A Closer Look: Discovering the story of William Hogarth’s Before and After by Zoe Dostal

During the Print Room Open House ‘Storylines’, from 25-29 January, postgraduate Print Room Assistants are presenting artworks that explore the variety of methods artists use to tell a story. When preparing my own presentation for William Hogarth’s engravings Before and After, I additionally wanted to consider the ‘story’ of the physical object itself. Kate Edmondson, Conservator of Works on Paper for the Courtauld Gallery, guided my exploration of the objects’ histories from the fabrication of the paper to the application of the ink, through the hands of collectors and conservators to storage and display at The Courtauld.

Hogarth Before

William Hogarth (1697 – 1764), Before (1736), etching and engraving

Hogarth After

William Hogarth (1697 – 1764), After (1736), etching and engraving

Before and After are generally in very good condition, yet small irregularities or imperfections provide clues to the making of the prints. ‘Raking light’ is one of the conservator’s simplest and most useful tools. Simply shining light across the paper at a low angle reveals the texture of the paper and medium, details that are generally imperceptible to the naked eye. Examining Before in raking light reveals a raised vertical line extending from the top edge of the paper towards the center of the image. My first instinct was to assume that this was a tear or accidental fold. But Kate determined that because the ink is neither interrupted nor distorted, as it would be by a tear or fold, this mark is actually a natural crease resulting from the paper making process.

Vertical crease

Detail of vertical crease in normal reflected light

Vertical crease 2

Detail of raised vertical crease in normal raking light

A more noticeable blemish on Before is located just above the dog’s head, on the skirt of the female figure. This small, round, bare patch at first appears to be the result of damage. However, examining the mark under the stereomicroscope, Kate deduced that this imperfection occurred during the printing process. The outline of ink that delineates the bare spot tells the story of how the raised surface of an accretion, or an unknown foreign body, disrupted the application of the inked design and caused the ink to pool. (Imagine rainwater pooling around the bottom of a hill, creating a ring of water around the base.) It was likely that the accretion was sitting on the surface of the paper as it was pressed to the printing plate. Today the accretion is no longer there, leaving the small, un-inked circular patch.

Skirt

Close up detail of missing media lower centre of skirt

Furthermore, raking light reveals that After was previously folded in half across the middle. Kate explained that such a strong fold such as this is difficult to completely remove because paper retains an irrevocable ‘memory’ of such deformations. But one way to try and reduce its visual distraction is to apply a repair on the verso along the fold to “ease” out the noticeable ridge. In this case a Japanese paper (a strong, lightweight, translucent paper) was applied with conservation grade adhesive across the whole of the verso. The Japanese paper lining tells the most recent story of the prints, when they became part of The Courtauld’s collection and were prepared for display. The conservation efforts minimize the visibility of the imperfections of the print for the viewer, but are also completely reversible, allowing for the story of the object to continue evolving in the future.

After in normal

After in normal reflected light

After in raking

After in raking light revealing horizontal fold across the middle

To discover these stories and more of Hogarth’s Before and After, all are welcome to stop by the Print Room Open House on Wednesday 27 January from 1:30-5pm.

Print openings

Don’t Miss the Next Open House Week! (January 25-29, 2016)

The fourth installment of our Prints and Drawings Open House, entitled Storylines, begins on Monday, January 25th!

For one week only, the Courtauld Prints and Drawings Study Room Assistants will be presenting a selection of some of the most striking drawings and prints from the Gallery’s rich collection of works on paper. The aim of this Open House is to highlight the role of prints and drawings as storytellers and explore the different ways in which biblical, literary and mythological tales, as well as lived historical events, are narrated in graphic media from the Renaissance to the twentieth century.

Between 1.30pm and 5pm every day this week our doors will be open without any appointment necessary, and each work will be on display for one day only.  Our friendly Print Room Assistants will introduce their selected prints and drawings to the public and will be on hand to discuss them and answer questions. The students and gallery visitors are warmly invited to drop by to see these rarely displayed works, learn more about the devices which artists use to tell stories visually, and engage in a lively discussion which these works will undoubtedly facilitate.

This Monday (January 25th), we will be starting the Open House with Michelangelo’s energetic pen and ink depiction of the central episode in the Passion, which shows Christ brought as a prisoner before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate. On Tuesday (January 26th), the Ovidian tale of Atalanta, a virgin huntress who refused to marry any of her suitors unless they could best her in a footrace, will be explored in Guercino’s large-scale Race of Atalanta. This will be followed by a pair of satirical prints, Before and After, by William Hogarth on Wednesday 27th and by Honoré Daumier’s theatrical interpretation of Molière’s comedy The Hypochondriac (Thursday 28th). The week will conclude with Henry Moore’s poignant Shelter Drawing, produced during the Second World War.

