1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Illustration
ILLUSTRATION. In a general sense, illustration (or the art of representing pictorially some idea which has been expressed in words) is as old as Art itself. There has never been a time since civilization began when artists were not prompted to pictorial themes from legendary, historical or literary sources. But the art of illustration, as now understood, is a comparatively modern product. The tendency of modern culture has been to make the interests of the different arts overlap. The theory of Wagner, as applied to opera, for making a combined appeal to the artistic emotions, has been also the underlying principle in the development of that great body of artistic production which in painting gives us the picture containing “literary” elements, and, in actual association with literature in its printed form, becomes what we call “illustration.” The illustrator’s work is the complement of expression in some other medium. A poem can hardly exist which does not awaken in the mind at some moment a suggestion either of picture or music. The sensitive temperament of the artist or the musician is able to realize out of words some parallel idea which can only be conveyed, or can be best conveyed, through his own medium of music or painting. Similarly, music or painting may, and often does, suggest poetry. It is from this inter-relation of the emotions governing the different arts that illustration may be said to spring. The success of illustration lies, then, in the instinctive transference of an idea from one medium to another; the more spontaneous it be and the less laboured in application, the better.
Leaving on one side the illuminated manuscripts of the middle ages (see Illuminated MSS.) we start with the fact that illustration was coincident with the invention of printing. Italian art produced many fine examples, notably the outline illustrations to the Poliphili Hypneratomachia, printed by Aldus at Venice in the last year of the 15th century. Other early works exist, the products of unnamed artists of the French, German, Spanish and Italian schools; while of more singular importance, though not then brought into book form, were the illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy made by Botticelli at about the same period. The sudden development of engraving on metal and wood drew many painters of the Renaissance towards illustration as a further opportunity for the exercise of their powers; and the line-work, either original or engraved by others, of Pollajuolo, Mantegna, Michelangelo and Titian has its place in the gradual enlargement of illustrative art. The German school of the 16th century committed its energies even more vigorously to illustration; and many of its artists are now known chiefly through their engravings on wood or copper, a good proportion of which were done to the accompaniment of printed matter. The names of Dürer, Burgmair, Altdorfer and Holbein represent a school whose engraved illustrations possess qualities which have never been rivalled, and remain an invaluable aid to imitators of the present day.
Illustration has generally flourished in any particular age
in proportion to the health and vigour of the artistic productions
in other kinds. No evident revival in painting has come about,
no great school has existed during the last four centuries, which
has not set its mark upon the illustration of the period and
quickened it into a medium for true artistic expression. The
etchers of the Low Countries during the 17th century, with
Rembrandt at their head, were to a great extent illustrators
in their choice of subjects. In France the period of Watteau
and Fragonard gave rise to a school of delicately engraved
illustration, exquisite in detail and invention. In England
Hogarth came to be the founder of many new conditions, both
in painting and illustration, and was followed by men of genius
so distinct as Reynolds on the one side and Bewick on the other.
With Reynolds one connects the illustrators and engravers
for whom now Bartolozzi supplies a surviving name and an
embodiment in his graceful but never quite English art. But
it is from Thomas Bewick that the wonderfully consistent
development of English illustration begins to date. Bewick
marks an important period in the technical history of wood-engraving
England. as the practical inventor of the “tint” and “white line” method of wood-cutting; but he also happened to be an artist. His artistic device was to give local colour and texture without shadow, securing thereby a precision of outline which allowed no form to be lost. And though, in consequence, many of his best designs have somewhat the air of a specimen plate, he succeeded in bringing into black-and-white illustration an element of colour which had been wholly absent from it in the work of the 15th and 16th century German and Italian schools. Bewick’s method started a new school; but the more racy qualities of his woodcuts were entirely dependent on the designer being his own cutter; and the same happy relationship gave distinct characteristics to the nearly contemporary work of William Blake and of Calvert. Blake’s wonderful Illustrations to the Book of Job, while magnificent in their conventional rendering of light and shade, still retain the colourlessness of the old masters, as do also the more broadly handled designs to his own books of prophecy and verse; but in his woodcuts to Philips’s Pastorals the modern tendency towards local colour makes itself strongly felt. So wonderfully, indeed, have colour and tone been expressed in these rough wood-blocks, that more vivid impressions of darkness and twilight falling across quiet landscape have never been produced through the same materials. The pastoral designs made by Edward Calvert on similar lines can hardly be over-praised. Technically these engravings are far more able than those from which they drew their inspiration.
