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You are hereHarvey-LeeHomeHarvey-LeeCatalogues - Main Introduction Harvey-LeePrelude & Variations

“…music to the eyes ”

Regular subscribers will be familiar with my penchant for trying to find a slightly punning title for my stock catalogues. I had already come up with Image Conscious, then ‘enlarged’ it when I started cataloguing the Taylor Arms with its two interesting reviews of the 1936 Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers & Engravers, which suggested a Prelude.

The various attachments to the backboard of the etching Venetian Mirror by John Taylor Arms, which powerfully evoke, and freeze in time, the very ‘moment’ of its purchase in 1936, have led to this ‘Prelude’. The etching was bought from the 1936 annual London exhibition of the Royal Society of Painter Etchers & Engravers. I was fascinated to read the newspaper reviews of the exhibition, with the attention the critics had given it. And this in the middle of the Great Depression, when the market for black and white etchings had virtually disappeared and many etchers had stopped etching altogether from the lack of demand; only a few stalwarts such as Rushbury, Austin, Arms continuing.

What would prove the last edition of Fine Prints of the Year appeared two years later in 1938, marking the end of an era that had seen the Etching Boom and the etching collapse.

Before starting the catalogue ‘proper’, to accompany the Arms, I include a few etchings and woodcuts by some of the other exhibitors to the 1936 R.E. show named in the newspaper reviews.

Washington DC 1887 – 1953 New York

Arms first studied law at Princeton but transferred to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to train as an architect, graduating in 1912. He worked for various firms as an architectural draughtsman before establishing his own practice. However, a Christmas gift from his wife, of an etching kit, changed his course again. At first a hobby, he published his first etching in 1915.

After WW1, in which Arms served in the Navy, he gave up his career as an architect and became a fulltime etcher. Largely self-taught from studying the great European 17th-19th century masters of etching, he also greatly admired and sought advice from the American etcher Eugene Higgins.

A member of many printmaking societies, and president of the Society of American Graphic Artists, Arms exhibited from 1927 right through till 1952, the year before his death from cancer.

To achieve the remarkable fine lines in his architectural etchings, Arms made use of sewing needles and magnifying glasses.

JOHN TAYLOR ARMS R.E., Washington DC 1887 – 1953 New York. Venetian Mirror - The Grand Canal, Venice. Original etching, 1935.

Venetian Mirror - The Grand Canal, Venice
Fletcher 289 ii/ii No.27 of the Italian Series
162 x 358 mm. Original etching, 1935. Second (published) state.
Signed in pencil, dated and inscribed Ed 100 II (though Fletcher cites a total of 169 impressions, printed by David Strang 1936-38).
Printed in brown-black ink on J Whatman cream laid paper.

JOHN TAYLOR ARMS R.E., Washington DC 1887 – 1953 New York. Venetian Mirror - The Grand Canal, Venice. Original etching, 1935.

Together with the backboard of the original frame with the history of its purchase in letters and related newspaper clippings. You may click the image above to view an enlargement.

Exhibited at the R.E. 1936. Ex collection Mrs Martin Hood; one of the two impressions she purchased simultaneously from the R.E. show in March 1936.

Transcription of the two letters and newspaper cuttings on the back of the frame.

lettersLetterhead of the R.E. Gallery,
5a Pall Mall East, S.W.,
dated 19th Feb 1936

Dear Madam,
I have just received a call from Mr John Taylor Arms advising me that he has despatched (at my request) some more prints of his “Venetian Mirror”.
I shall therefore be happy to reserve one for you and to send it – as soon as the parcel arrives.
I have pleasure in enclosing the account. Your bankers will readily tell you what the exchange rate is.

Yours sincerely,
H. Philp

Mrs Martin Hood

Letterhead of the R.E.
5A Pall Mall East, S.W.1,
dated 13th March 1936

Dear Madam,
I have been unfortunate in trying to communicate with you over the telephone regarding the etching by Mr John Taylor Arms, “Venetian Mirror”.
I have had - since you were in the gallery - many requests for this wonderful print and I find after satisfying these demands I can let you have the two copies you asked for. Perhaps you will be kind enough to make your cheque (for £10) payable to me – and tell me if I should send the prints to you at Culross Street.

H Philp

Mrs Martin Hood

Newspaper review of the exhibition - from the Daily Mail 3 February 1936

An Etcher Reaches Perfection
Technical Difficulties Overcome

There are times when the critical faculty gives way to open-eyed surprise. I opened my eyes very wide at the exhibition of the Royal Society of Painter Etchers & Engravers which will be open at 5a Pall Mall East, from today till March 5th.
I was standing in front of five etchings by John Taylor Arms. I brought my eyes within two inches of each print but even then could not discern where each line began and stopped and parted from its fellows.
A needle apparently sharper than the proverbial one had moved on the metal with astounding accuracy and deliberation.

