Saturday, 5 March 2016

A footnote about Malcolm Salaman & Arthur Briscoe

There was a mention recently (in the post about Shinsui Ito and his 'Portrait of Miss Elizabeth Keith) of some etchings by the British artist, Arthur Briscoe. Briscoe only had his first six prints published in April, 1925, when he was fifty-one or fifty-two, so if what Walter Phillips says is accurate, he must have been at Malcolm Salaman's flat in the first half of that year because he returned to Canada in the June.

It's interesting for this reason. The visit possibly adds some history to a single print, perhaps not that uncommon because artists would inscribe individual prints often enough and make them easy to identify. Presumably Briscoe or his publisher, Harold Dickens, had provided Salaman with some review proofs prior to publication. There may also have been a trial proof of  Clewlines and buntlines among them. It was published in October later that year but Briscoe inscribed the proof  'To Malcolm Salaman'. As well he might. Salaman was the grand old man of British print (and you may be able to get some clue of this is Ernest Lumsden's own portrait published only one year later) and it was within his power, as Phillips acknowledged, to make the career of an artist he took to.

Briscoe had his own three-ton cutter, which he sailed along the Essex coast near the little port of Maldon, but in 1922 he had joined the crew of a Polish training ship, the Lvov, and sailed on her from Rotherhithe to Genoa. (You can see the ship being towed from Birkenhead where Briscoe was born and with the Liver Building on the Pierhead at Liverpool, behind. The ship was originally launched at Birkenhead in 1869.) The drawings he made during the voyage provided the basis for the first of his distinctive maritime etchings. Someone possibly had a good idea because the etchings came out when the market was at his most profitable. Etchings were already going for enormous prices and when Briscoe had a first print show of twenty-seven etchings at the Lefevre Gallery in October, 1926, it sold out. But times change and less than thirty years afterwards, an etching by Briscoe went for only two quid. Yes, and I am sure you have guessed the one it was. It was inscribed 'To Malcolm Salaman' and I wonder who owns it now.

The information about the ups and downs of Briscoe's prices and some other details comes from Kenneth Guichard British Etchers 1850 - 1940. So far as the ups go, Clewlines and buntlines is currently for sale at New England Art Exchange for $950. The Capstan (again from 1926 and showing cadets working on the Lvov) is available from the Allinson Gallery for $1,950.


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