Chris Beetles Gallery, Ryder Street, London

14 - 20 February 2018

Chris Beetles is pleased to announce that he will be attending the Palm Beach Jewelry, Art & Antique Show, between 14 and 20 February 2018. His stand will showcase fine examples of the best in traditional British watercolours, oils, and illustrations of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. These will be complemented by a significant display of scintillating American cartoons and caricatures.

Edward Lear and Albert Goodwin represent a strong strain among Victorian artists to extend the parameters of landscape painting by undertaking extensive foreign travels. Living much of his life in Continental Europe, and travelling to the Middle East and Asia, Lear made evocative annotated sketches that he would work up into finished oils and watercolours for exhibition back in Britain. Goodwin had his horizons broadened by the leading art critic, John Ruskin, on a tour of Europe in 1872, and was encouraged by him in his synthesis of Turnerian and Pre-Raphaelite modes of landscape painting. As the result of generous patronage, he was later able to apply his approach to places as far apart as India and the eastern seaboard of America.

James Hamilton Hay and Harold Knight both exemplify the degree to which provincial British artists of the Edwardian age absorbed the influence of international styles, and made them their own. Though based in Liverpool, Hay was inspired by the Aestheticism of the American-born artist, James McNeill Whistler, to apply his sophisticated tonal handling to a range of subjects, including urban streets at dusk, illuminated by the interiors of shops. Harold Knight went from Nottingham to Paris, and there learned from leading Naturalists a free use of brushwork and a heightened palette through which he depicted figures, including children, in various English settings.

The Victorian and Edwardian eras also saw advances in illustrated books and periodicals, as the result of developments in printing.
Aubrey Beardsley was a pioneer in his fusion of the Medievalism of William Morris and the asymmetry of Japanese woodblock printmakers, which resulted in arresting icons of Aestheticism. He would have a very wide influence, as can be seen in the work of Russian-born Paul Mak, who, as court painter to the Shah of Persia in the 1920s, filtered Beardsley’s characteristic motifs through the art of the Persian miniature.

Beatrix Potter was as equally pioneering as Beardsley, though in the field of children’s illustrations. The three-colour, half-tone printing process – introduced at the turn of the century – faithfully reproduced her exquisite watercolours of Peter Rabbit and the other characters of her delightful animal tales. This process also drove the development of the Gift Book, a luxury publication that usually contained a classic tale of wonder, and often catered to the Christmas market, if only ostensibly to the tastes of children. First and foremost among Gift Book illustrators was Arthur Rackham, who established the format with Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle (1905) and J M Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), fine vehicles for his genius for fantasy. His leading competitors included Edmund Dulac and Harry Clarke. Two decades on, E H Shepard contributed to the evolution of the children’s book with his immortal illustrations to A A Milne’s Winnie the Pooh (1928) and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1931).

Through the twentieth century, the graphic skills of British artists have been paralleled by their American counterparts. The example of Beardsley will certainly have informed the confident, elegant line of
Al Hirschfeld, the preeminent chronicler of Broadway, who worked for The New York Times. Deeply knowledgeable about the artistic tradition, David Levine held a similarly key position as the staff artist of The New York Review of Books, producing astonishing caricatures of writers and politicians. The cartoons of Charles Addams, Arnold Roth and Edward Koren strongly represent another great American graphic institution, that of The New Yorker.

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