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Details about the "Inscriptions" in the "Prints by Jackson" section of catalog are given at the beginning of that section.]
SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION UNITED STATES NATIONAL MUSEUM
BULLETIN 222 WASHINGTON, D.C. 1962
United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1962
For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office
Washington 25, D.C.
John Baptist Jackson:
18th-Century Master of the Color Woodcut
Curator of Graphic Arts Museum of History and Technology
Publications of the United States National Museum
The scholarly publications of the United States National Museum include two series, Proceedings of the United States National Museum and United States National Museum Bulletin.
In these series are published original articles and monographs dealing with the collections and work of the Museum and setting forth newly acquired facts in the fields of Anthropology, Biology, History, Geology, and Technology. Copies of each publication are distributed to libraries and scientific organizations and to specialists and others interested in the different subjects.
The Proceedings, begun in 1878, are intended for the publication in separate form, of shorter papers. These are gathered in volumes, octavo in size, with the publication date of each paper recorded in the table of contents of the volume.
In the Bulletin series, the first of which was issued in 1875, appear longer, separate publications consisting of monographs (occasionally in several parts) and volumes in which are collected works on related subjects. Bulletins are either octavo or quarto in size, depending on the needs of the presentation. Since 1902 papers relating to the botanical collections of the Museum have been published in the Bulletin series under the heading Contributions from the United States National Herbarium.
This work forms number 222 of the Bulletin series.
Director, United States National Museum
Preface IX Jackson and his Tradition 3 The Woodcut Tradition 4 Status of the Woodcut 7 The Chiaroscuro Tradition 9 Jackson and his Work 13 England: Obscure Beginnings 14 Paris: Perfection of a Craft 17 Venice: The Heroic Effort 25 England Again: The Wallpaper Venture 40 Critical Opinion 51 Postscript 54 Catalog 69 Prints by Jackson 71 Jackson's Workshop 90 Unverified Subjects 95 The Chiaroscuros and Color Woodcuts 97 Bibliography 171 Index to Plates 177 Index 181
John Baptist Jackson has received little recognition as an artist. This is not surprising if we remember that originality in a woodcutter was not considered a virtue until quite recently. We can now see that he was more important than earlier critics had realized. He was the most adventurous and ambitious of earlier woodcutters and a trailblazer in turning his art resolutely in the direction of polychrome.
To 19th century writers on art, from whom we have inherited the bulk of standard catalogs, lexicons, and histories— along with their judgments— Jackson's work seemed less a break with tradition than a corruption of it. His chiaroscuro woodcuts (prints from a succession of woodblocks composing a single subject in monochrome light and shade) were invariably compared with those of the 16th century Italians and were usually found wanting. The exasperated tone of many critics may have been the result of an uneasy feeling that he was being judged by the wrong standards. The purpose of this monograph, aside from providing the first full-length study of Jackson and his prints, is to examine these standards. The traditions of the woodcut and the color print will therefore receive more attention than might be expected, but I feel that such treatment is essential if we are to appreciate Jackson's contribution, in which technical innovation is a major element.
Short accounts of Jackson have appeared in almost all standard dictionaries of painters and engravers and in numerous historical surveys, but these have been based upon meager evidence. A fraction of his work was usually known and details of his life were, and still are, sparse. Later writers interpreting the comments of their predecessors have repeated as fact much that was conjecture. The picture of Jackson that has come down to us, therefore, is unclear and fragmentary.
If he does not emerge from this study completely accounted for from birth to death, it has not been because of lack of effort. Biographical data for his early and late life— about fifty years in all— are almost entirely missing despite years of diligent search. As a man he remains a shadowy figure. I have traced Jackson's life as far as the available evidence will permit, quoting from the writings of the artist and his contemporaries at some length to convey an essential flavor, but I have refrained from filling in gaps by straining at conjecture.
While details of his life are vague, sufficient information is at hand to reconstruct his personality clearly enough. After all, Jackson wrote a book and was quoted at length in another. A contemporary fellow-practitioner wrote about him with considerable feeling. These and other sources give a good indication of the artist's character.
The man we have to deal with had something excessive about him; he was headstrong, tactless, impractical, enormously energetic, a prodigious worker, a conceiver of grandiose projects, and a relentless hunter of patrons. He was at home with his social superiors and had some pretentions to literary culture, he had a coarse gift for the vivid phrase in writing, and his tastes in art ran to the classic and heroic.
This study includes an illustrated catalog of Jackson's chiaroscuros and color prints. Previous catalogs, notably those of Nagler, Le Blanc, and Heller, have listed no more than twenty-five works. The present catalog more than triples this number.
