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Rare  Pioneer  of  English  Marine  Painting

3  Drawings  in  Grey  Wash  on  Vellum

by

Thomas  Baston

as  Finest  of  the  Finest

 

Topped  moreover
by  the  respective  contemporary  engravings
in  reverse

 

Thomas Baston, Shipwreck on Cliff Coast

I.  Shipwreck  on  the  Cliff  Coast

Tres Notus abreptas in faxa latentia torquet. A British galleon with badly damaged rigging failing on the reefs of a cliff coast. Only the Union Jack still flying strongly from the bow-sprit. A large number of the crew already landed by the boat on the reefs with others still waiting for their rescue. In the background another galleon heading for the same fate while a third just manages to put about. Pen and brown ink with grey wash on vellum. Inscribed lower right: TBaston F. 1710 as well as from Vergil’s Æneis as above. 7⅛-7⅜ × 11¼ in (182-186 × 285-287 mm).

Baston’s  very  finely  executed , atmosphere-rich  work

to the set of the “Twenty-two Prints of several of the Capital ships of his Majesties Royal Navy with Variety of other Sea Pieces after the Drawings of T. B.” which were published “under his name after his drawings, but engraved by several artists” by T. Bowles in London in 1721 and became known in their entirety of 22 sheet to Thieme-Becker III, 27 only. Nagler I, 317 knew Baston as draughtsman and engraver, but only 9 sheet of this set which is also missing in the Scheepvaart Museum and only recently was highly paid with US$ 20,000.

In his circumstances widely unknown, other works have not become known even to newest literature including AKL VII, 434:

“ Artist working in the first quarter of the 18th century. In the reign of George I, Thomas Bowles published an important set of prints, ‘Twentytwo PRINTS of several of the CAPITAL SHIPS OF HIS Majties ROYAL NAVY with Variety of other SEA PIECES after the drawings of T. Baston’. The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, has two drawings by him. This compiler knows of no oil paintings by him ”

(Archibald, Dictionary of Sea Painters, in the 3rd ed., 2000, correcting the erratum “un”important).

In addition to this Chatterton, Old Ship Prints, 83 f., together with plate illustration:

“ During the first quarter of the eighteenth century there flourished Thomas Baston, who deserves our attention because he has left us some very spirited illustrations of English men-of-war … some of his pictures were engraved by … Kirkall, and others … The detail of these ‘wooden walls’, with their great topsails and their picturesque poop lanterns, is

most  valuable  if  we  wish  to  study

the  ships  of  the  period  immediately  preceding  1765 ,

the  date  when  Nelson’s  Victory  was  launched …

Such details as the running and standing rigging, the pennants, the stowage of the anchors … which immediately attract our attention … Certainly such prints … give a life and meaning to eighteenth-century naval history, for they help us to visualize the manner in which fleets went into action, or fought their way across the ocean under conditions that we can scarcely envy. ”

Based on more recent research, however, present Baston seems to have been born in Ireland about 1665/70, and father of Thomas (II) baptized 1691 in Allhallows, London Wall, as son of Thomas (I) and Mary Baston. Further documents prove the existence of a marine draughtsman Thomas Baston, living in great financial difficulties for at least the first years of the 18th century, what with respect to age thus should refer to present Th. I, and finally being in debtor’s prison from 1710 till at least end of 1716, more likely till 1720. This then in remarkable concurrence with the gap between the dates of present and two further drawings available here from 1720 and 1722 resp. as well as the publication of the set starting in 1721. For 1728 finally the birth of a Thomas III as son of again Thomas and Mary Baston is documented in Allhallows. See on this as on the marriage of one (further?) Thomas Baston with the propertied widow Ann Grace before mid of 1691 recorded likewise in Allhallows in greater detail Charles H. Wallace, Thomas Baston: Pioneer Marine Print Designer.

Artistically Baston belongs to the

earliest  pioneers  of  an  independent  English  art  scene

in the early 18th century. And it is Baston and the obviously about half a generation younger Peter Monamy (1681-1749) who not only succeed the younger van de Velde, at last active in London and deceased in 1707, but satisfy in a political-economical environment of secured predominance on all seas and a growing colonial empire an increasing middle-class request for art and through this make marine painting popular, Baston in the field of prints, Monamy with paintings. The latter by the way made free by the Guild of Painter-Stainers the very same day as Sir James Thornhill, the later father-in-law of William Hogarth with whom Monamy then was on friendly terms and just as this he contributed – shortly before his death – to the decoration of Captain Coram’s Foundling Hospital, though his marine piece is lost today.

The thirteenth sheet of the set reproduced by Chatterton – as the one here engraved by Sartor – with coat of arms and dedication to the Royal officers instead of a verse of Vergil’s.

Thomas Baston, Shipwreck / engraving

With  the  belonging  to  contemporary  engraving  in  reverse

by Johann Jakob Sartor (inscribed: TBaston delin / Sartor Sculp., otherwise like the drawing with the addition “Vergil”. 8⅝ × 12⅛ in [22 × 30.9 cm]).

