meanwhile, here is the first proof of the judge in colour-
There are shadows to add.
Meanwhile, I was rebuked yesterday for writing a piece about woodprints and not drawing a picture of Gustav Doré, (32-83) the French master.
Doré is best known for his wood engravings, but he is also well-represented in his hometown of Strasbourg by huge biblical oil paintings. He was already in print by the age of 15for the periodical “Le Journal pour rire”.
Rather disturbingly, he was involved in the illustrations for a fairly abhorrent anti-semitic “Juif Errant”.
His printed work stretches from a 1854 edition of russian images to an 1884 edition of Edgar Allen Poe’s the Raven confirm him as one of the truly great European artists. I am particularly fond of the Paradise lost in 1866, Idylls of the King in 1875 and the Dante which he was working on from 1857 to 1867. In 1876, he did a book on London which has informed most of the films set in Victorian slums and was almost literally reproduced by John Box and Terence Marsh for Caron Reed’s version of “Oliver!”
Terence Marsh, who won an academy award for the Oliver designs, indeed, was also nominated for the designs of “Scrooge” a few years’ later so he had his fill of Victoriana. John Box was the art director on the Asquith production of The Importance of Being Earnest with Joan Greenwood and Edith Evans, but he was also production designer on Lawrence of Arabia and A passage to India (in 1984)
Just getting to the point where the judge can be coloured.
The 19th Century woodcut illustration industry was very peculiar. So while Leech, Tenniel, Phiz (Halbot Knight brown), Dore and co produced very fine and very quick drawings, these were then copied by craftsmen called “woodpeckers” and turned into prints. In the case of the Punch cartoons, this process must have been accomplished in a matter of days and some of it is astoundingly complex. The best “peckers” in the business seem to have been the Dalziel brothers who worked on the Tenniel Alice illustrations of 1865 and 1871 as well as Moxon’s Tennyson poems of 1857.
The wood engraving process was different to that used in the late middle ages. The woodcut used the plank wood or side grain, and tend to be larger using bigger tools, but for Tenniel and co, the end grain was used on very hard wood (boxwood/ Buxus sempervirens, though lemonwood is also used) and the quality of detail compared favourably with copper and steel engraving or even etchings. The wooden blocks are often worked on stuffed leather pads which allow the craftsman to work at almost any angle, a bit like a modern Cintiq and the resulting block could be printed with ordinary letter-press rather than using a special printing press as in the case of steel, copper or etchings.
The wood engraving process was expensive and labour intense. Gustav Dore, for example, could not find a publisher prepared to cough up the funds to print his illustrations to the Inferno, so in 1855, he self-published the book which not only continues to be reprinted but both made him a household name and a tidy profit.
There were cheaper and quicker processes available. The Voltaic press (electrotyping) allowed for a greater print-run but the same woodblock seems to have been the starting point and litho-prints allowed for colour but until the late 19th Century had very limited print runs. The photomechanical systems introduced by 1893, the year Tenniel was knighted, pretty well destroyed the woodprint industry overnight.
Our “Trial by Jury” images try to nod towards the style of the “woodpeckers” and accordingly I have been “inbetweening” crosshatching effects. It demonstrates how time-consuming and effective was the original craft.
I am about to compère a concert of G&S favourites. I was writing some programme notes and started to draw- the first three pictures are my copies of original photos and the two pictures that follow are a quick attempt to conjure up the look of Yum Yum and Mabel. Years ago, I designed a production of both the Mikado in the Playhouse in Oxford and then later a production of Pirates.
WH Smith was the original of Sir Joseph Porter whatever Gilbert might have said to Sullivan. Smith knew it and so did Disraeli who thereafter called him “Pinafore Smith”
and here are some photographs from the production of the Mikado which goes back to the early 1980s – I found a photo of the rather grand front drop but have somehow misplaced it.
Just to point out- I have not yet seen the film though it strikes me that Hugh Grant looks more like the pianist Cosme McMoon than St Clair Bayfield! I await the film with great joy! But I wanted to scribble a few thoughts first about Florence Foster Jenkins whose image I recall from reading about her in “Look and Learn” in the early 1970s, but whose voice I first heard when a friend called Gerald Dowler showed or gave me the record. It was a great pleasure. Even more so because on the flip side was a New York cabbie destroying Faust.
La Jenkins was supposedly “the worst singer of all time” (“Her singing at its finest suggests the untrammelled swoop of some great bird,”) and she drew crowds from the 1920s until her famous debut at the Carnegie hall during the 2nd World war.
“She clucked and squawked, trumpeted and quavered. She couldn’t carry a tune. Her sense of rhythm was uncertain. In the treacherous upper registers, her voice often vanished into thin air.” She had a heart attack two days after the show and died.
She was certainly eccentric, confident, hopelessly pursuing a fantasy of herself, a camp stylist with a vision that was entirely her own, and she remains an inspiration to anyone who follows a dream.
I love her determination. I am sure she would have done much of what she did even without her escort, “Whitey” St Clair Bayfield (who called her “Bunny”). She was disowned by her father after she ran off with her first husband Frank Thornton Jenkins. Frank gave her syphillis so when her hair fell out and she was forced to wear wigs. Then she badly injured her arm and could no longer play the piano. Still, she did not give up. She was supported by her mother who encouraged her daughter’s pursuit of music and society.
She may have been practically tone deaf, “the queen of dissonance”, but she had guts and determination: her line was, “people may say I can’t sing but no one can ever say I didn’t sing,” suggesting she was more aware of her failings than the stories suggest. She also had inherited buckets of money and while pursuing her own benighted career, promoted others, and, for instance, put on a series of privately funded and fully staged operas for the Euterpe Club in english during the 1st World war often in Hotels; she continued to patronise the arts generally through the Verdi club.
The picture is after one of the photographs of her in a costume she had designed especially for her to perform “the glory of the human voice”.
here she is crucifying both Bach and Pushkin and finally the Queen of the Night::