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Studio: international art — 10.1897

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Additions to the "Liber Studiorum"


The publication of fifteen mezzotints by Frank
Short, after J. M. W. Turner, R.A., completes the
" Liber Studiorum," one of the greatest works in
landscape art ever presented to the world. Such a
contribution to it therefore as these plates is a most
important event in landscape engraving, and the
engraver was good enough to spare a couple of
hours in the midst of his work, putting the finish-
ing touches to the plates—a long and tedious busi-
ness as all mezzotinters know—to tell me some-
thing about the undertaking which has now for
some years been occupying his attention.

He also selected the 'examples accompanying
these notes, which have been reproduced from
impressions kindly lent for the purpose. It will
be understood that photographic reproductions
of engravings do not render quite satisfactorily
the quality of the originals, more especially if they
are mezzotints, but they will serve at all events
to convey some idea of the subjects.

I may remind my readers that Turner intended
his book to consist of a hundred plates. Ninety-
one of these were entirely or partially completed,
and the drawings for the remaining nine were
ready. These drawings Mr. Short has now en-
graved, with the exception of one of no particular
interest, which it would have been difficult to make
much of without the painter's help.

The painter was thirty-two when the first part of
the " Liber" was issued to subscribers, in 1807, and
the work came out at uncertain intervals until
1819. Although many other plates were ready
or almost ready for publication, the venture proving
a financial failure, Turner ceased to issue the parts,
and thus eighty years have passed before the work
has been carried forward. After the painter's death
a few of the old coppers were found in his house,
but they were too much damaged by rust and
neglect to be of any value.

Seeingthe estimation in which the "Liber" is held
by both students and connoisseurs, it is difficult
to understand how it was that Turner's venture
proved a financial failure, for he certainly was not
exorbitant in his charges for the parts issued,
and it must ever be a matter of regret that he
was not encouraged to continue the work to its
completion, for among the plates which were
never published were several engraved by the
painter. It is known that twenty plates were begun

out of the twenty-nine required to make the
hundred, but only eleven were found at Turner's
death, the others having probably been stolen and
sold for old metal. Of these eleven nine were sold
at the Turner sale in 1873, and have since been
printed from; but, as I have said, the prints are
of little value.

The world has changed since 1819, for at this
sale a complete set of proofs of the " Liber " fetched
,£892, and the 5000 impressions and 700 etchings
which were found among the painter's effects
brought p£i8,ooo.

Among the plates engraved by Mr. Short there is
a great diversity of subject. For instance, there is
the celebrated Via Mala (said by Mr. Ruskin to be
the finest in the book); and the plate of the Lost
Sailor, a wonderful rendering of a terrible sea dash-
ing against a granite coast. There are two moon-
lights, one of Lucerne glimmering in the light of a
full and misty moon, and one of the Areedles, with
fishermen plying their craft at night. Then there
are the sunny Macon and Pastoral, and the classical
subjects which no one now dare venture to paint;
the breezy seapieces which Turner was so fond of
rendering, and last, but by no means least, the
homely English subjects of Kingston Bank and
Harvesters, and the beautiful Derwentwater.

Perhaps it will be as well to give a complete list
of the plates, which are published by Robert
Dunthorne, of Vigo Street, London. I have
numbered them for reference in this article.

1. Macon, etching and mezzotint.

2. Schaffhausen, Falls of the Rhine, etching and


3. Derwentwater, soft ground etching and mezzo-


4. Lucerne (moonlight), pure mezzotint.

5. The "Victory " coming up Channel, etching and


6. Kingston Bank, etching and mezzotint.

7. Needles (moonlight), pure mezzotint.

8. Entrance to the Mersey, soft ground etching and


9. Pastoral, etching and mezzotint.

10. Pan and Syrinx, etching and mezzotint.

11. LLuntsmen in Wood, etching and mezzotint.

12. Stork and Aqueduct, etching and mezzotint.

13. Via Mala, etching and mezzotint.

14. Lost Sailor, pure mezzotint.

15. Narcissus and Echo, soft ground etching.

Of the Lost Sailor Mr. Ruskin writes : " The
noblest of all the plates of 1 Liber Studiorum,'
except the Via Mala, is one engraved with his own
hand, of a single sailor, yet living, dashed in the
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