With the exception of the two artists named, and in a minor degree of Thomas Stothard and John Flaxman, who also produced original illustrations, the period from the end of the 18th century till about the middle of the 19th was less notable for the work of the designer than of the engraver. The delicate plates to Rogers’s Italy were done from drawings which Turner had not produced for purposes of illustration; and the admirable lithographs of Samuel Prout and Richard Bonington were merely studies of architecture and landscape made in a material that admitted of indefinite multiplication. It is true that Géricault came over to England about the year 1820 to draw the English race-horse and other studies of country life, which were published in London in 1821, and that other fine work in lithography was done by James Ward, G. Cattermole, and somewhat later by J. F. Lewis. But illustration proper, subject-illustration applied to literature, was mainly in the hands of the wood-engravers; and these, forming a really fine school founded on the lines which Bewick had laid down, had for about thirty years to content themselves with rendering the works of ephemeral artists, among whom Benjamin R. Haydon and John Martin stand out as the chief lights. It must not be forgotten, however, that while the day of a serious English school of illustration had not yet come, Great Britain possessed an indigenous tradition of gross and lively caricature; a tradition of such robust force and vulgarity that, by the side of some choicer specimens of James Gillray and Henry W. Bunbury, the art of Rowlandson appears almost refined. This was the school in which George Cruikshank, John Leech, and the Dickens illustrators had their training, from which they drew more and more away; until, with the help of Punch, just before the middle of the 19th century, English caricaturists had learned the secret of how to be apposite and amusing without scurrility and without libel. (See Caricature.)
Under Newspapers will be found some account of the rise of illustrated journalism. It was in about the year 1832 that the illustrated weekly paper started on its career in England, and almost by accident determined under what form a great national art was to develop Influence of Wood-engraving. itself. While in France the illustrators were making their triumphs by means of lithography, English illustration was becoming more and more identified with wood-engraving. The demand for a method of illustration, easy to produce and easy to print, for books and magazines of large circulation and moderate price, forced the artist before long into drawing upon the wood itself; and so soon as the artist had asserted his preference for facsimile over “tint,” the school which came to be called “of the ’sixties” was in embryo, and waited only for artistic power to give it distinction. The engraver’s translation of the artist’s painting or wash-drawing into “tint” had largely exalted the individuality of the engraver at the expense of the artist. But from the moment when the designer began to put his own lines upon the wood, new conditions shaped themselves; and though the artist at times might make demands which the engraver could not follow, or the engraver inadequately fulfil the expectation of the artist, the general tendency was to bring designer and engraver into almost ideal relations—an ideal which nothing short of the artist being his own engraver could have equalled. Out of an alliance cemented by their common use and understanding of the material on which they worked came the school of facsimile or partial-facsimile engraving which flourished during the ’sixties, and lasted just so long as its conditions were unimpaired—losing its flavour only at the moment when “improved” mechanical appliances enabled the artist once more to dissociate himself from the conditions which bound the engraver in his craft.
Before the fortunate circumstances which governed the work
of the ’sixties became decisive, illustrations of a transitional
character, but tending to the same end, had been
produced by John Tenniel, John Gilbert, Birket
Foster, Harrison Weir, T. Creswick, W. Mulready
and others; but their methods were too vague and
diffuse to bear as yet the mark of a school; no single influence
gave a unity to their efforts. On some of them Adolf von
Menzel’s illustrations to Kügler’s Frederick the Great, published
in England in 1844, may have left a mark; Gilbert certainly
shows traces of the influence of Delacroix and Bonington in the
free, loose method of his draughtsmanship, independent of accurate
modelling, and with here and there a paint-like dab of black
to relieve a generally colourless effect; while Tenniel, with cold,
precise lines of wire-drawn hardness, remained the representative
of the past academic style, influencing others by the dignity
of his fine technique, but with his own feeling quite untouched
by the Pre-Raphaelite and romantic movement which was soon
to occupy the world of illustration. In greater or less degree
it may be said of the work of all these artists that, as it antedates,
so to the end does it stand somewhat removed in character from,
the school with which for a time it became contemporary. The
year which decisively marked the beginning of new things in
illustration was 1857, the year of the Moxon Tennyson and of
Wilmott’s Poets of the Nineteenth Century, with illustrations by
Rossetti, Millais, Holman Hunt and Ford Madox Brown. In
these artists we get the germ of the movement which afterwards
came to have so wide a popularity. At the beginning, Pre-Raphaelite
in name, poetic and literary in its choice of subjects,
the school quickly expanded to an acceptance of those open-air
and everyday subjects which one connects with the names of
Frederick Walker, Arthur B. Houghton, G. F. Pinwell and M.