To acknowledge fully the assistance given by museum curators, librarians, archivists, and scholars on both sides of the Atlantic would necessitate a very long list of names. However, I wish especially to thank Mr. Peter A. Wick of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, who has been generous enough to allow me to read his well-documented paper on Jackson's Ricci prints; Mr. A. Hyatt Mayor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Mr. Carl Zigrosser of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Miss Anna C. Hoyt and Mrs. Anne B. Freedberg of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Dr. Jakob Rosenberg and Miss Ruth S. Magurn of the Fogg Art Museum; Mr. Karl Kup of the New York Public Library; Miss Elizabeth Mongan of the Rosenwald Collection, National Gallery of Art; Miss Una E. Johnson of the Brooklyn Museum; Mr. Gustave von Groschwitz of the Cincinnati Art Museum; and Dr. Philip W. Bishop of the U.S. National Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
I am particularly grateful to curators of European collections, who have been uniformly generous in their assistance. Special thanks are due Mr. J. A. Gere of the British Museum and Mr. James Laver of the Victoria and Albert Museum, who have gone to considerable trouble to acquaint me with their great collections. Others whose help must be particularly noted are Mr. Peter Murray, Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London; Mme. R. Maquoy-Hendrickx of the Bibliotheque Royale de Belgique, Brussels; Dr. Vladimir Novotny of the Narodni Galerie, Prague; Dr. Wegner of the Graphische Sammlung, Munich; Dr. Wolf Stubbe of the Kunsthalle, Hamburg; Dr. G. Busch of the Kunsthalle, Bremen; Dr. Hans Moehle of the Staatliche Museen, Berlin; Dr. Menz of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden; Miss B. L. D. Ihle of the Boymans Museum, Rotterdam; and M. Jean Adhemar of the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris.
The excellent collections of chiaroscuro prints in the Museums of the Smithsonian Institution have formed a valuable basis for this monograph. These prints include the set of Jackson's Venetian chiaroscuros, originally owned by Jackson's patron, Joseph Smith, British Consul in Venice, now in the Rosenwald Collection, National Gallery of Art, and the representative sampling of Jackson's work in the Division of Graphic Arts, U.S. National Museum.
I am indebted to the following museums which have kindly given permission to reproduce Jackson prints in their collections. These are listed by catalog number.
Smithsonian Institution 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 (also in color), 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 39, 50, 51, 52, 53 (also in color), 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 63
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (W. G. Russell Allen Estate) 1 (also in color), 11, 14, 23, 33, 34, 38, 40 (also in color)
Fogg Art Museum 13 (also in color)
Worcester Art Museum 32
Metropolitan Museum of Art 5 (Rogers Fund) (also in color), 17, 31 (gift of Winslow Ames), 73 (Whittelsey Fund)
Philadelphia Museum of Art (John Frederick Lewis Collection) 2, 60, 61, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 74
British Museum 2 (in color), 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15, 37, 41, 42, 43 (also in color), 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49 (also in color), 59, 69, 70, 71, 72, 75, 76 (photographs by John R. Freeman & Co.)
Victoria and Albert Museum (Crown copyright) 3, 35, 36, 40
Finally, I want to thank the Editorial Office of the Smithsonian Institution for planning and designing this book; the Government Printing Office for their special care in its production; and Mr. Harold E. Hugo for his expert supervision of the color plates.
A grant from the American Philosophical Society (Johnson Fund), made it possible to conduct research on Jackson in Europe. Acknowledgment is herewith gratefully given.
September 1, 1961
John Baptist Jackson
of the Color Woodcut
Jackson and His Tradition
The Woodcut Tradition
Although the woodcut is the oldest traditional print medium it was the last to win respectability as an art form. It had to wait until the 1880's and 1890's, when Vallotton, Gauguin, Munch, and others made their first unheralded efforts, and when Japanese prints came into vogue, for the initial stirrings of a less biased attitude toward this medium, so long considered little more than a craft. With the woodcut almost beneath notice it is understandable that Jackson's work should have failed to impress art historians unduly until recent times. Although he bore the brunt as an isolated prophet and special pleader between 1725 and 1754, his significance began to be appreciated only after the turn of the 20th century, first perhaps by Martin Hardie in 1906, and next and more clearly by Pierre Gusman in 1916 and Max J. Friedlaender in 1917, when modern artists were committing heresies, among them the elevation of the woodcut to prominence as a first-hand art form. In this iconoclastic atmosphere Jackson's almost forgotten chiaroscuros no longer appeared as failures of technique, for they had been so regarded by most earlier writers, but as deliberately novel efforts in an original style. The innovating character of his woodcuts in full color was also given respectful mention for the first time. But these were brief assessments in general surveys.
If the woodcut was cheaply held, it was at least acceptable for certain limited purposes. But printing pictures in color, in any medium, was considered a weakening of the fiber— an excursion into prettification or floridity. It was not esteemed in higher art circles, except for a short burst at the end of the 18th century in France and England. This was an important development, admittedly, and the prints were coveted until quite recently. They are still highly desirable. But while Bartolozzi stipple engravings or Janinet aquatints in color might have commanded higher prices than Callots or Goyas, or even than many Duerers and Rembrandts, no one was fooled. The extreme desirability of the color prints was mostly a matter of interior decoration: nothing could give a finer 18th century aura. It was not so much color printing that mattered; it was late 18th century color printing that was wanted, often by amateurs who collected nothing else. Color prints before and after this period did not appeal to discriminating collectors except as rarities, as exotic offshoots. Even chiaroscuros, with their few sober tones, fell into this periphery. Jackson, as a result, was naturally excluded from the main field of attention.