 

The following works will be the focus of each day’s session:

 

Monday (25 January): presented by Tatiana Bissolati

Open week blog Bissolati

Michelangelo (1475-1564), Christ before Pilate (c. 1516), pen and ink and red chalk on paper, D.1978.PG.422

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday (26 January): presented by Alexander J. Noelle

Guercino

Guercino (1591 – 1666), Race of Atalanta (c. 1625), pen and ink, black chalk on paper and canvas, D.1953.WF.4593

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday (27 January): presented by Zoe Dostal

Hogarth Before

William Hogarth (1697 – 1764), Before (1736), etching and engraving, G.1990.WL.2005

Hogarth After

William Hogarth (1697 – 1764), After (1736), etching and engraving, G.1990.WL.2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday (28 January): presented by Camilla Pietrabissa

Honore

Honoré Victorin Daumier (1808-1879), Le Malade imaginaire (The Hypochondriac) (c. 1850), black chalks, black ink wash, watercolour and touches of bodycolour with pen and point of the brush in brown and black-grey ink on laid paper, D.1934.SC.113

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday (29 January): presented by Bryony Bartlett-Rawlings

Henry

Henry Spencer Moore (1898 – 1986), Shelter Drawing (1942), charcoal and watercolour on paper, D.1982.LB.15

Capture the Scottish Skies at The Courtauld Shop

Capture the Movements of the Scottish Sky at The Courtauld Gallery Shop: Behind the scenes with Scottish designer, Kirsteen Stewart.

Kirsteen Stewart opened her boutique and studio in her hometown of Kirkwall in 2009.  Her designs are inspired by her native surroundings and convey the strong relationship she has with her upbringing.  The Nimbus Scarf and Nimbus Bag are reflective of the powerful influence nature can have on artistic realisation, and are currently available in shop or online courtauldshop.com.

Kirsteen_2DSC04625880859 Kirsteen Stewart Nimbus Scarf

Q&A with Kirsteen Stewart

CL: Do you feel a strong connection with your Scottish heritage and how does it reflect in your work?

KS: For me, Scotland is a fundamental inspiration for my work and print designs: Having grown up in Orkney and now with my studio and shop here, the weather, our landscape, skies and nature surround and inspire me.  I see the unpredictable and wild aspects of these themes and respond in terms of movement, scale and bold colours.  I don’t think the world around me is gentle and sweet – if you’ve experienced a storm in Orkney you will understand!  As for heritage I come from a long line of makers and these traditions have been passed down to me.  I use these traditions and my heritage but in a contemporary way.

CL: What is the inspiration behind the Nimbus Scarf and Nimbus Bag?

KS: This is part of the Scottish Skies series.  A study of the land, the sea, the sky, the vastness and the ever-changing colours.  I am in awe of the ephemeral nature of the light, colours and formations.

CL: Do you ever dream of living in a place with a sunnier climate? If so, why? If not, why?

KS: Oh yes, every January!  No, to be honest I love the heat but there is something magical about our summers; how it barely gets dark, the everlasting days, the light and the calm. This makes up for the wildness and harshness of our winters. The seasons are in such direct and fundamental opposition.

CL: I know you enjoy traveling very much, do you have a favourite past destination that particularly influenced your work?

KS: I love travelling from my home, which is very rural, to the city lights; flying over cities is breath taking.  I am just back from Japan and spent most of my time on the night flight looking down over the interlocked cities of China.  The lights make such an intricate pattern like lace over the landscape.  I love imaging what’s going on down below.

CL: What fashion houses did you work at in New York and what was it like? Was there any particular experience that made a lasting impression on you affecting your approach to fashion design?

KS: I love New York, it was such a great place to live and a wonderful experience.  I worked for Elizabeth Powell Leather a small independent company, and for GAP.  It was great to work at companies at opposite ends of the scale. I loved the American can-do attitude, which is very different from the more cautious conservative attitude I see around me in the North of Scotland.  I definitely embraced that!

CL: Can you tell me a little about the print line that is produced in Britain and Italy? Why did you choose those places for production sites?

KS: The fabrics I wanted to work with for the collection sadly weren’t available in Scotland, so I sourced the best possible in Italy and the wider UK. My suppliers have been brilliant to work with and the quality is just perfect.

CL: How do you spend your free time?  Any particular interests?

KS: Like most Orcadians I spend as much time outside in the summer as possible, I surf, I horse ride and I walk.  Total freedom.

CL: What are your plans for the future?

KS: 2016 is going to be exciting.  At the start of the year I am going to Boston, London and Japan.  So lots of travelling, meeting and working with new people, making new connections and of course furthering my collections.  I can’t wait to get started

Honouring John House: A Selection of 19th-century French Prints

G.2012.xx.14G.2012.xx.14

Léon Augustin Lhermitte (1844-1925), The Fish Market at Saint Malo, 1882

Léon Augustin Lhermitte (1844-1925), The Fish Market at Saint Malo, 1882

John House (1945-2012) was many things: an internationally respected authority on Impressionism, a curator of landmark exhibitions including Post-Impressionism at the Royal Academy (1979), Renoir (1985) and Landscapes of France (1995) at the Hayward Gallery, and an eloquent, inspiring and generous teacher to generations of students at the University of East Anglia, University College London and, for more than twenty-five years, at The Courtauld Institute of Art.