North. The illustrations of the Pre-Raphaelites were eminently
thoughtful, full of symbolism, and with a certain pressure of
interest to which the epithet of “intense” came to be applied.
As an example of their method of thought-transference from
word to form, Madox Brown’s drawing for the Dalziel Bible of
“Elijah and the Widow’s Son” may be taken. The restoration
of life to a dead body, of a child to its mother, is there conveyed
with many illustrative touches and asides, which become clumsy
when stated in words. The hen bearing her chicken between her
wings is a perfectly direct and appropriate pictorial symbol,
but a far more imaginative stroke is the shadow on the wall of
a swallow flying back to the clay bottle where it has made its
nest. Here is illustration full of literary symbolism, yet wholly
pictorial in its means; and in this it is entirely characteristic
of Pre-Raphaelite feeling, with its method of suggesting, through
externals, consideration as opposed to mere outlook. Of this
phase Rossetti must be accounted the leader, but it was Millais
who, by the sheer weight of his personality, carried English
illustration along with him from Pre-Raphaelitism to the freer
romanticism and naturalistic tendencies of the ’sixties. Rossetti,
with his poetic enthusiasm, his strong personal magnetism and
dramatic power of composition, may be said to have brought
about the awakening; it was Millais who, by his rapid development
of Millais. of style, his original and daring technique, turned it into a movement. When he started, there were many influences behind him and his fellow-workers—among older foreign contemporaries, those of Menzel and Rethel; and behind these again something of the old masters. But through a transitional period, represented by his twelve drawings of “The Parables,” which appeared first in Good Words, Millais emerged in to the perfect independence of his illustrations to Trollope’s novels, Framley Parsonage, and The 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 of the period and school “the ’sixties,” and whose “The ’sixties.” 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 tended sometimes to rather inane technical results. Among its leaders may be named Arthur Gaskin, C. M. Gere and E. H. New; while work not dissimilar but more independent in spirit had already been done by Selwyn Image and H. P. Horne in the Century Guild Hobby-Horse. But far greater originality and force belonged to the work of a group, known for a time as the neo-Pre-Raphaelites, which joined to an earnest study of the past a scrupulously open mind towards more modern influences. Its earliest expression of existence was the publication of an occasional periodical, the Dial (1889–1897), but before long its influence became felt outside its first narrow limits. The technical influence of Abbey, but still more the emotional and intellectual teaching of Rossetti and Millais, together with side-influences from the few great French symbolists, were, apart from their own originality, the forces which gave distinction to the work of C. S. Ricketts, C. H. Shannon, R. Savage and their immediate following. Beauty of line, languorous passion, symbolism full of literary allusions, and a fondness for the life of any age but the present, are the characteristics of the school. Their influence fell very much in the same quarters where Morris found a welcome; but an affinity for the Italian rather than the German masters (shown especially in the “Vale Press” publications), and a studied note of world-weariness, kept them somewhat apart from the sturdy medievalism of Morris, and linked them intellectually with the decadent school initiated by the wayward genius of Aubrey Beardsley. But though broadly men may be classed in groups, no grouping will supply a formula for all the noteworthy work produced when men are drawn this way and that by current influences. Among artists resolutely independent of contemporary coteries may be named W. Strang, whose grave, rugged work shows him a pupil, through Legros, of Dürer and others of the old masters; T. Sturge Moore, an original engraver of designs which have an equal affinity for Blake, Calvert and Hokusai; W. Nicholson, whose style shows a dignified return to the best part of the Rowlandson tradition; and E. J. Sullivan. In the closing years of the 19th century Aubrey Beardsley became the creator of an entirely novel style of decorative illustration. Drawing inspiration from all sources of European and Japanese art, he produced, by the force of a vivid personality and extraordinary technical skill, a result which was highly original and impressive. To a genuine liking for analysis of repulsive and vicious types of humanity he added an exquisite sense of line, balance and mass; and partly by succès de scandale, partly by genuine artistic brilliance, he gathered round him a host of imitators, to whom, for the most part, he was able to impart only his more mediocre qualities.
