18th Century Prints, Engraving, Past/Present, Portraits, Prints

Past/Present: Benjamin Franklin Portraits

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From 1776 to 1785, Benjamin Franklin served as the first American ambassador to France. The French were very taken with Franklin and his New World “charm”; the enthused populace sustained a healthy market of printed and painted versions of his visage. Today, we share two small portraits of Franklin that circulated throughout France. This earlier print was one of the first available French images of Franklin. Publication of this print was first announced in the “Journal de Paris” of June 16, 1777. In this bust-length portrait, Franklin is depicted facing right, with Canadian fur-trapper hat, a simple cloth suit, and round spectacles.  Written accounts of Franklin’s time in Paris comment on Franklin’s plain manner of dressing, and the favorable impression it made on the French.

The second image, published circa 1780, is also a bust portrait of Benjamin Franklin, set in an oval frame. This is a variation of the Cochin portrait, altered to accord with the subject’s new ambassadorial dignity. Franklin is now depicted without spectacles, in a fur-lined satin dressing gown and a lace frilled shirt. The fur-trapper hat has been replaced with a more dignified and stylish cap, lightly trimmed with fur.

Image on Top:  Benjamin Franklin. Ne a Boston, dans la nouvelle Angleterre le 17 Janvier 1706. By Charles-Nicolas Cochin. Engraving, 1777. Engraved by Augustin de Saint Aubin. Image size 7 1/2 x 5 1/4″. LINK.

Image on Bottom: Benjamin Franklin. Ne a Boston dans la Nouvelle Angleterre, le 17 Janvier 1706. By Claude Louis Desrais. Engraving, c. 1780. Engraved by Pierre Adrien Le Beau. Image size 6 3/8 x 4 1/4″. LINK.



Early 20th Century, Etching, Prints

John Taylor Arms on Beauty

We found a great quote today, by the 20th century printmaker John Taylor Arms. Arms’ two prints, Lace in Stone and The Gothic Spirit, are currently on view in our “Form, Light, Line: Architecture in Print” gallery show at the Old Print Gallery. Stop by to see these painstakingly beautiful and meticulously astounding etchings.

“To love beauty and, loving it, to seek to express it, therein appears to me the function and the duty of the artist.” -John Taylor Arms

Lace in Stone, Rouen Cathedral. John Taylor Arms. Etching, 1927. Image size 14 1/8 x 11 1/4 inches. Fletcher 200. 18 in the French Church Series. Edition 100. Signed and dated in pencil. LINK.  (Double-click on image to enlarge.)

Lace in Stone, Rouen Cathedral. John Taylor Arms. Etching, 1927. Image size 14 1/8 x 11 1/4 inches. Fletcher 200. 18 in the French Church Series. Edition 100. Signed and dated in pencil. LINK.
(Double-click on image to enlarge.)

Color Woodcut, Contemporary, Early 20th Century, Foreign Views, Prints, Woodcut

John Ross Color Woodcut Progression


Brittany Harbor [Port Haliguen]. Progressive (series set of 6). Color woodcut, 1963. Edition 150. Image size 9 3/8 x 6 1/4″ (237 x 158 mm). Very good condition. Set of six.  The five different color block sheets are signed and titled “Progressive” in the lower margins . The finished impression, “Brittany Harbor” (seen at top right), is signed, titled and dated in pencil. LINK.

Today we have an intriguing print series to share with our OPG blog readers- which offers an insightful look into the creation of the color woodblock print “Brittany Harbor” by NY artist John Ross. This progressive series shows each of the five different colors and two different woodblocks needed to complete the print.

Woodblock printing is a type of relief printmaking. In this technique, the artist sketches a composition on a block of wood and then cuts away pieces from the surface. This leaves a raised area to receive ink. A roller (sometimes called a brayer) is then used to apply ink to the raised surface, and the image is then transferred to paper with a press or by hand burnishing and rubbing. Because the recessed, cut-away areas do not hold ink, they act as white-space on the printed image. Relief prints like woodcuts are usually characterized by bold dark-light contrasts and an impress into the paper of the inked lines.

Color woodcuts in particular are a result of inking one block in multiple colors to build up texture and create vibrance of color. Artists can also use more than one woodblock, each inked in a separate color, to create their composition. A sheet of paper is printed with each of the blocks in turn, using a method of registration to avoid misplacement or overlapping. The greater the complexity (number of woodblocks, number of different colors) of the print, the greater the chance for failed or imperfect impressions. For this reason, successful multi-block, multi-colored woodcuts are rare and a serious show of talent, finesse, and patience.

