Thursday, April 14, 2005

Phiz - what a Dickens of a job he had

Who was the most productive illustrator of books in the 19th century?

My bet is on Hablot Knight Browne - best known as Phiz.

He illustrated for Dickens, Ainsworth, Lever and many others, but you can't just count his line illustrations by the number of pages that appear in the books. Some of the etched metal printing plates wore out, and he drew and etched many in duplicate and even a few in triplicate.

Then there were the woodcuts for Dickens' 'Household' edition.


1,603. Just for Dickens' works.

The list of drawings he did for other authors is equally impressive.

Everyone loved Phiz's pictures, and I'm sure new illustrations were looked forward to with almost as much anticipation as Dickens' words, and there is no doubt they helped to sell the books.

At the beginning of his career, Hablot really wanted to be a professional artist working with paints.

After he had finished illustrating Dickens' books with black and white etchings, Hablot was asked by a private individual if he would undertake a commission. It was to redraw every illustration that he had done for Dickens' novels and supply them as watercolour paintings. And he said 'Yes'.

In the last ten years or so of Browne's life, etched illustrations became unfashionable. I think it was sad then, after all his earlier fame and public acclaim, that when he died, there were only four people at his graveside - his four sons.

No more history for a while.

I'll change the subject for the next blog.

Enjoy life,

Peter Taylor

1 comment:

Srikar said...

well written ! I like it . . .