19th Century Publishing: The Magazine of Art

October 28, 2010

Following up on some past posts of mine regarding 19th century engraving, I’ve come across a few more late 19th and early 20th century art print publications. The first I’d like to mention is The Magazine of Art, which can be found at the great Archive.org site. High resolution images of whole publications can be viewed there online.

The first few issues were illustrated only with engravings, which was the print technology of the time. Photographic reproductions begin to appear in the mid 1880s (@ Vol. 9 or 10,) mostly used for sculptures, and then by the end of the decade it’s all photogravure, even adding a little bit of color. The writing, too, is very interesting reading including articles ranging from ancient Greek sculpture to contemporary Victorian artists and ateliers. If you’re fond of that era and Pre-Raphaelite artists you may find it particularly fascinating, as they have several articles on artists like Burne-Jones and Rossetti. Some etchings and lithographs also appear occasionally; although, those were likely recreations as well. It’s good to see and read about artwork that has mostly vanished from history. Many of these are buried in collections that may never be seen again.

Engraving detail

It is odd reading a magazine article that discusses the particular technique and skill of an artist when the image you’re looking at is an engraving by someone else for the art in question. Still, if you just look at them separately as prime examples of the engraving art form in their own right you should find it quite enjoyable. The names of Pannemaker, Babbage, Leveille, and Jonnard sometimes appear, and their engraving studios were the best available; although, most show no name credits at all. It’s debatable that the visual quality is better in the engraving than a photo would have been. They may be, in some cases, even better than the original artwork. If you’re a student of the inked line, there’s much to be learned here.

Many of the photos that were printed in these later editions also include a name credit of André Sleigh, which refers to Richard André, an early pioneer of color lithography. The photos here, however, were not very high quality, similar to newsprint, and lighting conditions back then caused major problems for photographing artwork, not to mention being in black and white or the later limitations of four-color printing. Note that the deatils here are actual size.

Photo print

Photo print detail

The best way to view the files at Archive.org is with their on-line viewer (click “Read Online”) instead of downloading the lesser quality PDF files that they offer. The files are just scanned JPG images that can be saved to disk for easier viewing. Many thanks extended to Archive.org and the University of Toronto Robarts Library care of Cathy Mathews, who is credited as the source.


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