The worship of black-and-white as the highest expression of the graphic arts automatically placed printmakers in color in one of two categories: producers of abortive experiments, or purveyors of popular pictures to a frivolous or sentimental public. This estimate was unfortunately true enough in most cases, true enough at least to cause the practice to be regarded with suspicion. As an indication of how things have changed in recent years we can say that color is no longer the exception. It threatens, in fact, to become the rule, and black-and-white now fights a retreating battle. A comparison of any large exhibition today with one of even 20 years ago will make this plain.
[Footnote 1: The purist's attitude was pungently expressed by Whistler. Pennell records this remark: "Black ink on white paper was good enough for Rembrandt; it ought to be good enough for you." (Joseph Pennell, The Graphic Arts, Chicago, 1921, p. 178.)]
At first glance Jackson seems to be simply a belated 18th-century worker in the chiaroscuro process. If to later generations his prints had a rather odd look, this was to be expected. Native qualities, even a certain crudeness, were expected from the English who lacked advantages of training and tradition. And Jackson was not only the first English artist who worked in woodcut chiaroscuro, he was virtually the first woodblock artist in England to rise beyond anonymity (Elisha Kirkall, as we shall see, cannot positively be identified as a wood engraver) and he was the only one of note until Thomas Bewick arose to prominence about 1780. He was, then, England's first outstanding woodcutter. We will find other instances of his significance from the English standpoint, but his being English, of course, would have a small part in explaining the importance of his prints.
[Footnote 2: The only earlier name is that of George Edwards. Oxford University has most of the blocks for a decorated alphabet he engraved on end-grain wood for Dr. Fell in 1674. Further data on Edwards can be found in Harry Carter's Wolvercote Mill, Oxford, 1957, pp. 14, 15, 20, and in Moxon's Mechanick Exercises, or the Doctrine of Handy Works Applied to the Art of Printing. (Reprint of 1st ed., 1683, edited and annotated by Herbert Davis and Harry Carter, Oxford, 1958, p. 26n.)]
Jackson made, in fact, the biggest break in the traditions of the woodcut since the 16th century. He broadened the scope of the chiaroscuro print and launched the color woodcut as a distinct art form that rivaled the polychrome effects of painting while retaining a character of its own. These were not modest little pieces of purely technical interest. The set of 24 sheets reproducing 17 paintings by Venetian masters made up the most heroic single project in chiaroscuro, and the 6 large landscapes, completed in 1744, after gouache paintings by Marco Ricci, were the most impressive color woodcuts in the Western world between the 16th century and the last decade of the 19th.
But Jackson's grand ambition to advance the woodcut beyond all other graphic media had little public or private support and finally led him to ruin. His efforts were made with insufficient means and with few patrons. As a consequence, he rarely printed editions after the blocks were cut and proofed. The Venetian set is well known because it was printed in a substantial edition. A few additional subjects were also sponsored by patrons, but most of Jackson's other chiaroscuros were never published— they were limited to a few proofs. Editions were postponed, no doubt, in the hope that a patron would come along to pay expenses in return for a formal dedication in Latin, but this did not often happen. Most subjects exist in a few copies only; of some, single impressions alone remain. Others have entirely disappeared.
With a large part of Jackson's work unknown, his reputation settled into an uneasy obscurity which, it must be granted, has not prevented his work from being collected. The chiaroscuros, especially the Venetian prints, can be found in many leading collections in Europe and the United States, but the full-color sheets after Ricci are excessively rare, particularly in complete sets.
Jackson has long been considered an interesting figure. His Essay on the Invention of Engraving and Printing in Chiaro Oscuro..., with its bold claims to innovation and merit, his adventurous career as an English woodcutter in Europe, his adaptation of the color woodcut to wallpaper printing and his pioneering efforts in this field, and Papillon's immoderate attack on him in the important Traite historique et pratique de la gravure en bois will be discussed later. For the moment we can say that the Essay was the first book by an Englishman with color plates since the Book of St. Albans of 1486, with its heraldic shields in three or four colors, and the first book with block-print plates in naturalistic colors.
[Footnote 3: Jackson, London, 1754. Hereafter cited as Essay. Other references bearing directly on Jackson will receive only partial citation in the text. They are given in full in the bibliography, page 171.]
[Footnote 4: Papillon, Paris, 1766. Hereafter cited as the Traite.]
[Footnote 5: Occasional book illustrations in two or three colors, confined chiefly to initial letters and ornamental borders, appeared as early as the 15th century. Ratdolt in 1485 printed astronomical diagrams in red, orange, and black, and used similar colors in a Crucifixion in the Passau missal of 1494. The Liber selectarum cantionum of Senfel, 1520, however, has a frontispiece printed in a broad range of colors from more than four woodblocks. The design is attributed to Hans Weiditz.]
Although critics have been interested in Jackson as an historical figure, they have been uncertain about the merit of his work. Opinions vary surprisingly. Most judgments were based on the Venetian chiaroscuros and depended upon the quality of impressions, many of which are poor. Criticisms when they have been adverse have been surprisingly harsh. It is unusual, to say the least, for writers to take time explaining how bad an artist is. To do this implies, in any case, that he warrants serious attention; space in histories is not usually wasted on nonentities. We can see now that Jackson was misunderstood because the uses of the woodcut were rigidly circumscribed by tradition.
