They are not very large, standing only 5 5/8″ (142mm) and 2 1/8″ (54mm) in diameter. Often, I see pieces which are, for me, poorly painted – feel wrong in weight and shape but this pair seemed to tick the right boxes for me.

Both vases bear a seal on the base which reads #qianlong nian zhi ch’ien-lung. This mark was used from 1736-1795. Different styles of this seal were used. The seal might be written underneath the glaze in cobalt blue, or atop the glaze in various enamels (iron red, pale blue, or black). It may even be written in gilt, incised or impressed into the base.

The #Qianlong Emperor was the sixth ruler of the Qing dynasty. He was a man who was fascinated with collecting and preserving the Confucian culture. He did this by using any means necessary to acquire the great private collections and integrate these treasures into the imperial collection. The emperor’s demand for truly high quality porcelain (both artistic and utile) meant that the Qianlong period was the epitome of pottery creation in China.

Both vases feature horses galloping and cavorting amidst trees and flowering shrubs. They, also display a verse of poetry with a poets seal. I find the skill in the use of the enamels to be quite fine and the colouring and shading to be very expertly executed.

Items like these were also made or copied during a period from 1911 to 1949 (called the Republic era). I am not qualified to say which but often the copies quality of artwork is lacking. Whether they are old or more recent they remain two small but very beautiful vases.

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The Thomas Viaduct or Latrobe’s Folly

Today, we look at a small pen and ink drawing which I came across this past week. It is a landscape in which the focus is a viaduct but amazingly this viaduct is not found here in England but in the USA.

The #ThomasViaduct crosses the #Patapsco River and Valley and its’ construction was finished in 1835. At that time, it was the first and largest multi-span masonry railroad bridge in the US – to be built on a curve!! It now is the world’s oldest multiple arched stone railroad bridge still in use.

The viaduct is 612 feet (187 m) long with each individual arch roughly 58 feet (18 m) in span. The top of the arches are roughly 59 feet (18 m) from the water below. The width at the top is a little over is 26 feet (8 m). The bridge is built of Maryland granite ashlar (finely dressed/worked stone) – also known as Woodstock granite – sourced from local quarries. It also has an added pedestrian wooden floored footpath supported by cast iron brackets.

In the drawing , you can see a 15 foot (5m) obelisk (left side between trees) which names the builder, the architect, the directors of the railway and others, as well as the dates of commencement (1833) July 4th and completion(1835) July 4th.

At the time of construction, many doubted that it would even hold its’ own weight. Thusly its’ nickname of #Latrobe’sFolly (after Benjamin Latrobe II the designer) but it proved all doubters wrong and since has survived the great flood of 1868 as well as Hurricane Agnes in 1972 (two floods which wiped out the Patapsco valley and nearly everything in their paths).

This magnificent structure was critical in the American Civil War as it was the only supply line into Washington DC and therefore heavily guarded against sabotage.

This little drawing might be the oldest image of the viaduct existing. I have seen online an etching done in 1858 which shows a view from much the same perspective (I date mine earlier than the engraving only by the size of the tree in the top left corner of the images). I have not found any information regarding an American – W H Radford. I have seen information regarding a William Radford (1817-1897) and his son William Harold Radford, engineer-bridge masters , specialists in bridge construction who lived in England but they seem to have no connection to bridges in the US.

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