Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Reclamation, and Reward

The painting, as I found it on ebay.

OK, here's a story that's a bit different. It's about rescue and restoration, and a whole different aspect of illustration appreciation. It's also something that will become more and more important in years to come, as so much illustration art was not regarded as worth saving in its day. Much of it was done on and with inferior materials, and a great deal of it was considered little more than the means to achieve an end (the printed product), not seen for the value it had in and of itself. Saving this art today preserves illustration history, and can make for good investment.

About two years ago, I had provided an entry on William James Aylward, 1875-1956.  In my eyes, he is one of the most overlooked gems of the Brandywine alumni. We have a lot in common; and I may be biased due to a few of those similarities—I collect his work with some serious intent, there may be only one other artist I seek out with more enthusiasm. So when I got notice that something new from Aylward had posted on ebay late last March, I expected more printed pages from Scribner's Magazine, or an illustrated copy of Jack London's The Sea Wolf. I got a pleasant surprise.

The listing was for a 16'X20" painting, signed by Aylward, and it is without a doubt, his. OK, I have a nice pencil piece by him, and recently acquired an ink sketch as well, but I hadn't thought I might be able to find a painting, at least on ebay. And it was reasonable. It was pretty dirty, definitely had seen better days, but I wondered if the sellers really knew what they had. It had a "buy it now" price, and I took it right away. They probably did know what they had, and more precisely, they knew what needed to be done. But that's what allowed me to have a chance at this piece in the first place.
A few pieces by Aylward done in a similar fashion. The two-tone work he did for Scribner's or Harper's were often small vignettes, black and orange. These are from 1918. Today, I live in Huntington Township, not far from where this scene was painted.

The sellers asked me if I was sure (odd for ebay), and cautioned me that the piece needed some restoration. I carefully looked over the images provided, and was still good with it at the price they offered. So it came. I wanted to have it cleaned up—or at least looked at—to see if I had saved something, or just let go of a small wad of cash. I called The Society of Illustrators—to ask who they used to clean up works for them. I knew this wouldn't be cheap, but If I was going to have someone look at it, I wanted it to be someone who understood this type of work, and maybe even was familiar with Aylward. They recommended Pratzon Art Restoration in Manhattan, and it could not have been a better fit. Not only was Jill Pratzon familiar with Aylward, she specializes in illustration of this sort, and had worked on some Aylward before. While the restoration was more than the painting was, the two prices together cost me about as much as I might have paid if I had found this piece in the shape it's in now, in an auction catalog. So, I went ahead, already being somewhat invested in time and money. She did a fantastic job, and now I have a sweet original painting by one of Howard Pyle's students.
Restoration—in process—photo by Jill Pratzon.

And the finished piece.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Unsung Louis Rhead

This is a return I hope that I will not need to repeat. Having been working on VIEW for over four years, I haven't needed to step away this long before—but those of you who are aware of my activities outside of VIEW, may know that I have been deep in a project over the past few months, which has all but engulfed me. I'm looking forward to getting back to VIEW much more regularly again. Here's one that's been stewing all this time.

Born into a family of ceramic artists, Louis Rhead (1857-1926) showed exceptional artistic talent early on, and was sent to study in Paris from his home in England at the age of 13. More study followed upon his return to England, and by 1881, Rhead left the family business of ceramics and began a career in publishing at Cassell in London.

The Snow Queen
Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales and Wonder Stories

Rhead was not long at Cassell before he caught the attention of a New York publishing firm, D. Appleton.  He accepted a position as art director from them, and settled down in New York where he brought an element of Parisian Art Nouveau to an eager American audience.

During the 1890’s, the poster became a popular medium, and Rhead was in a great place to take advantage of it. He became one of the leading figures of the American Art Nouveau movement, and during most of that decade his graphic work regularly appeared in association with "Century Magazine", "Harper’s" publications, and "Scribner’s", among others.

When poster work began to decline, Rhead found new direction in the growing market for book illustration—where he became a contributor in the market of children’s classics. He regularly produced volumes with tremendous amounts of line illustrations, sometimes recalling the graphic styles of his earlier poster designs. Rhead produced many memorable volumes, including Treasure Island, Robin Hood, and Robinson Crusoe.

Rhead’s second passion in life became angling.  It was not long after the turn of the century that Rhead’s artistic talent and his interest in fishing joined—and in the latter part of his career—he not only illustrated numerous books on the subject, but became an expert on it, and an author as well. Illustration centered around fishing found markets in his own books, and in the early sporting magazines of the day, such as "Outdoors", and "Field and Stream".