Status of the Woodcut
After the 15th century the woodcut lost its primitive power and became a self-effacing medium for creating facsimile impressions of drawings and for illustrating and decorating books, periodicals, and cheap popular broadsides. At its lowest ebb, in the late 17th century, and in the 18th, it was used to make patterns for workers in embroidery and needlework and to supply outlines for wallpaper designs to be filled in later by "paper-stainers."
The prime deficiency of the woodcut as an art form lay in the division of labor which the process permitted. Draughtsmen usually drew on the blocks; the main function of the cutter was to follow the lines precisely and carefully. Small room existed for individual style or original interpretation; there was little in the technique to distinguish one cutter from another. In spite of these limitations, gifted cutters could rise beyond the dead level of ordinary practice. As fine draughtsmen with a feeling for their materials they did not trace with the knife, they drew and carved with it. Their feeling for line and shape was sensitive, crisp, and supple. But although they created the masterpieces of the medium they suffered from the traditional contempt for their craft. Creative ability in a woodcutter was rarely recognized, and the art fell into gradual decline. By the time the 18th century opened it had been almost entirely abandoned as a means of creating and interpreting works of art, and had been relegated to a minor place among the print processes.
The attitude of the print connoisseur was clearly stated as early as 1762 by Horace Walpole:
I have said, and for two reasons, shall say little of wooden cuts; that art never was executed in any perfection in England: engraving on metal was a final improvement of the art, and supplied the defects of cuttings in wood. The ancient wooden cuts were certainly carried to a great heighth, but that was the merit of the masters, not of the method.
[Footnote 6: Walpole, 1765 (1st ed. 1762), p. 3.]
William Gilpin in 1768 went even further. Describing the various contemporary print processes he omitted the woodcut entirely as not worthy of consideration. He acknowledged that "wooden cuts" were once executed by early artists but made no additional reference to the medium.
[Footnote 7: William Gilpin, An Essay on Prints, London, 1781 (1st ed. 1768), p. 47. "There are three kinds of prints, engravings, etchings, and mezzotintos."]
As late as 1844 Maberly cautioned print amateurs to steer clear of block prints:
Prints, from wooden blocks, are much less esteemed, or, at least, are, generally speaking, of greatly less cost than engravings on copper; and there are connoisseurs who may, perhaps, consider them as rather derogatory to a fine collection.
[Footnote 8: Maberly, 1844, p. 130.]
Specialized histories of wood engraving, written mainly by 19th-century practitioners and bibliophiles, have tended to emphasize literal rendition rather than artistic vision. The writers favored wood engraving executed with the burin on the end grain of hard dense wood, such as box or maple, because it could produce finer details than the old woodcut, which made use of knife and horizontally grained wood. They judged by narrow craft standards concerned with exact imitation of surface textures. Linton, for example, is almost contemptuous in his references to the chiaroscuro woodcut:
... The poorest workman may suffice for an excellent chiaroscuro. I do not depreciate the artistic value as chiaroscuros of the various prints here noted nor underestimate the difficulty of production; but my business has been solely with the not difficult knifecutting and graver cutting of the same.
[Footnote 9: Linton, 1889, p. 215. A woodcut in the German manner was far more difficult to manage than Linton imagined. Bewick tried to imitate the cross-hatched lines of a Duerer woodcut without success. He finally concluded (1925, pp. 205-207) that the old woodcutters had used two blocks, each with lines going in opposing directions, and had printed one over the other!]
The Chiaroscuro Tradition
The chiaroscuro woodcut was originally designed to serve a special purpose, to reproduce drawings of the Renaissance period. These were often made with pen and ink on paper prepared with a tint or with brush and wash tones on white or tinted paper. Highlights were made and modeled with brush and white pigment; the result had something of a bas-relief character. Neither line engraving nor etching was suited to reproducing these spirited drawings, but the chiaroscuro woodcut could render their effects admirably. Its nature, therefore, was conceived as fresh and spontaneous, as printed drawing, in fact.
Chiaroscuros were usually of two types, the German and the Italian. The Germans specialized in reproducing line drawings made on toned paper with white highlights. The woodcuts, however, could stand by themselves as black-and-white prints; the tones required separate printing. The typical German chiaroscuro was therefore from two blocks. The earliest dated print in this style is Lucas Cranach's Venus, with "1506" appearing on the black block. But the brown tint might have been added a few years later. Jost de Negker, working after drawings by Hans Burgkmair, cut blocks which are dated, on the black block at least, as early as 1508, and work by Hans Baldung and Hans Wechtlin appeared shortly after.
The Italian style originated with Ugo da Carpi, who in 1516 petitioned the Senate in Venice to grant him exclusive rights to the chiaroscuro process, which he claimed to have invented. For many years, until Bartsch adduced proof in favor of the Germans, da Carpi was conceded to be the founder of this process. His first work dates from 1518 but obviously he produced prints earlier— how much earlier is uncertain. Working mainly after the loose, fresh wash drawings of Raphael and Parmigianino he developed a method of reducing their tonal constituents to two or three simple areas plus a partial outline, each of which was cut on a separate block. The blocks were then inked with transparent tones and printed one over the other to achieve gradations. White highlights were imitated, as in the German manner, by cutting out lines on a tone block to let the white paper assert itself. The result was a broadly treated facsimile of the original drawing. Some liberties were occasionally taken in interpretation, and sometimes fanciful changes were made in color combinations.