Sartor, also known as Sarter, lived at least predominantly in Cologne, that is from 1710 (title for the Opera mystica by B. Joannis a Cruce) till 1737. So Nagler, Monogrammisten, IV, 424 in only partial concurrence with Thieme-Becker (1706/12 uncertain where, 1715/19 London, 1732/37 Cologne). In his Künstler-Lexicon, however, Nagler mentions under no. 1 the Crucification after van Dyck and Schelte à Bolswert which was published in London in 1729, thus during the reported time at Cologne.

Thomas Baston, Shipwreck at Cliff Coast / Signature

The drawing trimmed just outside – below with the recess of the signature on the lower right – of the borderline. The slight waving resulting from the warmth of the artist’s hands – see Meder, Handzeichnung, 169 – barely noticeable. Slightly foxing. Otherwise here and there quite minimally rubbed in places.

The extraordinarily luxurious paper margin of the engraving – on especially strong laid paper with great watermark fleur de lis with crown – in the outer parts to some extents time-stained and with several small tears backed acid-freely. Otherwise, however, early rich impression qualified by still feebly noticeable plate dirt.

Of  absolutely  unsurpassable  attraction  for  every  collection

Thomas Baston, Shipwreck / drawingThomas Baston, Shipwreck / engraving

the  confrontation  of  original  drawing  and  engraving :

Only the drawing with its immediateness can unveil the artist in his whole. In a way it is impossible even for the mezzotint washes can show the slightest shadows besides the clear lines. Many details appear even in the fully executed drawing sketchy, stressing the impressions which were important for the draftsman himself.

Restricted to the straight line the engraving can display – besides its own special charm – tender shades very limited only. Other details, suggested only in the drawing, might step to the foreground in a way it may not have been intended originally.

So here, too. While in the print the shipwreck appears in the harsh light of the clouds breaking up, so one believes to almost feel the humidity of the air over the churned up sea in the drawing.

Such  confrontation

is – conditioned by the unique character of original drawings themselves as well as their often untraceableness –

an  opportunity  of  extraordinary  rarity  indeed .

This all the more in the case of drawings on vellum. Although vellum was almost the only material for drawings of all kind before paper came up, since the 13th century it was pushed away just according to the ever growing quality of paper. Only

“ in the 17th century it received a kind of re-vitalization. Not only delicately drawn compositions, genre scenes and still lives were executed on vellum … They were also brought to a painterly impression by tender colored washes ”

(Meder, Die Handzeichnung, p. 171 f.).

The one in question here thus already ranging at the end of the re-vitalization chiefly borne by the Dutch. And, besides its special effects, although intended to be just as permanent as Vergil’s verses.

But in their confrontation with the contemporary engravings – in reverse due to direct transfer to the plate – they are now

mandatory  for  every  collection , not  maritime  ones  only .

And, as said

absolutely  un-surpassed  the  thrill  for  the  beholder

going  out  from  such  a  confrontation

Original  Drawing  —  Engraving .

And  for  the  self-respect  of  the  owner .

Offer no. 28,819 / price on application

Thomas Baston, Tempest at Sea

II.  Tempest  at  Sea

INCUBUERE mari totumque, a fedibus imis una Eurusque Notusq; RUUNT ereberque procellis AFRICUS, et vastos volvunt ad Litora fluctus. Under deep dark clouds six threemasters sailing under stormsails in heavy weather. One of which just seems to sail itself downwards. Pen and brown ink with grey wash on vellum. Inscribed lower right: TBaston F. 1722. as well as from Vergil’s Æneis as above. 7⅛-7¼ × 11⅛-11¼ in (180-184 × 282-287 mm).

Baston’s  very  finely  executed , atmosphere-rich  work

–  inspired  possibly  by  Hollar’s  “ Men-of War  in  the  Tempest ”  –

(Parthey 1275; Hollar Catalogue Berlin, 1984, 97 with ills.) to sheet 17 of the “Twenty-two Prints of several of the Capital ships of his Majesties Royal Navy with Variety of other Sea Pieces after the Drawings of T. B.” of 1721.

Thomas Baston, Tempest at Sea / engraving

With  the  belonging  to  contemporary  engraving  in  reverse

by Johann Jakob Sartor (inscribed: TBaston delin / Sartor Sculp., otherwise like the drawing with the addition “Vergil”. 8⅝ × 12⅛ in [22 × 30.9 cm]).

Thomas Baston, Tempest at Sea / Signature

The drawing trimmed just outside – below with the recess of the signature on the lower right – of the borderline. Three small to tiny tears in the right margin in the part of the sky. The slight waving resulting from the warmth of the artist’s hands – see Meder, Handzeichnung, 169 – leading to a certain creasing which, however, gives an additional plasticity to the depiction of the churned up elements. In all somewhat rubbed.