In 1926 it was a fishing adventure that would end Rhead’s life. After an hour-long struggle with a 30-pound snapping turtle, Rhead landed the turtle, but the strain proved too much for him; he suffered a heart attack. Two weeks later a subsequent heart attack ended his life, at age 68.
King Arthur and His Knights
Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales and Wonder Stories

Sunday, January 27, 2013

There be Dragons

A Changing of the Guard

Although my life is steeped in books, I try to not rely on "book review" type of columns for this blog. Once in a while I encounter a volume special and unique, and it can't be helped. This tale—however—marks a transition of sorts, and that change is almost as worthwhile a discussion (although another one all together) as the art that brought it to my attention.

But first, this new batch of art. A few years back a portfolio of naturalist-type plates was brought to my attention at Dover Publications. They were big plates, nearly 30 of them, and in a wide range of color. (Chromalithographs, not process color)  From 1896-1909. Some incredible fish, crustaceans, and birds. The real surprise was that there were dragons. Worked in, right with all this terrific real world stuff, were a nice range of different types of dragons with an Art Nouveau flair. Killer stuff, really.

Finding info about the artist, Anton Seder (1850-1916), isn't easy. He was from Munich, and did a number of botanical and zoological plate sets, some in conjunction with other artists. in 1890 he became the Director at The College of Decorative Arts in Strasbourg (France or Germany, depending on the period) for twenty-six years(?). One has to wonder what inspired the addition of the fantasy element in this set, but it's very refreshing for the period. (a nice bunch of decorative samples)


OK. But that's not the transition I'm talking about.
The difference here, is that the set was released by Dover last month, but only in digital form. You can get it in all it's hi-res glory, for just a few bucks, but it's not in print.

If you are not aware, Dover is selling it's image libraries online now, by page or by collection. As you might expect, all of its clip art that has been available on disc, is now available there. But now, new material, never before available, including Anton Seder's Dragons (& company) is available as well. And new collections will be added constantly. So if you enjoy digging through images of all kinds (If you didn't, you wouldn't be here) keep an eye on

The site is still in development, but improvements are happening constantly. If you have a suggestion for the site, contact them there.

Plates from this and other Seder sets, from an art dealer—


Wahoo! VIEW broke the 100 follower figure! I have books of choice to send out to the following five lucky followers.
I'll try to get in touch with you for mailing info, or you can track me down as well. Thanks everyone.

Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
Ava Plum
Heather Hudson
Jason Juta
Stephany Benbow

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Heinrich Kley, Grand Master of Ink

It seems regardless of my direction these past few weeks, I keep getting pointed to the work of German illustrator and artist Heinrich Kley (1863-1945). Comparably, few know of his work, but it is often held in high regard among those that do. Kley is about to get some attention that is long overdue, and it is worth making sure that more people are aware of his work and the new books on the way.

I found (almost literally… I bought them from a street vender) two volumes that Dover had published of Kley’s work while I was an undergraduate student in the mid-eighties. The copies I bought were twenty years old then. I was stunned how much the imagery reminded me of the ink work Jeff Jones produced monthly for Heavy Metal Magazine, in a regular strip Jones called "I’m Age". The work was incredibly loose, fluid and refreshingly sketch-like, but had beautiful clarity where it was most deserved.

Kley first appeared in German periodicals out of Munich around 1907. Previous to that he'd been in fine arts and a book illustrator. His work from the next decade often comments on social and political issues, and not unlike his contemporary Charles Dana Gibson, he often sought out subject matter depicting the struggles between the sexes.

The two Dover volumes I mention above gave Kley a small but loyal following here in America, but he was otherwise nearly forgotten about. The first one, The Drawings of Heinrich Kley, is still in print.

Sometime last year I got hold of issue eight of Jim Vadeboncoeur’s Images magazine, (I highly recommend it) which featured numerous color works by Kley, and also pointed out that he regularly contributed color work to German magazines of the day, including one called Jugend. The color plates I have here are all from Jugend, 1911, while the line works are from those Dover collections mentioned above.

A friend with an eye on VIEW—Tom Kidd—pointed out to me recently two new volumes of Kley’s work are about to be—or have recently been—released by Lost Art Books. These two volumes feature hundreds of Kley’s images that have not been reprinted for near a century, in some cases, more. Scoop them up while you can. Bud Plant announced them yesterday on his page as well.


While I’m currently consumed by two large projects, VIEW is not getting the attention it deserves from me, but it is very much in my mind and I will maintain it as frequently as time allows.

VIEW needs ONE more new follower until I send five folks their choice of any of the Dover books found on my Author’s Page at Amazon. If you are interested in receiving one of your choice, just let me know in a comment. I’ll be in touch with five randomly selected winners as soon as we hit 100.

Have a happy and safe New Year!!   Jeff

These tortoises were definitely the inspiration
for the cover of the Grateful Dead's "Terrapin Station"