This technique was followed in Italy during the remainder of the 1500's, the most prominent early workers being Antonio da Trento (Fantuzzi), Domenico Beccafumi, and Giuseppe Niccolo Vicentino. Late in the century Andrea Andreani acquired a large number of blocks by previous Italian chiaroscurists and reissued them, adding his own monogram. By multiplying these subjects he reduced their rarity and emphasized their distinct character, their difference from other types of prints. The Italian term "chiaroscuro," meaning light and dark, has persisted as a generic name for this class of work.
The Italian and German techniques were often pursued in variant styles. The Germans sometimes used three blocks, with outlines not only in black but in a tone and white as well. Burgkmair's Death as a Strangler (B. 40) and Wechtlin's Alcon Freeing his Son from the Serpent (B. 9) are of this type.
[Footnote 10: Adam Bartsch, Le Peintre graveur, Vienna, 1803-1821.]
The Italians, in turn, often used two blocks in the German fashion, reproducing a complete crosshatched pen drawing with one tint block. Even da Carpi used this procedure more than occasionally, as in St. John Preaching in the Desert after Raphael (B. XII), and in The Harvest after Giulio Romano (B. XII). Most other Italian chiaroscurists made frequent use of this method which had the virtue of simplicity. Outstanding exponents included Niccolo Boldrini, who worked chiefly after drawings by Titian, and in the early 17th century the brothers Bartolomeo and G. B. Coriolano. Andreani's prints were usually in a more independent style which employed a clear outline in gray or soft brown with three tints blocks. While technical procedures were identical in Italian and German chiaroscuros after pen drawings, the Italian work tended to be looser than the German, which was more careful and methodical.
The Italian style, then, strictly interpreted, was simply the da Carpi style. Less rigorously considered, it included the free Italian variants of the German process.
Hendrick Goltzius of Haarlem, whose first chiaroscuros date from 1588, combined both Italian and German influences with marvelously crisp drawing and cutting and sharper color combinations than were common. Paulus Moreelse, a Dutch artist in the first half of the 17th century, employed a dark block in clear outline but modeled his forms internally in the da Carpi manner. The technical procedure was therefore close to Andreani's.
A number of other well-known artists including Simon Vouet and Christoffel Jegher, and quite a few anonymous ones, also turned out occasional pieces in the first half of the 17th century, generally in the manner of da Carpi or Goltzius. Perhaps the most prolific was Ludolph Businck, who created prints in France especially after drawings by George Lallemand.
After this period little was done in the medium until 1721, when Count Antonio Maria Zanetti in Venice made his first chiaroscuro woodcut. He worked consistently for almost thirty years and sent proofs to his friends in Europe, mostly important connoisseurs, through whom the prints became widely known. For the most part they were in the da Carpi style, to which he added a light charm. Between 1722 and 1724 Elisha Kirkall in London published twelve chiaroscuros after Italian masters. The prints were done in a combination of media— etching and mezzotint with relief blocks in either wood or metal— and were outside the woodcut tradition, but they attracted attention to the old process. In about 1726 Nicolas and Vincent Le Sueur in Paris produced some chiaroscuros, and a year later Jackson made his first example. The Le Sueurs followed da Carpi's method while Jackson used a loosely drawn outline and three tint blocks in a slight variation of the Andreani style.
One characteristic was shared in common by all early chiaroscurists; their work always reproduced drawings, usually in exact size. Jackson added a new dimension to the medium in 1735 by beginning to work after oil paintings. His attempt to convey their scale, solidity, and tonal range, while retaining the woodcut's breadth of execution, was perhaps carrying the chiaroscuro into complexities for which it was not suited. The method called for extraordinary talents in planning, drawing, cutting, and printing, and it resulted in impressions that could not escape a certain heaviness of effect when compared with traditional work. Jackson's prints in this style are both daring and original, but no later woodcutter had either the desire or the temerity to follow his example. The method remained a dead end in chiaroscuro.
[Footnote 11: Andrea Andreani in 1599 published ten plates after cartoons of Mantegna's nine paintings, The Triumph of Julius Caesar (B. 11), printed from four blocks in variations of gray. But Mantegna's cartoons were basically drawings in monochrome, and Andreani's fine chiaroscuros did not differ appreciably from the usual examples.]
Jackson and His Work
England: Obscure Beginnings
Little is known of Jackson's early years. It is assumed that he was born in England about 1700, although many accounts, probably based upon Nagler, have him born in 1701. Papillon conjectures that he studied painting and engraving on wood with "an English painter" named "Ekwits," but is not sure he remembers the name correctly. He believes this artist engraved most of the head pieces and ornaments in Mattaire's Latin Classics, published by J. and R. Tonson and J. Watts in London, 1713, and remarks on similarities with Jackson's style. Chatto believes these cuts were executed by Elisha Kirkall, interpreting the initials EK appearing on one of the prints to refer to this engraver rather than to "Ekwits." He goes on to assume that Kirkall also engraved the blocks for Croxall's edition of Aesop's Fables, 1722, by the same publisher, and adds that Jackson was probably his apprentice and might have had some share in their execution. Most accounts of Jackson, taking Chatto's word, note him as a pupil of Kirkall.