John Ross used two different woodcut blocks to create “Brittany Harbor”. First, the colors (dark blue, teal, green, and purple inks) are printed onto the paper. Each color is a separate pass through the press, but using the same wood block.

Dark purple ink. First block.

Dark blue ink. First block.

Teal ink. First Block.

Teal ink. First Block.

Green ink. First block.

Green ink. First block.

Purple ink. First block.

Purple ink. First block.

The second block, with finer and more intricate cuts, is then inked with a dark black ink and printed on top of the colored inks. This last block adds important details to the print, like bricks, roof texture, boat masts, and waves.

Black ink. Second block.

Black ink. Second block.

The resulting final image can be seen below.

Brittany Harbor.

Brittany Harbor.


An animation showing the block and color progression

An animation showing the block and color progression

16th Century Maps, 17th Century Maps, 19th Century Maps, Copperplate, Engraving, Gallery Updates, Maps, New Additions, Roto-engraving, Stone

New Additions: Maps

We have some new additions to our collection this week. Several new maps, both foreign and local, have made it to our shop. We are really excited about a collection of Blaeu maps, as well as an attractive and modern map of Richmond, VA.  Any maps you see below can be found on our website, and if one in particular catches your eye, you can buy it directly over the phone and we will ship it to you, or you ask for it to be placed on hold for you to view in-person at our Georgetown gallery. Below is a quick list of highlights:

1. Jerusalem et suburbia eius, sicut tempore Christi floruit, cum locis, in quibus Christus passus, est: quae religiose a Christianis obferuata, etia nu venerationi habetur.

By Christiaan van Adrichomius. Copper plate engraving, 1584-1682. Van Adrichom’s beautiful plan of the city of Jerusalem, the most important plan of the city published in the 16th century. Oriented to the north, this large scale plan shows the city and immediate surroundings as it was at the time of Christ. The important divisions of the city, its walls and gates are labeled. Also identified are over two hundred fifty sites including the ancient City of David, Mount Sion and Mount Calvary.

2. Richmond and Manchester, Virginia

By George Cram. Published by A.A. Grant. Color roto-engraving, 1892. A very detailed map of the city of Richmond that appeared in “Grant’s Bankers’ and Brokers’ Railroad Atlas.”

3. The London American. Map of the Seat of War, Positions of the Rebel Forces, Batteries, Entrenchments and Encampments in Virginia – The Fortifications for the protection of Richmond.

Published in the London American, London. Stone engraving, c.1861. An interesting and quite graphic map. Surrounding the image on the two sides is: “The ‘London American,’ An International Newspaper, Published Every Wednesday Morning, Price 3d. Office 9, Exeter Change, & All Newsman.” Reference is made in the lower margin to the “Battle of Bull’s [sic] Run, fought on Sunday, the 21st July [1861], about 22,000 unionists and about 60,000 rebels were in the engagement.” An earlier version of this map was published in the morning edition of the New York Herald, June 17, 1861. 

4. Le Gouvernement de l’Isle de France.

By Joan Blaeu. Published by Guiljelmum Blaeu, Amsterdam. Copper plate engraving, c.1640. A decorative map centered on the city of Paris. Embellished with a beautiful cartouche, scale of miles and Royal coat of arms, with original hand coloring. This example is from a French text edition of Blaeu’s “Le Theatre du Monde, Nouvel Atlas”

5. Champagne latine Campania, Comitatus.

By Joan Blaeu. Published by Guiljelmum Blaeu, Amsterdam. Hand-colored engraving, c.1650. A decorative map of the famous French Champagne wine region. Embellished with a handsome title cartouche and distance scale, each flanked by cherubs, with original hand coloring. This example is from a 1650 French text edition of Blaeu’s “Le Theatre du Monde, Nouvel Atlas”

6. Novissima Russiae Tabula.

By Henricus Hondius. Published by Abraham Wolfgang, Amsterdam. Copper plate engraving, c.1688. A later edition of Hondius’ map of the Russian Empire and Scandinavia. Embellished with a decorative cartouche and coat of arms, plus sailing ships and sea monsters. Original hand color with gold leaf highlights. Based on the cartography of Isaac Massa. This map was issued in Wolfgang’s “Atlas Minor” which is a compilation of maps originally issued by Blaeu, de Wit, Visscher and others.