Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Small House at Allington, his own master and the master of a new school. Depicting the ugly fashions of his day with grave dignity and distinction, and with a broad power of rendering type in work which had the aspect of genre, he drew the picture of his age in a summary so embracing that his illustrations attain the rank almost of historical art. For art of this sort the symbolism of the Pre-Raphaelites lost its use: the realization in form of a character conveyed by an author’s words, the happy suggestion of a locality helping to fix the writer’s description, the verisimilitudes of ordinary life, even to trivial detail, carried out with real pictorial conviction, were the things most to be aimed at. Pictorial conviction was the great mark of the illustrative school of the ’sixties. The work of its artists has absorbed so completely the interest and reality of the letterpress that the results are a model of what faithful yet imaginative illustration should be. In the illustrated magazines of this period, Once a Week, Good Words, Cornhill, London Society, The Argosy, The Leisure Hour, Sunday at Home, The Quiver and The Churchman’s Family Magazine, as well as others, is to be found the best work of this new school of illustrators; and with the greater number of them it cannot be mistaken that Millais is the prevailing force.

By their side other men were working, more deeply influenced by the old masters, and by the minuteness and hard, definite treatment of form which the Pre-Raphaelite school had inculcated. Foremost of these was Frederick Sandys. His illustrations, scattered through nearly all the magazines which have been named, show always a decorative power of design and are full of fine drawing and fine invention, but remain resolutely cold in handling and lacking in imaginative ardour. The few illustrations done by Burne-Jones at this period show a whole-hearted following of Rossetti, but a somewhat struggling technique; and the same qualities are to be found in the work of Arthur Hughes, whose illustrations in Good Words for the Young (1869) have a charm of tender poetic invention showing through the faults and persistent uncertainty of his draughtsmanship. The illustrations of Frederick Shields to Defoe’s History of the Plague have a certain affinity to the work of Sandys; but, with less power over form, they show a more dramatic sense of light and shade, and at their best can claim real and original beauty. The formality of feeling and composition, and the strained, stiff quality of line in Lord Leighton’s designs to Romola (1863), do a good deal to mar one’s enjoyment of their admirable draughtsmanship. Many fine drawings done at this period by Leighton, Poynter, Henry Armstead and Burne-Jones did not appear until the year 1880 in the “Dalziel Bible Gallery,” when the methods of which they were the outcome had fallen almost out of use.

Deeply influenced by the broad later phases of Millais’s black-and-white work were those artists whose tendency lay in the direction of idyllic naturalism and popular romance, the men to whom more particularly is given the name “The ’sixties.” of the period and school “the ’sixties,” and whose more immediate leader, as far as popular estimation goes, was Frederick Walker. With his, one may roughly group the names of Pinwell, Houghton, North, Charles Keene, Lawless, Matthew J. Mahoney, Morten and, with a certain reservation, W. Small and G. du Maurier. In no very separate category stand two other artists whose contributions to illustration were but incidental, John Pettie and J. M’Neill Whistler. The broad characteristics of this variously related group were a loose, easy line suggestive of movement, a general fondness for white spaces and open-air effects, and in the best of them a thorough sense of the serious beauty of domestic and rural life. They treated the present with a feeling rather idyllic than realistic; when they touched the past it was with a courteous sort of realism, and a wonderful inventiveness of detail which carried with it a charm of conviction. Walker’s method shows a broad and vivid use of black and white, with a fine sense of balance, but very little preoccupation for decorative effect. Pinwell had a more delicate fancy, but less freedom in his technique—less ease, but more originality of composition. In Houghton’s work one sees a swift, masterful technique, full of audacity, noble in its economy of means, sometimes rough and careless. His temperament was dramatic, passionate, satiric and witty. Some of his best work, his “Scenes from American Life,” appeared in the pages of the Graphic as late as the years 1873-1874. There are indications in the work of Lawless that he might have come close to Millais in his power of infusing distinction into the barest materials of everyday life, but he died too soon for his work to reach its full accomplishment. North was essentially a landscape illustrator. The delicate sense of beauty in du Maurier’s early work became lost in the formal but graceful conventions of his later Punch drawings. It was in the pages of Punch that Keene secured his chief triumphs. The two last-named artists outstayed the day which saw the break-up of the school of which these are the leading names. It ran its course through a period when illustrated magazines formed the staple of popular consumption, before the illustrated newspapers, with their hungry rush for the record of latest events, became a weekly feature. Its waning influence may be plainly traced through the early years of the Graphic, which started in 1869 with some really fine work, done under transitional conditions before the engraver’s rendering of tone-drawings once more ousted facsimile from its high place in illustration.

In connexion with this transitional period, drawings for the Graphic by Houghton, Pinwell, Sir Hubert von Herkomer, E. J. Gregory, H. Woods, Charles Green, H. Paterson (Mrs Allingham) and William Small deserve honourable mention. Yet it was the last-named who was mainly instrumental in bringing about the change from line-work to pigment, which depressed the artistic value of illustration during the ’seventies and the ’eighties to almost absolute mediocrity. Several artists of great ability practised illustration during this period: in addition to those Graphic artists already mentioned there were Luke Fildes, Frank Holl, S. P. Hall, Paul Renouard and a few others of smaller merit. But the interest was for the time shifting from black-and-white work and turning to colour. Kate Greenaway began to produce her charming idyllic renderings of children in mob-caps and long skirts. Walter Crane on somewhat similar lines designed his illustrated nursery rhymes; while Randolph Caldecott took the field with his fresh and breezy scenes of hunting life and carousal in the times most typical of the English squirearchy. Working with a broad outline, suggestive of the brush by its easy freedom, and adding washes of conventional colour for embellishment, he was one of the first in England to show the beginnings of Japanese influence. Even more dependent upon colour were his illustrated books for children; while in black and white, in his illustrations to Bracebridge Hall (1876), for instance, pen and ink began to replace the pencil, and to produce a new and more independent style of draughtsmanship. This style was taken up and followed by many artists of ability, by Harry Furniss, Hugh Thomson and others, till the influence of E. A. Abbey’s more mobile and more elaborate penmanship came to produce a still further development in the direction of fineness and illusion, and that of Phil May, with Linley Sambourne for his teacher, to simplify and make broad for those who aimed rather at a journalistic and shorthand method of illustration. (See also Caricature and Cartoon.)

Under the absolutely liberating conditions of “process reproduction”

(see Process) the latest developments in illustration on its lighter and more popular side are full of French influences, or ready to follow the wind in any fresh direction, whether to America or Japan; but on the graver side they show a strong leaning towards the older traditions of the ’sixties and of Pre-Raphaelitism. The founding by William Morris of the Kelmscott Press in 1891, through which were produced a series of decorated and illustrated books, aimed frankly at a revival of medieval taste. In Morris’s books decorative effect and sense of material claimed mastery over the whole scheme, and subdued the illustrations to a sort of glorious captivity into which no breath of modern spirit could be breathed. The illustrations of Burne-Jones filled with a happy touch of archaism the decorative borders of William Morris; and only a little less happy, apart from their imaginative inferiority, were the serious efforts of Walter Crane and one or two others. Directly under the Morris influence arose the “Birmingham school,” with an entire

devotion to decorative methods and still archaic effects which