Not only was every tile, brick, slate, stone and slat lovingly reproduced but even the weather’s stain on them could be distinguished.
The biting of the plates with acid had been carried out so surely that any technician must stare in amazement. Only a technician can realise what difficulties have been overcome. There is no trace of foul biting.
You may not like such minuteness and lack of incisiveness, but when an ultimate has been reached the fact deserves trumpeting. John Taylor Arms has reached an ultimate.
“St Catherine’s Belfry, Honfleur”, “Stone Tapestry” and the tower of “Medieval Pageantry” (No145) are surpassed by “Venetian Mirror” (No143) where palaces and gondolas are reflected on a pellucid canal, and “La Colegiata Foro” (No144), where the calm of a Spanish Romanesque church only equals the calm of the etcher’s mind.

Newspaper Cuttings 1936TWO PLATES A YEAR.
The last two plates are dated 1935. Perhaps Mr Arms only completes two plates in a year. The amount of industry expended on a plate seems to demand no less than six months application.

The name of Arms will one day be bracketed with the noted name of Jacquemart, who in the second half of the last century proved how exactly he could etch representations of the masterpieces of goldsmith’s work in the Louvre.
Among the other plates at the exhibition there is a fair display of ability. The following may be mentioned: “Ely from the Meadows” (No11) by W P Robins; “Waveney” (No27) by Wm Washington. “Customs House, King’s Lynn” (No97) by Henry Rushbury; “Berkeley Square” (No131) by Wendola Boreel , and “Glow Worms” by Miss Moray Williams.

Review from the Manchester Guardian 8 Feb 1936

The Painter-Etchers
Reduction in wall space in modern houses and the decline of interest in the Japanese print as a home decoration has not yet had the expected effect in largely increasing the collection of etchings, but etching continues to be a lively section of modern art. Although the exhibition at 5 Pall Mall East, of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers, does not include several of the most eminent practitioners, its standard is more than respectable, and its membership includes many distinguished artists. Its woodcut section grows in grace, and includes such eminent people as Claire Leighton, G Raverat, E A Greenwood and Sydney Lee. None of the stars on the etching side has broken new ground this year, but F L Griggs maintains his high standard of dignified design and draughtsmanship, and Ian Strang, Job Nixon, Martin Hardie, F Burrage (sic), Robert Austin and F Austin, Ian MacNab, Henry Rushbury and W P Robins show good characteristic examples.

Etcher from the United States
The chief novelty is a series of works by John Taylor Arms, an American etcher, recently elected to the Society, who is working with remarkable technical brilliance on a side of etching that has been little exploited since Braquemond’s time, exact linear and tonal representation of the subject. Mr Brockhurst has worked on these lines in his highly wrought portraiture. Mr Arms’ subjects are architecture (sic). His most striking work is “Venetian Mirror”, a composition of palaces reflected in the Grand Canal with wonderful exactitude, a triumph of biting and printing, and a charming picture. Another is “Stone Tapestry” a study of an old arch, with the worn stained stonework rendered with astonishing fidelity, yet his industry and technique had not got the better of his art.

The rest of the catalogue is made up of a wide selection of Old Master Prints, works by Continental printmakers, British prints, mainly post 1850, and contemporary prints.

Jan van de Velde, Rotterdam c1593 - 1641 Enhuizen. The white Cow. Original etching, 1622.

JAN van de VELDE
Rotterdam c1593 - 1641 Enhuizen
The White Cow
Hollstein 368 i/ii. 166 x 233 mm. Original etching, 1622. First state of two.
Ex collection Leonard & Lisa Baskin (Lugt 4475)

Serendipity, as always, has come into play. There are interesting quite large groups of prints by John Sell Cotman and William Strang. Another group is of etchings by Wilfred Fairclough, and from his collection by his friends and fellow students at the Royal College of Art in the early 1930’s. As there are quite a few British wood engravings these have been put together.

Raymond Teague (Dick) Cowern, Birmingham 1913 - 1986 Whitehaven. By the Window. Original etching, 1934.

Birmingham 1913 - 1986 Whitehaven
By the Window
Ex E H-L. 158 x 173 mm. Original etching, 1934. Signed in pencil, dated
and dedicated "To W Fairclough". A previously unknown plate, related to
The Window (EH-L 31). Ex collection Wilfrid Fairclough.
Cowern & Fairclough were fellow students at the R.C.A. and both also Rome Scholars.

Kenneth Lindley A.R.E., London 1928 - 1986 Hereford. Hereford Window. Original wood engraving. c1975.

London 1928 - 1986 Hereford
Hereford Window
155 x 128 mm. Original wood engraving. c1975. Pencil signed. Artists's proof.
The artist's studio window

There are a number of original copper plates offered, by Hubert von Herkomer, Alfred Richard Blundell and Hans Figura.

The prints are generally listed in chronological order according to the artist’s year of birth.