[Footnote 12: Papillon, 1766, vol. 1, p. 323. Most probably Papillon confused "Ekwits" with Elisha Kirkall.]
[Footnote 13: Chatto and Jackson, 1861 (1st ed. 1839), p. 448.]
Linton believes that only Kirkall or Jackson could have made the cuts, "unless some Sculptor ignotus is to be credited with that most notable book of graver-work in relief preceding the work of Bewick."
[Footnote 14: Linton, 1889, p. 130.]
But it is doubtful that Jackson was a pupil of Kirkall. For this assumption we have the evidence of a curious and important little book, An Enquiry into the Origins of Printing in Europe, which because of a misleading title and an anonymous author has been overlooked as a reference source. It is a transcription of Jackson's manuscript journal and was prepared for publication to coincide with the launching of the wallpaper venture, Kirkall is mentioned as follows (pp. 25-26):
... I shall give a brief account of the State of Cutting on Wood in England for the type Press before he [Jackson] went to France in 1725. In the beginning of this Century a remarkable Blow was given to all Cutters on Wood, by an invention of engraving on the same sort of Metal which types are cast with. The celebrated Mr. Kirkhal, an able Engraver on Copper, is said to be the first who performed a Relievo Work to answer the use of Cutting on Wood. This could be dispatched much sooner, and consequently answered the purpose of Book-sellers and Printers, who purchased these sort of Works at a much chaper [sic] Rate than could be expected from an Engraver on Wood....
[Footnote 15: London, 1752. Hereafter cited as the Enquiry. The first half deals with Jackson's opinions on the origins of printing from movable type and the progress of cutting on wood, the second half with Jackson's career and his venture into wallpaper manufacturing. The real content of the book was so little known that Bigmore and Wyman's comprehensive, annotated Bibliography of Printing, London, 1880-86, vol. 1, p. 201, described it as dealing with "certain improvements in printing-types made by Jackson, the typefounder."]
It does not seem reasonable that Jackson would learn the art of woodcutting from Kirkall and then refer to him as a famous engraver on copper and type metal. It is just as difficult to believe that Kirkall taught Jackson to work on metal, not wood.
The "EK" who engraved the blocks for Mattaire's Latin Classics might very well have been Kirkall, whose style also might have had something in common with Jackson's early work. But this would not necessarily indicate a definite influence. English pictorial relief prints for book illustration in the first decades of the 18th century had one characteristic in common; they were almost all done with the engraver's burin on type metal or end-grain boxwood. They therefore showed elements of a "white-line" style as opposed to the black-line or knife-cut method commonly used in other countries. While it is likely that Jackson was an exception to the general rule in England (we have his word for it in the Enquiry, as we shall see), he was also deeply influenced by the prevailing English style of burin work on wood or type metal. If Papillon saw a similarity between Jackson's cuts and those in the Latin Classics, it might have been because he was unfamiliar with other examples of English work and did not recognize a national style.
The initials "J. B. I." appear on a small cut in the 1717 edition of Dryden's plays, also published by Tonson. If this is an early piece by Jackson it would indicate that he might have been born earlier than 1701, although it is conceivable that he could have made it when he was sixteen.
This is the extent of the evidence, or rather lack of evidence, of Jackson's early years in England. Nothing is certain except that woodblock work was at a particularly low ebb. Standards in typography and printing were rude (Caslon was just beginning his career), far inferior to those on the Continent. Cuts were used rather sparingly by printers, and almost always for initial letters (these included little pictures), for tailpieces, and for decorative borders. As a measure of economy the same cut was often repeated throughout a book. Also, initial letters were sometimes contrived to permit the type for different capitals to be inserted in the center area, so that in some instances no more than two cuts were needed to begin alternate chapters in a volume. Rarely were woodblocks employed to illustrate the text. Pictures were almost always supplied by the copper-plate engraver, even when the prints were small and surrounded with typographical matter. This was an expensive and troublesome procedure, but it was the only one possible where an able group of cutters or engravers on wood did not exist and where printers found it difficult to achieve good impressions on the uneven laid paper of the time.
The main employment for knife cutters on wood was in making the popular prints, or illustrated broadsides, which had been sold in city and village throughout the country since the early 1600's. Plank and knife could be used for these prints because of the generally large size of the pictures and the lack of sophistication of the audience. They are described by Bewick from his memories as a boy in the 1760's:
I cannot, however, help lamenting that, in all the vicissitudes which the art of wood engraving has undergone, some species of it are lost and done away: I mean the large blocks with the prints from them, so common to be seen, when I was a boy, in every cottage and farm house throughout the country. These blocks, I suppose, from their size, must have been cut on the plank way on beech, or some other kind of close-grained wood; and from the immense number of impressions from them, so cheaply and extensively spread over the whole country, must have given employment to a great number of artists, in this inferior department of woodcutting.... These prints, which were sold at a very low price, were commonly illustrative of some memorable exploits, or were, perhaps, the portraits of eminent men.... Besides these, there were a great variety of other designs, often with songs added to them of a moral, a patriotic, or a rural tendency, which served to enliven the circle in which they were admired. To enumerate the great variety of these pictures would be a task.
[Footnote 16: Bewick, 1925 (1st ed. London, 1862), pp. 211-212.]