In America, until a comparatively recent date, illustration bowed the knee to the superior excellence of the engraver over the artist. Not until the brilliant pen-drawing of E. A. Abbey carried the day with the black-and-white artists of England did any work of real moment emanate from the United United States. States, unless that of Elihu Vedder be regarded as an exception. Howard Pyle is a brilliant imitator of Dürer; he has also the ability to adapt himself to draughtsmanship of a more modern tendency. C. S. Reinhart was an artist of directness and force, in a style based upon modern French and German examples; while of greater originality as a whole, though derivative in detail, is the fanciful penmanship of Alfred Brennan. Other artists who stand in the front rank of American illustrators, and whose works appear chiefly in the pages of Scribner’s, Harper’s and the Century Magazine, are W. T. Smedley, F. S. Church, R. Blum, Wenzell, A. B. Frost, and in particular C. Dana Gibson, the last of whom gained a reputation in England as an American du Maurier.
The record of modern French illustration goes back to the day when political caricature and the Napoleonic legend divided between them the triumphs of early lithography. The illustrators of France at that period were also her greatest artists. Of the historical and romantic school were D. France. Raffet, Nicholas J. Charlet, Géricault, Delacroix, J. B. Isabey and Achille Devéria, many of whose works appeared in L’Artiste, a paper founded in 1831 as the official organ of the romanticists; while the realists were led in the direction of caricature by two artists of such enormous force as Gavarni and Honoré Daumier, whose works, appearing in La Lithographie Mensuelle, Le Charivari and La Caricature, ran the gauntlet of political interference and suppression during a troubled period of French politics—which was the very cause of their prosperity. Behind these men lay the influence of the great Spanish realist Goya. Following upon the harsh satire and venomous realism of this famous school of pictorial invective, the influence of the Barbizon school came as a milder force; but the power of its artists did not show in the direction of original lithography, and far more value attaches to the few woodcuts of J. F. Millet’s studies of peasant life. In these we see clearly the tendency of French illustrative art to keep as far as possible the authentic and sketch-like touch of the artist; and it was no doubt from this tendency that so many of the great French illustrators retained lithography rather than commit themselves to the middleman engraver. Nevertheless, from about the year 1830 many French artists produced illustrations which were interpreted upon the wood for the most part by English engravers. Cunier’s editions of Paul et Virginie and La Chaumière Indienne, illustrated by Huet, Jacque, Isabey, Johannot and Meissonier, were followed by Meissonier’s more famous illustrations to Contes rémois. After Meissonier came J. B. E. Detaille and Alphonse M. de Neuville and, with a voluminous style of his own, L. A. G. Doré. By the majority of these artists the drawing for the engraver seems to have been done with the pen; and the tendency to penmanship was still more accentuated when from Spain came the influence of M. J. Fortuny’s brilliant technique; while after him, again, came Daniel Vierge, to make, as it were, the point of the pen still more pointed. During the middle period of the 19th century the best French illustration was serious in character; but among the later men, when we have recognized the grave beauty of Grasset’s Les Quatre Fils d’Aymon (in spite of his vicious treatment of the page by flooding washes of colour through the type itself), and the delicate grace of Boutet de Monvel’s Jeanne d’Arc, also in colours, it is to the illustrators of the comic papers that we have to go for the most typical and most audacious specimens of French art. In the pages of Gil Blas, Le Pierrot, L’Écho de Paris, Le Figaro Illustré, Le Courrier Français, and similar publications, are to be found, reproduced with a dexterity of process unsurpassed in England, the designs of J. L. Forain, C. L. Léandre, L. A, Willette and T. A. Steinlen, the leaders of a school enterprising in technique, and with a mixture of subtlety and grossness in its humour. Caran d’Ache also became celebrated as a draughtsman of comic drama in outline.
Among illustrators of Teutonic race the one artist who seems worthy of comparison with the great Menzel is Hans Tegner, if, indeed, he be not in some respects his technical superior; but apart from these two, the illustrators respectively of Kügler’s Frederick the Great and Holberg’s Comedies, there is no Germany. German, Danish or Dutch illustrator who can lay claim to first rank. Max Klinger, A. Böcklin, W. Trübner, Franz Stück and Hans Thoma are all symbolists who combine in a singular degree force with brutality; the imaginative quality in their work is for the most part ruined by the hard, braggart way in which it is driven home. The achievements and tendency of the later school of illustration in Germany are best seen in the weekly illustrated journal, Jugend, of Munich. Typical of an older German school is the work of Adolf Oberländer, a solid, scientific sort of caricaturist, whose illustrations are at times so monumental that the humour in them seems crushed out of life. Others who command high qualities of technique are W. Dietz, L. von Nagel, Hermann Vogel, H. Lüders and Robert Haug. Behind all these men in greater or less degree lies the influence of Menzel’s coldly balanced and dry-lighted realism; but wherever the influence of Menzel ceases, the merit of German illustration for the most part tends to disappear or become mediocre.