Published December 2023.
Quarto paperback; 104 pages, 235 illustrations.
Details of 188 items for sale.
Price U. K. £23; Europe £30; Rest of the World £35

Prints available
Prints from this catalogue are still available.

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Elizabeth Harvey-Lee, Winter Catalogue 2023, Prelude & Variations

The front cover of the catalogue with a detail of JOHN TAYLOR ARMS' Venetian Mirror.

Artists included in the catalogue:

  • Aldegrever H
  • Arms J T
  • Austin F G
  • Austin R.S
  • Barrett R W
  • Bissill G
  • Blundell A R
  • Bone M
  • Boreel W
  • Bresdin R
  • Brockhurst G L
  • Brodzky H A
  • Burridge F V
  • Cain C W
  • Carlevaris L
  • Chadwick T
  • Cotman J S
  • Cowern R T
  • Daubigny C F
  • Delaube E
  • Dratz C
  • Drummond M C
  • Eby K
  • Fairclough W
  • Figura H
  • Freeth H A
  • Frood H
  • Gammell S A W
  • Garnier G S
  • Garrett A C
  • Glanville H M T
  • Goyder A K
  • Green F M
  • Griggs F L M
  • Haid J
  • Harper J G
  • Herkomer H von
  • Hilton R
  • Holman H M
  • Horsley J C
  • Jacque C E
  • Kirkpatrick J
  • Klein J A
  • Koogh A van der
  • Leighton C
  • Lindley K
  • Liphart E F von
  • Lucas M A
  • Maillol A J B
  • Meryon C
  • Mitsui H
  • Morgan E C
  • Musi A dei
  • Payter H
  • Peteghen H van
  • Petterson M
  • Phipps H
  • Pissarro C
  • Playfair V D M
  • Possoz M
  • Raimondi
  • Raverat G
  • Rawson W
  • Rembrandt
  • Robertson J E
  • Rose G H
  • Rozin S
  • Rushbury H
  • Sadeler A
  • Schönwald H
  • Schwabe R
  • Shannon C H
  • Souter J B
  • Sherborn C W
  • Sherlock A M
  • Sloane M A
  • Smart D I
  • Squirrel L
  • Stamp E
  • Steinlen T A
  • Sterner M
  • Strang I
  • Strang W
  • Taylor E W
  • Tippett V J
  • Tod M M
  • Tute G
  • Umbach J
  • Underwood L
  • Valette A
  • Velde J van de
  • Veneziano A
  • Vezelay P
  • Way T R
  • Webb J
  • Whistler J M
  • Whitcombe M
  • Wicks D V
  • Wolf F X
  • Wright J B

Elizabeth Harvey-Lee, Winter Catalogue 2023, Prelude & Variations, back cover

Back cover, showing RODOLPHE BRESDIN: Les Villes derrière le Marécage. Original pen lithograph, c1868.


Hans Figura, Nagy-Kikinda, Serbia 1898 - 1978 Vienna. Insel Marken (The island of Insel). Three etched aquatinted zinc plates, c1928-9, plus colour proofs and a finalised colour impression.

Nagy-Kikinda, Serbia 1898 - 1978 Vienna

Insel MarkenShim The Island of Insel
Figura 39
250 x 218 mm (plate)

The complete series of three etched and aquatinted zinc plates, c1928-9.
Together with colour proofs of Plates 2 & 3; a finalised colour impression from all three plates, the margins of the sheet folded back to form a cover for the plates; plus a proof, probably unique, printed from all three plates in shades of brown only, on tissue thin japan.

Hans Figura, Nagy-Kikinda, Serbia 1898 - 1978 Vienna. Insel Marken (The island of Insel). Three etched aquatinted zinc plates, c1928-9, plus colour proofs and a finalised colour impression.

(In 1957 a dyke was built between Marken and the Dutch mainland, and Marken ceased to be an island)


Hans Figura, Nagy-Kikinda, Serbia 1898 - 1978 Vienna. Insel Marken (The island of Insel). Three etched aquatinted zinc plates, c1928-9, plus colour proofs and a finalised colour impression.

Hans Figura, Nagy-Kikinda, Serbia 1898 - 1978 Vienna. Insel Marken (The island of Insel). Three etched aquatinted zinc plates, c1928-9, plus colour proofs and a finalised colour impression.

Hans Figura, Nagy-Kikinda, Serbia 1898 - 1978 Vienna. Insel Marken (The island of Insel). Three etched aquatinted zinc plates, c1928-9, plus colour proofs and a finalised colour impression.



William Strang R.A., R.E., Dumbarton 1859 - 1921 Bournmouth. Thomas Hardy No.2. Original etching, 1893-94.

Dumbarton 1859 - 1921 Bournmouth
Thomas Hardy No.2
Strang 227. 224 x 150 mm.
Original etching, 1893-94. Signed in pencil.
Over a period of 28 years, from 1893 on,
Strang made a dozen portraits of Hardy,
in various media

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