Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Dalziel, George

1502252Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement, Volume 1 — Dalziel, George1912Campbell Dodgson

DALZIEL, GEORGE (1815–1902), draughtsman and wood-engraver, the senior of the Brothers Dalziel [see Dalziel, Edward, and Dalziel, Thomas Bolton Gilchrist Septimus, Suppl. II], was born at Wooler, Northumberland, on 1 Dec. 1815, and educated at Newcastle-on-Tyne. His father, Alexander Dalziel (1781-1832), was something of an artist, and seven of his eight sons by Elizabeth Hills (1785-1853) became artists by profession, four of them, George, Edward, John, and Thomas, constituting the firm which produced, as engravers, draughtsmen, and publishers, a large proportion of the English woodcut illustrations issued between 1840 and 1880.

Of the elder sons, William (1805-1873) was a painter of still life and heraldic decoration, Robert (1810-1842) a portrait and landscape painter, and Alexander John (1814-1836) a promising draughtsman in black and white. The two sons of Robert Dalziel, Alexander Aitcheson and John Sanderson, became pupils of the Brothers Dalziel in wood-engraving, but did not persevere in their profession.

John, the sixth son of Alexander Dalziel (born at Wooler on 1 Jan. 1822, died at Drigg, Cumberland, on 21 May 1869), the most notable member of the family after George, Edward, and Thomas, became associated with his brothers' firm in 1852, and was a highly accomplished engraver on wood, but failing health compelled him in 1868 to abandon artistic work and retire to Cumberland. He was twice married: in 1846 to Harriet Carter, by whom he had a son and two daughters, and in 1863 to Elizabeth Wells, who was childless. The eighth son of Alexander Dalziel, Davison Octavian, born at Newcastle on 30 Oct. 1825, devoted himself to commerce.

A daughter, Margaret Jane Dalziel (born at Wooler on 3 Nov. 1819, died unmarried on 12 July 1894), was a skilful wood-engraver and aided her brothers from 1851 onwards. George Dalziel came from Newcastle to London early in 1835 as pupil to the wood-engraver Charles Gray, with whom he remained four years. He then set up independently, but was soon joined by his brother Edward [q. v. Suppl. II], who entered into partnership with him as joint founder of 'The Brothers Dalziel.' John joined the firm in 1852 and Thomas [q. v. Suppl. II] in 1860. The work of the firm was done from 1857 onwards at 53 (afterwards 110) High Street, Camden Town, where John Dalziel lived, while his brothers resided at various addresses in Camden Town, Primrose Hill, and Hampstead. In their memoirs George and Edward Dalziel give 1840 as the opening date of their combined career. Some of their early wood-engravings are signed with their respective initials, but they soon adopted the common signature, 'Dalziel sc.,' and their individual work was thenceforth merged in the joint production of the firm. George Dalziel produced few original designs. Between 1840 and 1850 the brothers worked much in association with Ebenezer Landells [q. v.], through whose introduction they obtained the engraving of blocks for the early numbers of 'Punch' and the 'Illustrated London News.' Their Tyneside connection brought them into relations with Bewick's pupil, William Harvey [q. v.], many of whose drawings they engraved from 1839 to 1866. Harvey introduced them to the publisher Charles Knight, for whose Shakespeare and 'The Land we live in ' (1854-6) they engraved many blocks. They were also employed by T. Cadell of Edinburgh for the Abbotsford edition of the 'Waverley Novels.' About 1850 they entered into business relations with George Routledge, which continued for forty years ; they were on similar friendly terms with the firm of Frederick Warne & Co., till 1865 partners of Routledge. Though the brothers Dalziel worked for many other publishers, including Cundall, Chapman & Hall, Longmans, Macmillan, Smith & Elder, Strahan, and Ward & Lock, it was mainly through Routledge and Warne that they were enabled to begin the issue of the long series of illustrated books by which their name became famous in a generation which had grown tired of steel engravings. For these 'fine art' books, often issued in the name of other firms, the Dalziels made all arrangements and undertook the financial risk, commissioning artists on their own responsibility to design the woodcuts, contributing part of the designs themselves, and engraving the blocks by their own hands or those of pupils.