Authorities.—W. J. Linton, The Masters of Wood Engraving (London, 1889); C. G. Harper, English Pen Artists of To-day (London, 1892); Joseph Pennell, Pen Drawing and Pen Draughtsmen (London, 1894), Modern Illustration (London, 1895); Walter Crane, The Decorative Illustration of Books (London, 1896); Gleeson White, English Illustration: “The ’Sixties”: 1855–1870 (Westminster, 1897); W. A. Chatto, A Treatise on Wood Engraving (London, n.d.); Bar-le-Duc, Les Illustrations du XIX e siècle (Paris, 1882); T. Kutschmann, Geschichte der deutschen Illustration vom ersten Auftreten des Formschnittes bis auf die Gegenwart (Berlin, 1899). (L. Ho.)
The history of illustration, apart from the merits of individual artists, during the period since the year 1875, is mainly that of the development of what is called Process (q.v.), the term applied to methods of reproducing a drawing or photograph which depend on the use of some mechanical agency in the making of the block, as distinguished from such products of manual skill as steel or wood-engraving, lithography and the like. There is good reason to believe that the art of stereotyping—the multiplication of an already existing block by means of moulds and casts—is as old as the 15th century; and the early processes were, in a measure, a refinement upon this: with the difference that they aimed at the making of a metal block by means of a cast of the lines of the drawing itself, the background of which had been cut away so as to leave the design in a definite relief. Experiments of this nature may be said to have assumed practical shape from the time of the invention of Palmer’s process called at first Glyphography, about the year 1844; this was afterwards perfected and used to a considerable extent under the name of Dawson’s Typographic Etching, and its results were in many cases quite admirable, and often appear in books and periodicals of the first part of the period with which we are now concerned. The Graphic, for instance, published its first process block in 1876, and the Illustrated London News also made similar experiments at about the same time.
From this time begins the gradual application of photography to the uses of illustration, the first successful line blocks made by its help being probably those of Gillot, at Paris, in the early ’eighties. The next stage was to be the invention of some means of reproducing wash drawings. To do this it was necessary for the surface of the block to be so broken up that every tone of the drawing should be represented thereon by a grain holding ink enough to reproduce it. This was finally accomplished by the insertion of a screen, in the camera, between the lens and the plate—the effect of which was to break up the whole surface of the negative into dots, and so secure, when printed on a zinc plate and etched, an approximation to the desired result. Half-tone blocks (as they were called) of this nature (see Process) were used in the Graphic from 1884 and the Illustrated London News from 1885 onwards, the methods at first in favour being those of Meisenbach and Boussod Valadon and Co.’s phototype. Lemercier and Petit of Paris, Angerer and Göschl of Vienna, and F. Ives of Philadelphia also perfected processes giving a similar result, a block by the latter appearing in the Century magazine as early as 1882. Processes of this description had, however, been used for some years before by Henry Blackburn in his Academy Notes.
During the decade 1875–1885, however, the main body of illustration was accomplished by wood-engraving, which a few years earlier had achieved such splendid results. Its artistic qualities were now at a rather low ebb, although good facsimile engravings of pen-drawings were not infrequent. The two great illustrated periodicals already referred to during that period relied more upon pictorial than journalistic work. An increasing tendency towards the illustration of the events of the day was certainly shown, but the whole purpose of the journal was not, as at present, subordinated thereto. The chief illustrated magazines of the time, Harper’s, the Century, the English Illustrated, were also content with the older methods, and are filled with wood-engravings, in which, if the value of the simple line forming the chief quality of the earlier work has disappeared, a most astonishing delicacy and success were obtained in the reproduction of tone.
