Studio: international art — 14.1898

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Etchings in Colour

objections can reasonably be raised. In many
respects it is, indeed, an advantageous addition to
the other aspirations by which artists are controlled ;
and so long as it does not encourage mere trickery,
and sensational denial of laws that are really bene-
ficial, it is perfectly acceptable as an incentive to
that sort of investigation which is likely to give
results permanently helpful in art practice.

Among the men who are most keenly interested
in technical experiment Mr. Mortimer Menpes has
long been distinguished. He has constantly set
himself to the solving of problems which are
regarded by artists as worthy of close inquiry.
For some years his paintings have been records of
discoveries which he has made, not by happy
accident, but by systematic and elaborate tests,
and by investigations into the application of
materials. He has studied the use of pigments
and the methods of handling which mark the
practice of other men so that he might find out
the way to do what they consider to be the most
difficult things. Year after year he has taken up
a fresh subject of study, and has tested it and
examined it from every point of view until he has
arrived at a complete conviction about its capa-
bilities, and has been able to show his mastery
over it by the actual exhibition of results more
significant and more comprehensive than those
which have been obtained in the same direction
by any one else. He has assumed the position of
a scientific investigator with a mission to establish
those standards which are required by the ordinary
practitioner to guide him in his daily work and
to save him from timidly avoiding as impossible
undertakings from which the greatest successes are

The latest artistic device that Mr. Menpes has
occupied himself with is one which has engaged
the attention of artists during some two or three
centuries. The problem of printing engraved
plates in colour has long been held to be worth
solution, and it has been attacked from many sides
by workers in all parts of the world. Coloured
wood prints, steel engravings, and aquatints, can
be produced, as many fine examples have proved,
with complete success ; but the process of print-
ing etchings in colours has not hitherto been
brought within the range of practical possibility.
A couple of centuries or more ago artists on the
Continent were striving, but more or less tenta-
tively, to make this technical device available,
and in recent years many etchers in this country,
France, and America, have set themselves to carry
out the same idea. But, hitherto, the results

arrived at have not been such that an absolute
settlement of the questions at issue could be said
to have been reached. In every process invented
there has been, as yet, too much of the personal
element, too much dependence upon the special
skill of a particular operator, and too little scien-
tific certainty; so that the exact formulation of a
method which could be learned and practised by
any skilled etcher still remained to be devised.
This Mr. Menpes may fairly be said to have done;
and that his process is to be depended on for
satisfying all reasonable artistic requirements is
evidenced by the prints which he is showing at
Messrs. Dowdeswell’s gallery. In these he has
succeeded in gaining an effect which is quite
unlike that arrived at by other workers. He has
not failed in any way to retain the line qualities of
true etching, although he has at the same time
secured a fulness and variety of colour which
belong essentially to pictorial work. The depth
and richness of the colour surfaces are in no sense
the outcome of devices of preparation or of tricks
in handling; they come from pure printing, and
depend no more upon the peculiar skill of the
operator than does the effect of an ordinary etched
plate. The difficulties of giving the strength of
tone in a sombre effect have been overcome as
successfully as those which attend the expression
of minute delicacies and subtleties of gradation ;
and the method is so certain that it is possible to
make all the prints from the same plate absolutely
uniform in quality and character. The actual
mode of working Mr. Menpes does not reveal;
but that he has succeeded in his attempt to master
perplexities that have daunted other men through
many years of experiment is perfectly obvious.
What he shows are distinctly etchings in every
sense of the term; but they are also altogether
admirable as statements of splendid and elaborate


The part that photography can play in
making accessible to the great mass of
art lovers the work of some of our most able artists
has lately been well illustrated by an exhibition
organised by Mr. F. Hollyer. He collected at his
studio in Pembroke Square a very considerable
group of his reproductions of the studies and pre-
liminary drawings executed by Sir Edward Burne-
Jones for the pictures which have established his
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