Much of their early work was done after artists whose popularity was already established, such as George Cruikshank, John Leech, Richard Doyle, Kenny Meadows, F. R. Pickersgill, and Sir John Gilbert. Their connection with the pre-Raphaelites began in 1855, when Millais was advised by Doyle to employ the Dalziels to cut one of the blocks which he was then preparing for Moxon's edition of Tennyson's poems (1857). Their first engravings after Millais, Rossetti, and Arthur Hughes were made for William Allingham's 'The Music Master and Day and Night Songs' (1855). Most of the illustrations of Rossetti and Holman Hunt passed through their hands, while Ford Madox Brown and Burne-Jones were contributors to their 'Bible Gallery.' They engraved a large proportion of Millais's black-and-white work, the most famous set of illustrations from his pen being the 'Parables of Our Lord,' commissioned in 1857 and completed in 1864. Other illustrators who owed much to the zeal and enterprise of the firm were Birket Foster, George du Maurier, Sir John Tenniel, and Harrison Weir. They cut the illustrations to the nursery classics, Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense' (1862) and Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Wonderland' (1866) and 'Through the Looking-glass' (1872).

On the foundation of the 'Corn hill Magazine' in 1859 they were entrusted with the engraving of all the illustrations, and in 1862 they undertook, at the request of Alexander Strahan, the engraving and entire control of the illustrations to 'Good Words.' Such a commission gave them ample opportunities of enlisting new forces, and they deserve especial credit for discovering original talent for illustration in :he cases of Frederick Walker, George John Pinwell, Arthur Boyd Houghton, Matthew James Lawless, John Dawson Watson, Frederick Barnard, and Mr. John W. North, A.R.A. The merit of English illustration during 1855-70 is due in no small measure to the co-operation of this distinguished band of draughtsmen on wood, and others, with such conscientious and artistic interpreters as the Dalziels. Their aim was to preserve each line intact when the drawings were made, as Gilbert and Tenniel made them, by a pure line method, but they often had the more difficult task of reproducing in facsimile a mixture of line and brush work, touched on the block with Chinese white, a practice habitual with later illustrators, such as Pinwell and Small. During the latter part of this period Joseph Swain [q. v. Suppl. II] and other engravers were doing interpretative work of equal merit, but no other firm combined technical skill with initiative to the same degree as the Dalziels. The most important books for the illustration of which they were wholly or in large part responsible are Staunton's Shakespeare, illustrated by Gilbert (1858–61), 'Lalla Rookh' illustrated by Sir John Tenniel (1861), Birket Foster's 'Pictures of English Landscape' (1862), John Dawson Watson's 'Pilgrim's Progress' (1863), Millais's 'Parables' (1864), 'The Arabian Nights' Entertainments' (1864), illustrated largely by Hough ton and Thomas Dalziel, Goldsmith's works, illustrated by Pinwell (1865), and Dalziel's 'Bible Gallery' (1880). Complete sets of India proofs of the woodcuts to all these books, except the 'Arabian Nights' and 'Bible Gallery,' are in the print room of the British Museum. The Dalziels' work is also well represented in the Victoria and Albert Museum, and a framed collection of 226 India proofs was presented by Mr. Gilbert Dalziel in 1909 to the Hampstead Central Library. A complete illustrated record of the brothers' work in chronological sequence remains in Mr. Gilbert Dalziel's possession.

The 'Bible Gallery,' completed in 1880 after many years of preparation, was the last important undertaking of the Dalziels on the artistic side. In the next decade the photo-mechanical processes were already beginning to prevail in competition with the slower and more expensive methods of the wood-engraver. The Dalziels' energies were thenceforth more devoted to the business of printing and the production of illustrated newspapers, chiefly comic. In 1870 they had become proprietors of 'Fun,' which they continued to publish until 1893, and in 1871 they acquired 'Hood's Comic Annual,' to which George Dalziel frequently contributed poems and stories; he also wrote much in 'Fun.' Several volumes of stories and three volumes of verse from his pen were published by the firm. In 1872 the Brothers Dalziel acquired another comic paper, ' Judy,' which they sold to Mr. Gilbert Dalziel in 1888. George Dalziel and his brother Edward were joint authors of a volume of reminiscences, 'The Brothers Dalziel, a Record of Fifty Years' Work . . . 1840-90,' published in 1901.

George Dalziel had no issue by his marriage, in 1846, to Mary Ann, daughter of Josiah Rumball, of Wisbech. After his wife's death he resided with his brother Edward at Hampstead, removing with him in 1900 to 107 Fellows Road, South Hampstead, where he died on 4 Aug. 1902; he was buried in old Highgate cemetery.

[The Brothers Dalziel, 1901 (with full list of books); Gleeson White's English Illustration of the Sixties, 1897; The Times, 8 Aug. 1902; information from Mr. Gilbert Dalziel.]

C. D.