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While John is best known and remembered as a scholar of Impressionism and especially of the work of Monet, one of the hallmarks of his scholarship and his teaching was his embrace of nineteenth-century art in its entirety, in all its dazzling and occasionally bewildering variety. He insisted that the innovations of the avant-garde could only truly be understood in the context in which they arose, and his students will recall lectures and museum visits introducing scores of once-acclaimed, now-forgotten stars of the Salon; tours of Paris churches and public buildings to view contemporary frescoes; and insights into the arcane practices and systems that governed the exhibition and reception of art, alongside the making and breaking of artistic reputations.

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I was one of those fortunate students, and I selected the current Print Room display of nineteenth-century French prints to honour John’s memory and pay tribute to his wide-ranging interests. One of these enduring interests was the evolution of the official art world in Paris, centred on the annual Salon. Exhibiting there could make or break an artist’s reputation, but it was noted for its conservatism, and as the century progressed artists began to against its strictures. An etching by Léon Bonnat after his own painting of Jacob Wrestling the Angel (1876) illustrates the sort of grand history painting that had long been deemed acceptable at the Salon, while a later etching by Léon Lhermitte of a fish market at Saint-Malo shows the inroads scenes of everyday life had made into the Salon by the 1890s. Two pages of Adolphe Martial-Potémont’s extraordinary Illustrated Letter on the Salon of 1865 offer a glimpse into the way paintings were displayed there: cheek by jowl, the polar opposite of today’s spacious hangs.

G 2012 XXX 3

A selection of etched artists’ portraits highlights a more intimate, less formal but no less important aspect of the Paris art world: the friendships that sprang up among artists and bound them together. Adolphe Lalauze’s portrait of the renowned printmaker Félix Bracquemond shows the artist in middle age, at the height of his success. Bracquemond’s own portrait of Alphonse Legros was made three decades earlier, when both men were closely involved in the resurgence of etching as an art form. Legros himself later moved to London and taught drawing and etching at the Slade School of Art. His sensitive portrait of fellow artist George Frederick Watts (1817-1904) was made during one of his classes as a demonstration for his students; the time constraints of the class dictated his focus on Watts’s face, with the outlines of his clothing barely sketched in.

The display, along with rest of collection of works on paper, can be viewed by visitors to the print room. As well as offering visits by appointment the Print Room is open for drop-in session every Wednesday during term time from 13.30-16.00.

Final Chapter

 

Well, my experience at The Courtauld has been fantastic — but it’s flown by so fast!  Before I do anything else, I want to thank Dr. Alexandra Gerstein for her support and mentorship through these past few months.  The Courtauld Gallery staff in general are an amazing group of people to work for, and it’s been an absolute privilege to have had this opportunity to contribute in my own small way to the work of the museum.

My object a book shaped pendant with painted-glass panels depicting religious scenes – was installed in the gallery this morning, and it looks great!  It was amazing to see everything come together so well at the end, including the beautiful labels and plinth, which I hadn’t really been able to picture until today. We were a little concerned about how such a tiny pendant would look in a large case, but I think we made very good use of the space by printing out high-resolution images of the glass panels and putting them on the plinth.  This helps the viewers see the object better and made the space feel warmer.

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When I chose this object way back in July, I definitely did not anticipate all the challenges it would bring. It’s an object that doesn’t yield easy answers, that’s a little mysterious—but this is something we theologians love!  Even now, after five months of researching, consulting experts, and reflecting on the pendant, it still keeps its secrets.

Just a final comment on the research process — one of the highlights of my experience has been speaking with and learning from experts in the fields of art history and curatorial research.  Toward the beginning of my research, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Ayla Lepine, Lecturer in Art History at the University of Essex and an expert in Victorian aesthetics, who actually helped me select my object.  I was also very pleased to meet with Kirstin Kennedy, a curator of metalwork at the Victoria and Albert Museum, on several occasions; her insight on the object helped me probe much more deeply into the questions the object raises.  Finally, I was “serendipitously” (thank you, Google) able to track down a doctoral researcher from the University of Giessen in Germany who is currently studying book-shaped pendants from the Renaissance.  This was an amazing coincidence, and Romina was kind enough to fly to London and share her expertise with us.  Meeting these generous scholars has been a delight, and one of the experiences I will treasure from my internship is having been in a truly collaborative educational environment.  In my experience, university academia can sometimes feel resistant to this kind of collaboration, and it was refreshing to be involved in a project in which various perspectives were so vividly able to cross-fertilize and enrich my own study.