Bewick adds that some of these popular woodcuts, although not the great majority, were very good. Since this was the main field for woodcutters, it is an interesting conjecture that Jackson might have been trained for this craft. As he matured, we can assume that he felt the urge to excel as a woodcutter and left the country to develop his potentialities.
It must be remembered that in painting and engraving England was far behind the continental countries, which could boast of centuries of celebrated masters. The medieval period persisted in England until the time of Henry VIII. Traditional religious subjects, so indispensable to European art, were thereafter generally proscribed. There was no fondness as yet for themes of classical mythology, and the new and developing national tradition in painting had to form itself on the only remaining field of pictorial expression, portraiture. Standards of style were set by foreign artists who were lured to England to record its prominent personages in a fitting manner. Beside such masters as Holbein, Zuccaro, Moro, Geeraerts, Van Dyck, Mytens, Lely, Kneller, Zoffany, and Van Loo, among others, native painters seemed crude and provincial. The list of foreign artists other than portraitists who visited England before 1750 for varying periods is also impressive.
If good native painters were rare in the first decades of the 18th century, good engravers or woodcutters were even rarer. Hogarth, whose earliest prints were produced in the 1720's, received his training from a silversmith.
Jackson's next move was toward the Continent.
Paris: Perfection of a Craft
Jackson arrived in Paris in 1725, his age 24 if we accept 1701 as his birth date. Here flourished a brilliant community of artists, craftsmen, dealers, and connoisseurs; woodcutting, etching, and line engraving were highly developed and the printing offices made extensive use of woodcuts for decoration and illustration. The woodcut tradition mimicked line engraving and was confined chiefly to tiny blocks wrought with the utmost delicacy. The main influence came from the 17th century— in particular from the etchings and line engravings of Sebastien Le Clerc and from the etchings of Jacques Callot, whose simple system of swelling parallel lines, with occasional cross-hatchings, was adopted by both line engravers and woodcutters.
Le Clerc, whose style was influenced by Callot, had produced a vast number of illustrations involving subjects of almost every type; his designs, therefore, were ready-made for publishers who wanted good but low-priced illustrations. Woodcutters copied his engravings shamelessly, line for line. The overblown high Baroque style in ornament, swag, and cartouche was also drawn upon as a source for decorative cuts. In an attempt to imitate the full tonal scale of engraving, the woodcutters used heavier lines in the foreground to detach the main figures from the background, which was made up of more delicate lines. Background lines were often narrowed further by scraping down their edges, an operation that caused them to merge imperceptibly into the white paper. In this way, although the natural vigor of the woodcut suffered, an effect of space and distance was achieved. Because of the small scale this technique was difficult, especially when cross-hatching was added, and special knives as well as a phenomenal deftness were needed to work out these bits of jewelry on the plank grain of pear, cherry, box, and serviceberry wood.
Jackson's initial impression of the state of woodcutting in France is described in the Enquiry (p. 27):
From this Account it is evident that there was little Encouragement to be hoped for in England to a Person whose Genius led him to prosecute his Studies in the ancient Manner; which obliged Mr. Jackson to go over to the Continent, and see what was used in the Parisian Printing-houses. At his arrival there he found the French Engravers on Wood working in the old Manner; no Metal Engravers, or any of the same Performance on the end of the Wood, was ever used or countenanced by the Printers or Booksellers in that City. He tells us that he thought himself a tolerable good Hand when he came to Paris, but far inferior to the Performances of Monsieurs Vincent le Seur and Jean M. Pappillon....
Jackson admits benefiting from the friendship and advice of these woodcutters, then goes on to describe their work with a ruthless frankness. Le Sueur, he says, was a brilliant copyist of the line engravings of Sebastien Le Clerc but, because he was a line-for-line copyist, lacked skill in drawing. Papillon's father, also a woodcutter who copied Le Clerc, avoided cross-hatching, which Jackson considered an essential ingredient of the true style of black-and-white woodcutting; Papillon himself, while described as a draughtsman of the utmost accuracy, was criticized for making his work so minute that it was impossible to print clearly. Jackson says in the Enquiry (pp. 29-30):
If his Father neglected Cross Hatching, the Son affected to outstrip the le Seurs in this difficult Performance, and even the ancient Venetians, believing to have fixed a Non plus ultra in our Times to any future Attempts with Engraving on Wood.
... I saw the Almanack in a horrid Condition before I left Paris, the Signs of the Zodiack wore like a Blotch, notwithstanding the utmost Care and Diligence the Printer used to take up very little Ink to keep them clean. I have chosen to make mention of these two Frenchmen as the only Persons in my time keeping up to the Stile of the ancient Engraving on Wood; and as they favoured me with their Friendship and Advice during my abode in Paris, I thought in Justice to their good Nature it was proper to give some Account of their Merit!
[Footnote 17: The Petit almanach de Paris, founded by J. M. Papillon in 1727 and illustrated with his woodcuts.]
