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You are hereHarvey-LeeHomeHarvey-LeeCatalogues - Main Introduction Harvey-LeeEvery Picture Tells a Story


Elizabeth Harvey-Lee, Catalogue 53; Every Picture Tells a Story - Front Cover imageEvery figurative image is illustrative in some way, if only as a proof, or otherwise, of the artist's competence.

Over and above the purely aesthetic appeal of the formal language of the design, its quality of line, shapes, tonality or colour, the image can be informative as regards the artist's interests and perhaps his sympathies or affiliations. As well as presenting the physical appearance of a person, object, or landscape etc, the image may generate in the viewer direct or indirect associations which enrich the appreciation and the narrative content.

Of all the visual arts prints are most open to the suggestive complexity of ancillary layers of meaning; that many, especially earlier, prints include lettering, is a significant factor. Long associated with the book trade, prints too can quite literally, as well as interpretatively, be 'read'. The very title of an image can enhance our response.

Every Picture Tells a Story

Les trois crayons de Watteau.
Original drypoint, c.1895, by Paul Helleu.
The artist’s wife looking at identifiable Watteau chalk drawings in the Louvre

Lettering on old master prints not only complements and explains the image, it details the artists involved and through the publisher's names, if supplied, can be indicative of the date the impression was actually printed and be a guide to the print's lasting relevance or popularity of the theme.

Reflecting the ethos of their time, 16th & 17th century prints are predominantly concerned with themes from religion or classical mythology, be it narrative depictions of scenes or personalities or allegorical expressions of the moral precepts to be drawn therefrom, or simply as visual icons of the most popular saints or classical heroes. The educated audience at whom they were directed was familiar with the symbolic conventions and enjoyed artists' variations on the themes. To them the whole story was implicit in a single detail or character pictured.

Prints were often produced in narrative cycles of consecutive episodes. In the later 16th century new themes that lent themselves to series became very popular, the twelve Months of the Year, the four Seasons, the four Times of Day, the Ages of Man. There was also crossover or combination of themes, as well as typological analogies between Christian and antique heroes, and Old Testament figures considered prophetic symbols of Christ.

The catalogue offers imagery from all the above - including the infancy of Christ; Christ's sayings; a 'portrait' of the Apostle Thomas; the four Evangelists; Saints Jerome and Barbara; Old Testament characters David and Samson (both prototypes of Christ); the Antique strong man Hercules; Apollo; and additionally, allegories of love; an early caricature (Titian's drawing with apes acting the part of Laocoon and his sons); and a few small scenes from Maximilian's huge propaganda woodcut projects, The Triumphal Arch and his fictional autobiography Der Weisskunig, as well as Dürer's portrait of the Holy Roman Emperor.

Elizabeth Harvey-Lee, Catalogue 53; Every Picture Tells a Story - Back Cover image

A Battle of Engravers. Original etching, 1828
by George Cruikshank after an idea by Thomas Wilson.
(The catalogue back cover illustration.)

An etched tailpiece for Thomas Wilson’s own Catalogue Raisonné of the Select Collection of Engravings of an Amateur, in which he lists in the caption some of the engravers illustrated in the etching and comments “all these engravers were rivals”.
In the foreground Hogarth, uniquely carrying a palette as his shield, and with paintbrushes in his quiver, wields an etching needle in his fight with Antoine Masson (1636-1700), who is ‘en garde’ with a burin for a rapier.
Beyond them William Woollett (1735-85) and J.J. Baléchou (1719-64) hold engraved copperplates as shields and attack each other with burins. At the back, Dürer, with his monogram on his shield, attacks Marcantonio Raimondi (c1480-c1530) with an axe.

These three pairs are named in the caption to the etching in the book. Other unnamed combatants may include Rembrandt with a feather in his hat fending off a firebrand. At the right a figure is firing off the stopper from a jar of acid and elsewhere a cast of the Apollo Belvedere and other studio props contribute to the melée.

Some of these themes continue through into modern printmaking, particularly in prints designed for book illustration, though otherwise artists' symbolism tends to become more specifically personal. However, the thematic emphasis generally is on scenes or comment on contemporary life but not without an awareness of the past and the changes which resulted from the industrial revolution. Modern images offered here include some of Stanley Anderson' craftsmen; Ardizzone's Soho street corner - with street girls;
Edward La Dell's souvenir of a holiday in Trier; Bruno Gorlato's metaphysical dreams of Padua; and a pleasing and interesting variety of others, all with some story attached if not specifically narratives as such.

I very much enjoyed putting this catalogue together, and I hope you will have an equal pleasure in the prints it contains and in reading about them.

Published Summer 2013
56 pages, 103 items, with 129 illustrations, 6 being in colour.

(UK Price: £12, International orders £16)

Prints still available
Some prints from this catalogue are still available and have been featured within the Selections section of the website.

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Artists included in the catalogue:

  • Aldegrever H.
  • Anderson S.
  • Ardizzone E.
  • Austen W.
  • Barrett T.
  • Bawden R.
  • Beck L.
  • Berssembrugge H.
  • Blampied E.
  • Bockstorffer C.
  • Boldrini N.
  • Brett S.
  • Brown F. M.
  • Burgkmair H.
  • Cari G.
  • de Charpentier F. P.
  • Collaert A.
  • Corinth L
  • Cruikshank G.
  • Daumier H.
  • Detmold E. J.
  • Deville J.
  • Dürer A.
  • Elsheimer A.
  • Endlinger J.
  • Fisher A. H.
  • Freeth H. A.
  • Galle P.
  • Gheyn J.
  • de Gill E.
  • Gooden S.
  • Gorlato B.
  • Goudt H.
  • Hartrick A. S.
  • Heemskerk M. van
  • Helleu P.
  • Hill V.
  • Hondius H.
  • Jegher C.
  • Jordaens J.
  • Kosas J.
  • Laboureur J. E.
  • La Dell E.
  • Ladenspelder J.
  • Lautrec H. de T.
  • Lindsay L.
  • Lucas van Leyden
  • Macbeth R. W.
  • Major T.
  • Maleuvre
  • Master of the Die
  • May G.
  • Meier M.
  • Menzel A. von
  • Mitchell F. J.
  • Molien
  • Monogrammist MF
  • Moore G.
  • O'Neill G. B.
  • Orovida Pencz G.
  • Pennell J.
  • Peruzzi B.
  • Piranesi G. B.
  • Pryse G. S.
  • Rhead G. W.
  • Renton M.
  • Rubens P. P.
  • Sadeler J.
  • Scultori A.
  • Sloan J.
  • Snellinck J.
  • Sparks N.
  • Springinklee H.
  • Sustris F.
  • Taylor E.
  • Tempesta A.
  • Titian
  • Toulouse-Lautrec H. de
  • Traut W.
  • Vos M.
  • de Wailes
  • Wierix A.
  • Wierix J.

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