Perhaps the most notable and most characteristic production of the time in England was colour-printing. The Graphic and the Illustrated London News published full-page supplements of high technical merit printed from wood-blocks in conjunction with metal plates, the latter sometimes having a relief aquatint surface which produced an effect of stipple upon the shading; metal was also used in preference to wood for the printing of certain colours. The children’s books illustrated by Randolph Caldecott, Walter Crane and Kate Greenaway at this time are among the finest specimens of colour-printing yet seen outside of Japan; in them the use of flat masses of pleasant colour in connexion with a bold and simple outline was carried to a very high pitch of excellence. These plates were generally printed by Edmund Evans. In 1887 the use of process was becoming still more general; but its future was by no means adequately foreseen, and the blocks of this and the next few years are anything but satisfactory. This, it soon appeared, was due to inefficient printing on the one hand, and, on the other, to a want of recognition by artists of the special qualities of drawing most suitable for photographic reproduction. The publication of Quevedo’s Pablo de Segovia with illustrations by Daniel Vierge in 1882, although hardly noticed at the time, was to be a revelation of the possibilities of the new development; and a serious study of pen-drawing from this point of view was soon inaugurated by the issue of Joseph Pennell’s Pen Drawing and Pen Draughtsmen in 1889, followed in by C. G. Harper’s English Pen Artists of To-day and in 1896 by Walter Crane’s Decorative Illustration of Books. At this time also the influence of Aubrey Beardsley made itself strongly felt, not merely as a matter of style, but, by the use of simple line or mass of solid black, as an almost perfect type of the work most suitable to the needs of process. Wider experience of printing requirements, and finer workmanship in the actual making of the blocks, in Paris, Vienna, New York and London, soon brought the half-tone process into great vogue. The spread of education has enormously increased the demand for ephemeral literature, more especially that which lends itself to pictorial illustration; and the photograph or drawing in wash reproduced in half-tone has of late to a great extent ousted line work from the better class of both books and periodicals.
Improvements in machinery have made it possible to print illustrations at a very high speed; and the facility with which photographs can now be taken of scenes such as the public delight to see reproduced in pictures has brought about an almost complete change in pictorial journalism. In addition, reference must be made to an extraordinary increase in the numbers and circulation of cheap periodical publications depending to a very large extent for popularity on their illustrations. Several of these, printed on the coarsest paper, from rotary machines, sell to the extent of hundreds of thousands of copies per week. It was inevitable that this cheapening process should not be permitted to develop without opposition, and the Dial (1889–1897) must be looked on as a protest by the band of artists who promoted it against the unintelligent book-making now becoming prevalent. Much more effective and far-reaching in the same direction was the influence of William Morris, as shown in the publications of the Kelmscott Press (dating from 1891). In these volumes the aim was to produce illustrations and ornaments which were of their own nature akin to, and thus able to harmonize with the type, and to do this by pure handicraft work. As a result, a distinct improvement is to be found in the mere book-making of Great Britain; and although the main force of the movement soon spent itself in somewhat uninspired imitations, there can be no doubt of the survival of a taste for well-produced volumes, in which the relationship of type, paper, illustration and binding has been a matter of careful and artistic consideration. Under this influence, a notable feature has been the re-issue, in an excellent form, of illustrated editions of the works of most of the famous writers.
In France the general movement has proceeded upon lines on the whole very similar. Process—especially what was called “Gillotage”—was adopted earlier, and used at first with greater liberality than in England, although wood-engraving has persisted effectively even up to our own time. In the various types of periodicals of which the Revue Illustrée, Figaro Illustré and Gil Blas Illustré may be taken as examples, the most noticeable feature is a use of colour-printing, which is far in advance of anything generally attempted in Great Britain. A favourite and effective process is that employed for the reproduction of chalk drawings (as by Steinlen), which consists of the application of a surface-tint of colour from a metal plate to a print from an ordinary process block.
In Germany, Jugend, Simplicissimus, and other publications devoted to humour and caricature, employ colour-printing to a great extent with success. The organ of the artists of the younger German schools, Pan (1895), makes use of every means of illustration, and has especially cultivated lithography and wood-cuts, using these arts effectively but with some eccentricity. Holland has also employed coloured lithography for a remarkable series of children’s books illustrated by van Hoytema and others. The Viennese Kunst und Kunsthandwerk is an art publication which is exceptionally well produced and printed.
Illustration in the United States has some few characteristics which differentiate it from that of other countries. The later school of fine wood-engraving is even yet in existence. American artists also introduced an effective use of the process block, namely, the engraving or working over of the whole or certain portions of it by hand. This is generally done by an engraver, but in certain cases it has been the work of the original draughtsman, and its possibilities have been foreseen by him in making his drawing. The only other variant of note is the use of half-tone blocks superimposed for various colours. (E. F. S.)