Thomas Baston, Tempest at Sea / drawingThomas Baston, Tempest at Sea / engraving

The extraordinarily luxurious paper margin of the engraving – on especially strong laid paper with typographic watermark – in the outer parts to some extents time-stained and with several small tears backed acid-freely. Otherwise, however, early rich impression qualified by still feebly noticeable plate dirt.

In contrast to the almost concrete tempest under the gloomy low clouds before the distinct horizon of the engraving

one  almost  believes

to  feel  the  humidity  over  the  churned  up  sea  in  the  drawing ,

are  clouds  and  waves  blurred  in  the  mist  at  the  horizon .

Offer no. 28,820 / price on application

The  Spectacular  Naval  Victory  of  August  13 , 1704

in  the  Battle  of  Málaga ?

Thomas Baston, Burning the Enemy Fleet (Málaga 1704?)

III.  The  Burning  of  an  Enemy  Fleet

Furit Imissis Vulcanus habenis, Transtra per et remos et pictas abjete puppes. Burning a fleet by fire-bombs of British ships. On the left a burning three-decker with crowned lion as figure-head. On the sea several boats, partly manned by armed marines. Pen and brown ink with grey wash on vellum. Inscribed lower right: TBaston F. 1720. as well as from Vergil’s Æneis as above. 7⅛-7½ × 11⅛ in (182-191 × 283 mm).

Baston’s  very  finely  executed , atmosphere-rich  work

to sheet 21 of the “Twenty-two Prints of several of the Capital ships of his Majesties Royal Navy with Variety of other Sea Pieces after the Drawings of T. B.” of 1721.

Thomas Baston, Burning of the Enemy Fleet / engraving

With  the  belonging  to  contemporary  engraving  in  reverse

by Elisha or Elizabeth Kirkall (inscribed: 21 / TBaston delin. / E. Kirkall Sculp., otherwise like the drawing with the addition “Vergil”. 8½ × 12½ in [21.7 × 31.7 cm]). The former (Sheffield about 1682/92 – Whitefriars, London, 1742), “one of the best early mezzotinters” (F. B. Cockett, Peter Monamy and His Circle, p. 87), worked the mezzotint of the royal ship “Britannia” after Baston. Kirkall’s 1732 private copies of Hogarth’s Harlot’s Progress by the way lead to the Copyright or Hogarth Act three years later. His wife Elizabeth (till after 1707) engraved – so Walpole – i. a. four seascapes; cf. Thieme-Becker + Nagler).

A copy of present sujet, varying only in details, though in the waves distinctly more schematic, in reverse to Kirkall’s engraving was supposedly published 1738/39 (Clayton, The English Print), but not before 1735, under the name of one otherwise here not provable William Rayner as

“ The  Engagement  of  the  Confederate  Fleet …

on  the  thirteenth  of  Augt.  1704 , off  of  Málaga ”.

It may be left aside if Rayner just copied and entitled the available motif of an overwhelming English victory at sea suitable for his propaganda purpose – the inflammation of popular bellicosity in the approaches of the “War on Jenkins’ Ear” which then unfolded into the Austrian War of Succession – or if Baston actually treated in present drawing the Battle of Málaga 16 years before.

Thomas Baston, Burning of an Enemy Fleet / signature

The drawing trimmed on three sides just outside of the borderline and only below with even lower margin of 3-4 mm. The minimal waving resulting from the warmth of the artist’s hands – see Meder, Handzeichnung, 169 – barely noticeable and ending in a fold within the caption only. Otherwise here and there quite negligibly rubbed in places.

Thomas Baston, Burning of the Enemy Fleet / drawingThomas Baston, Burning of the Enemy Fleet / engraving

The engraving in early rich impression on especially strong laid paper with great watermark fleur de lis with crown. Its extraordinarily luxurious paper margin in the outer parts to some extent time-stained and with several small tears backed acid-freely.

In contrast to the almost concrete flames of the burning ships and the sharpness of all details in the engraving

one  almost  believes

to  feel  the  glittering  heat  in  the  drawing .

Offer no. 28,821 / price on application

And , as  said ,

as  pioneer  of  English  marine  painting  already  rare
the  incomparable  charm
of  Thomas  Baston’s  vellum  drawings
is  topped  here  once  more  +  absolutely
by  the  uniquely  rare  confrontation
Original  Drawing  —  Engraving


„ … wartete das (Eulen-)AHA auf mich … Das Foto von den Waldohreulen(-Jungen in Ihrem Garten) fand ich sehr gelungen, es fügt sich nahtlos in die Stiche ein. Ein wenig beneide ich Sie, denn mir (als aktivem Waidmann) war es bisher nicht vergönnt, diese Tiere in freier Wildbahn zu erleben. Niemeyers Garten ist tatsächlich ein heimlicher Wildpark “

(Herr P. D., 1. Juli 2015)