Sunday, 15 January 2017

William Baillie: How did he do it ?

Jan van Goyen 

"Gesicht op Alphen by Leyden"

was one of Hollands great Golden Age landscape painters. And an equally great drawer. Famous in their own time paintings and drawings were sold and collected all over Europe by the important and the wealthy: Rembrandt, Pieter Molyn, Jan de Bisschop, the Ruisdael brothers, Paulus Potter, Adriaen van Ostade and many other great drawers of the Dutch landscape. 

Market in a Duch village near a river. 
Many of van Goyens landscape drawings I learned are kept in the collections of the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum (follow the link here*) and available for viewing on line.

Some details showing the markings left by the instruments ("Roulettes") to simulate pencil drawing:

Although it looks every bit a pencil drawing this: "View on Alphen near Leyden",  however is not a drawing but an engraved copy I found recently in a charity shop. It was created by Irish engraver William Baillie (1723-1810) who besides his military career was an eminent amateur artist. Baillie was hired by the Duke of Bute, John Stuart  (1713-1792), Prime Minisister of Great Britain 1762/63 to create engraved copies of works in his art collection. 

Jan van Goyen: view on Leyden
Stuart had studied in Leiden, the obvious place to have been aquainted with van Goyens paintings and drawings and possibly the place where he bought his drawing "view on Alphen near Leyden". After his political career Stuart later became a patron of the arts. 

Baillie is also known to have owned several original Rembrandt (1606-1669) etching plates. He reworked the worn out plates and, not to every ones taste altered Rembrandt's composition of the "three trees on a hill" print by adding clouds and lightning. He'd better not. 

 Three trees: Rembrandt and Baillie 

Obviously he owned Rembrandt's plate of the famous traveling elephant Hansken too.   
Hansken: Rembrandt and Baillie

I could not find van Goyens original drawing "View on Alphen near Leyden" and I cannot say it has survived, one of Stuarts homes suffered from fire. But comparing it with others in the Rijksmuseum it is amazing to learn Baillie was able to create an engraved copy that with the naked eye is hardly distinctable from any actual washed and "soft" pencil drawings by van Goyen or any other artist. 

Baillies copy of Stuarts drawing by Pieter Molyn (1595-1668)

Invented in Britain, in the late 17the century, "Mezzotint" engraving grew into a craze during the 18th century used to copy entire collections of Old Masters paintings, portraits etc.. It was also called the "Black Art", starting with a black plate, rubbing in the lighter parts with instruments called "Roulettes".  

The duke of Devonshire hired Baillie's colleague engraver Richard Earlom (1743-1822) to copy his art collection including his many paintings by Claude Loraine (1602-1682) (below). Loraine was William Turners' (1775-1851) inspiration, read here*). 

Studying drawings by van Goyen I noticed he was intrigued by the artistic possibilities of depicting the mechanical tackling device called in Dutch a "Putmik" or "Puthaal" (English  .....?) used for hauling water buckets or freight. The strong diagonals of the contraption breaking the horizontal and vertical  landscape composition attracting strongly the eye and leading through the composition. He used it often: when shipsails or yards were not available.   

Here are some examples of this device that was in use in rural areas into the 20th century.

Cornelis Dusart (1660-1704) after Adriaen van Ostade (1610-1685). 
Dusart used van Ostades studio in Haarlem after his death. 

All pictures embiggen by mouse click

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only. 

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