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Inside View, Elizabeth Harvey-LeeInteriors and still Lives

Accepted and popular genres in painting, studies of interiors and still lives are much rarer themes in printmaking.

In early old masters prints, perhaps because of the propensity to narrative-led biblical subjects or classical mythology, ‘outdoor’ settings predominate. With the iconic exception of Dürer’s St Jerome in his Study interiors tend to be stage-set architectural spaces, setting the scene for events or relationships of spiritual significance rather than detailing home comforts inside rooms with four walls. Furniture, if any, is minimal. Ancillary objects are symbolic; though in the beautifully observed vase of lilies in an Annunciation, or a specific saintly attribute, lie the origins of still life.

The political and social situation in 17th century Holland which determined new directions in subject matter in painting, was paralleled in printmaking but to a lesser extent. Rembrandt’s interiors are largely atmospheric ambiences, often obscured by chiaroscuro, with only the occasional furnishing item in focus. Ostade however etched a few delightful tavern and domestic interiors, and even the interior of a barn. Dutch etchers, and Abraham Bosse in France, enlivened abstract themes such as The Five Senses, or series of depictions of trades and professions with the settings and minutiae of daily life.

Concomitantly Bible stories were given reality and relevance by setting them in the contemporary domestic scene. Jan and Raphael Sadeler engraved Christ in the House of Mary & Martha, The Rich Man and the poor Lazarus and The Supper at Emmaus, all after paintings by Jacopo Bassano; three prints which are known collectively as the ‘Sadeler Kitchens’. Kitchens in general became a popular theme.

Just as the kitchen , with its prospect of the pleasure of food and drink to be enjoyed socially, and perhaps with musical accompaniment, is at the heart of the home, the artist’s studio is the centre of his working life and identity. The technical requirements of printmaking, copper, wood and stone, acid baths, dampened paper, ink preparation, and printing press, determine that most printmaking takes place inside the studio and that there are many objects of interest to engage the eye. With all their picturesque trappings, studios are the settings for many portraits and self-portraits – both with and without the actual physical presence of the artist.

The two promotional engravings of his Academy commissioned by Baccio Bandinelli in 1531 and 1552 are amongst the earliest printed secular interiors, closely followed by Jost Amman’s woodcut illustrations of artists, printmakers and printers at work, 1568. Together with Hans Collaert’s celebrated image of an engraving studio among the  series of trades delineated in Stradanus’ Nova Reperta from the same period, they are the precursors of what proved to be a perennially popular theme, the interior of the artist’s studio.

In the 18th century prints of mores, moral (or more literally immoral) behaviour, took the viewer inside the boudoir and the theatre. With the dawn of the 19th century the domestic interior becomes more prevalent. By the end of the century and the early decades of the 20th century, new ‘inside’ subjects are found in factories, and the preparations for and results of War; countered by those of cafés, musical entertainment and games, and nostalgic interiors of smithies, and the workshops of other rural craftsmen, disappearing in the onward march of industry and mechanisation.

Inside View, Elizabeth Harvey-LeeVery few of the prints offered in this collection are ‘straight’ interiors. With a few exceptions only, their raison d’être is not first and foremost as a representation of a specific interior. They are dialogues with the exterior; sometimes views through windows from the outside looking into a room; more generally interiors with views through windows and open doors to the outside world of gardens, streets or landscape. They are atmospheric studies of light, sometimes lamp or candlelight, more often sunlight flooding through windows, perhaps with figures silhouetted contre jour. Above all they are settings that portray people in their natural or personal environment, contributing to the expression of the character of the sitter, with favourite objects revealing their personal leanings.

Though pure still lives are an even rarer printed genre than interiors, interiors are themselves an extension of still life, just as still lives are adjuncts of portraits. It is interesting that in English and German the term is Still '’Life’ while in French it is Nature ‘morte’. The prints offered here, whatever their nationality, are full of life and I hope life-enhancing.

Published 2006
64 pages, 142 items described and illustrated in black and white, with four in colour on the back cover.

(UK Price: £7, International orders: £10)

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Artists included in the catalogue:

  • Abbé S van
  • American School
  • Anderson S
  • Austin R
  • Baptiste S
  • Bartolozzi F
  • Bassano J
  • Belleroche A
  • Blampied E
  • Bonfils R
  • Bosse A
  • Bostock J
  • Bowles J
  • Bracquemond F
  • Brangwyn F
  • Brouet A
  • Burnley C
  • Butcher E
  • Callot J
  • Cameron D Y
  • Chinnery G
  • Clarke J
  • Clausen G
  • Cowern R T
  • Cranach L
  • Dodd F
  • Drury P
  • Duez E
  • Dürer A
  • Dusart C
  • Duvivier G
  • Fagioli G
  • Fantin-Latour H
  • Flax Z
  • Fontainebleau School
  • Freeth H A
  • Fürst E
  • Gabain E
  • Godden C E V
  • Goffey H
  • Grant D
  • Hall C
  • Hartrick A S
  • Heath J C W
  • Heuvel van den
  • Hockney D
  • Hogarth W
  • Hopfer D
  • Hopfer H
  • Hudson E E
  • Hummel W
  • Ilsted P
  • Israels J
  • Jacquemart J
  • Journet E
  • Kayser E
  • Kollwitz K
  • Laboureur J E
  • Lamy P A
  • Laurie & Whittle
  • Lautensack H
  • Lavieille A
  • Lawless M J
  • Le Breton C
  • Lepère A
  • Macbeth-Raeburn H
  • Marchant L
  • McBey J
  • Meryon C
  • Millet J F
  • Monzies
  • Morley H
  • Nash J
  • Newton Edith
  • Newton Eric
  • Osborne M
  • Ostade A van
  • Philipp M E
  • Platt R
  • Possoz M
  • Primaticcio
  • Rayner H
  • Robbe M
  • Sadeler J
  • Sadeler R
  • Salter A
  • Sartorius M
  • Schauffelein H
  • Schmutzer F
  • Sickert W
  • Simon T F
  • Smith C W
  • Smith R S
  • Spruyt E P
  • Stevens A
  • Stevenson B T W
  • Still S G H
  • Tanner R
  • Verpilleux E
  • Villon J
  • Vos M de
  • Hall C
  • Wedgewood G
  • Welti A
  • Whistler J M
  • Wierix A
  • Winghe van
  • Wolff H
  • Zorn A

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