A Century of British Painters

By Samuel Redgrave; Richard Redgrave | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
BOOK ILLUSTRATORS AND DESIGNERS

THE painter's art in its early dissemination received powerful aid from that of the engraver; and the painter and engraver stood in nearly the same relation towards each other as the poet and the painter, for Raphael and Rubens may be said to owe as much of their widespread fame to the one, as Dante and Milton to the other. Painting and engraving have also been frequently practised with success by the same individual, both on the first dawning of art here, and down to our own day. The most renowned painters also have practised etching--so peculiarly a painter's art--and dating from the discovery of mezzotint, we are repeatedly told of our painters, in the language of the last century, that 'they scraped a bit'.

Some of the earliest books printed were of a religious character, and, following the missal style, some of the first illustrations of printed books were repetitions on wood of the early illuminators' art, occasionally tinted with colour. Such were soon followed by portraitfrontispieces, sometimes surrounded by allegories. William Faithorne ( 1616-1691) drew from the life some of the many interesting portraits which we owe to his graver; so did also David Loggan ( 1630- 1693), of whom Dryden, in his satire on a would-be poet, said--

'And at the front of all his senseless plays Makes David Loggan crown his head with bays.'

Robert White ( 1645-1704) was the pupil of Loggan, and a notable example of the union of the painter's with the graver's art, in works deemed of great merit in his day, which have not lost favour in ours. These men, and their less-known contemporaries, produced portraits on copper, frequently most carefully and elaborately finished with the etching point, and as is recorded upon them 'ad vivum', which have been carefully sought out in succeeding generations by the enthusiastic art-collector and antiquary, till rare frontispieces torn from valueless books have found greedy purchasers at prices which might have stirred the artists in the graves where they have so long lain.

Coeval with the portrait-frontispiece, though commencing at a later period, were the topographical views and other subjects, chiefly stimulated by antiquarian research and usually both drawn and

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