Acknowledgment of friendship and merit in this vein, while entirely true (Papillon was minute to the point of exhibitionism, and his cuts were often not adapted to clear printing), demonstrates the lack of tact that made powerful enemies for Jackson wherever he traveled. Papillon no doubt read the Enquiry, in which he was discussed at length, and the well-known Essay, with its aggressive tone and irresponsible claims. When Papillon's Traite came out in 1766 he took the opportunity to put the English artist in his place. Certainly his account was colored by Jackson's writings; there is no other explanation for this display of personal bitterness in a work published 36 years after the Englishman left Paris (pp. 327-328):
J. Jackson, an Englishman who lived in Paris for a few years, might have perfected himself in wood engraving, which he had learned, as I said previously on page 323, from an English painter, if he had been willing to follow my advice. As soon as he arrived in Paris he came to me asking for work; I gave him some things to execute for a few months in order to allow him to live, for which he repaid me with ingratitude by making a duplicate of a floral ornament of my design which he offered, before delivering the block to me, to the person for whom it was to be made. From the reproaches I received when the matter was discovered, I refused, naturally, to employ him further. Then he went the rounds of the printing houses in Paris, and was forced to offer his work ready-made and without order, almost for nothing, and many printers, profiting by his distress, supplied themselves amply with his cuts. He had acquired a certain insipid and limited taste, little above the mosaics on snuffboxes, similar to other mediocre engravers, with which he surcharged his works. His mosaics, however delicately engraved, are always lacking in effect, and show the engraver's patience and not his talent; for the remainder of the cut has only delicate lines without tints or gradations of light and shade, and lack the contrast necessary to make a striking effect. Engravings of this sort, however deficient in this regard, are admired by printers of vulgar taste who foolishly believe that they closely resemble copper plate engraving, and that they give better impressions than those of a picturesque type having a greater variety of tints.
Jackson, having been forced by poverty to leave Paris, where he could find nothing further to do, traveled in France; then, disgusted with his art, he followed a painter to Rome, after which he went to Venice, where, I am told, he married, and then returned to England, his native country.
Whether or not Jackson was unethical he was certainly an active competitor and many printers "supplied themselves amply with his cuts." He must have produced an enormous amount of work during his five years in Paris because John Smith, in his Printers Grammar, says that Jackson's cuts were used so widely and for so many years in Paris that they replaced the fashion of using "flowers," or typographical ornaments, and that this style did not come into vogue again until the cuts were completely worn down through use.
[Footnote 18: Smith, 1755, p. 136.]
This statement is not entirely true, but it is probable that Jackson's woodcuts, more broadly executed than the typical French products, outlasted all others of the 1725-30 period. They were consistently re-used, and appeared, as far as they can be traced, well into the 1780's.
[Footnote 19: See cuts in Dissertatiumeula quodlibetariis disputationibus of C. L. Berthollet, Paris, 1780, and Voyage litteraire de la Grece, of de Guys, 1783.]
Elsewhere in the Traite, however, Papillon has a good word for Jackson's abilities:
Jackson, of whom I have already spoken, also engraved in chiaroscuro; I have a little landscape by him which is very nicely done.
[Footnote 20: P. 415. This may be the print formerly in Dresden but lost during the war.]
It was inevitable that Papillon and Jackson should clash. The Frenchman's notion of woodcutting was influenced, as we have seen, by copper plate engraving; he wanted, by incredible minuteness of cutting, to achieve approximately the same results. This was in keeping with the delicate French rocaille tradition on which Papillon was nurtured; to him any other contemporary style of book decoration was evidence of bad taste. Jackson, on his part, felt that this approach violated the essentially broad, vigorous nature of the woodcut and, in addition, made excessive demands on the printer. Since this impoverished beginner, and an Englishman at that, refused to take his earnest advice or to fall into the prevailing style, Papillon was enraged. After all, Jackson was working as an employee. But Papillon was not entirely blind. In a number of places in the Traite he made reference to other woodcutters who were working in Jackson's style, and he recorded some of the works the Englishman illustrated during his five years in Paris.
Jackson's blossoming out as a maker of wallpaper after his return to England and his brash claims in this connection in the Essay, must also have irked Papillon, who knew the field as an expert; his father in 1688 had set up the first large printing house in France for wall hangings, and after his death in 1723 Papillon had inherited it. In 1740, he sold the business to the widow Langlois, but he had run the shop during Jackson's residence in Paris and his former employee no doubt had learned a great deal by observing its operation. Yet here more than twenty years later was the upstart Englishman again, venturing into wallpaper manufacturing with an air of moral superiority, attacking all other products as unworthy. Jackson's ridiculing of the Chinese style must have been particularly galling since Papillon and his father had specialized in producing such papers. These were much better than comparable English work, but Jackson, confining himself to English products, had attacked the whole style without making distinctions.
According to the Enquiry (pages 32-55 of this book will be drawn upon for the ensuing details of Jackson's career), M. Annison, Director of the Imprimerie Royale, for whom Jackson produced many cuts, introduced him to Count de Caylus, collector, connoisseur, etcher, and the leading spirit in French engraving at the time. De Caylus had, in 1725, undertaken to direct the reproduction of drawings and paintings in the best French collections. Pierre Crozat, the famous collector, sponsored the publication of this ambitious work.
[Footnote 21: Recueil d'estampes d'apres les plus beaux tableaux et d'apres les plus beaux dessins qui sont en France dans le cabinet du Roy, dans celui de M. le Duc d'Orleans et dans d'autres cabinets, divise suivant les differentes ecoles. Paris, 1729-42, 2 vols., 182 plates. