Important acquisitions

A practical illustration of Gilpin's day: representing the various effects on landscape scenery from morning till night

Author William Gilpin (& John Heaviside Clark)
Title A practical illustration of Gilpin's day: representing the various effects on landscape scenery from morning till night
Imprint London: Edward Orme
Date of Publication 1811
Language English
Notes This is a rare first edition of a book illustrating the effects of light and the weather on the landscape. It reproduces landscape sketches by William Gilpin (1724-1804), an English writer on art, school teacher and clergyman, who is now best known for being one of the first people to put forward the idea of the picturesque in art. In his 1768 "Essay on Prints" he outlined 'the principles of picturesque beauty, the different kinds of prints, and the characters of the most noted masters'. For Gilpin 'picturesque' was 'a term expressive of that peculiar kind of beauty, which is agreeable in a picture'; moreover, beauty could have an improving moral influence which meant that viewing a landscape was a religious as well as an aesthetic experience. Gilpin travelled the length and breadth of Britain, with his notebook and sketching materials, searching out picturesque locations in order to demonstrate his theories. From 1782 a series of works by Gilpin were published with the title "Observations on & relative chiefly to picturesque beauty". In these books, which covered specific areas of Britain, Gilpin's pen and wash sketches of landscapes were reproduced in aquatint plates. His picturesque books proved to be very popular, however his didactic and pedantic tone grated with some authors, and with professional artists such as John Landseer, who dismissed his 'aquatinted smearings & tarnished with false principles of art'. Gilpin was also mercilessly satirised in William Combe's Doctor Syntax books, first published in the 1810s. Despite his critics, there was still a devoted readership for Gilpin's works among amateur artists and they continued to be published after his death in 1804. In 1810, the London print seller and publisher Edward Orme published a work entitled "The last work published of W. Gilpin ... representing the effect of a morning, a noon tide, and an evening sun" (better known as "Gilpin's day"), which reproduced 30 of Gilpin's landscape drawings as monochromatic aquatints, ordered according to the times of day. The success of the work prompted Orme to republish it a year later as "A practical illustration of Gilpin's day", rearranging the order of the plates and with an introduction and descriptive text for each plate by the Scottish artist John Heaviside Clark. In addition, Clark hand-coloured the plates, adding spectacular dashes of colour and dramatic effects, such as rainbows and flashes of lightning, to the rather muted aquatints of the earlier edition. Clark's jazzing up of Gilpin's soft colours reflected a change in popular taste; people no longer favoured standardised depictions of landscapes with universal appeal but rather wanted to see particular landscapes and individual features highlighted. The Clark edition was reprinted in 1824, indicating that it too was a commercial success. This particular copy is in a half-morocco binding by the renowned London bookbinding company, Sangorski and Sutcliffe, which has retained the original upper printed wrapper.
Shelfmark AB.10.213.02
Reference Sources Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; A. Bermingham, "Learning to draw: studies in the cultural history of polite and useful art" (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000)
Acquired on 21/06/13
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