Wednesday, 9 September 2015

A Studio lithograph on ebay: John Dickson Batten's 'The tiger'


John Dickson Batten is having his day. Within only days of two postings about him (on Modern Printmakers and on The Linosaurus) here we have another Studio lithograph of one of his prints, this time his first original print called The tiger. I hasten to add that what you see above is an original proof owned by the British Museum and donated by Batten himself in 1920. Below is the lithograph that has just been passed over on British ebay. (It was up at the OK price of £3.50). But no doubt you can tell the difference.

First the story. Batten worked with Frank Morley Fletcher on two colour woodcuts then made this print in Fletcher's first class at the Central School of Arts and Crafts 1897/1898. I don't know whether Batten ever said in print why he allowed lithographs to made of his early prints. He did say that what he wanted to with colour woodcut was to avoid mechanical means of reproduction and I assume the reason behind The Studio publishing images of both Eve and the serpent and The tiger was to gain extra publicity for the whole colour woodcut project and not to pass them off as original prints. They are reproductions and nothing like the lithographs being produced by Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon at the time.

Would I buy one? No I would not. I did once buy a lithographic reproduction of a watercolour by Arthur Rigden Read on ebay and I treasure it because it is a fine example of the technique of lithography by Read's fellow students and adds a good deal to the little I knew about Read's early career but I paid only a few pounds for it. And it's what ebay can do well - allowing people to exercise their eye and to make use of what they know to pick up something interesting for a few quid. Going on about what some Studio lithograph might be worth takes the excitement out of everything.

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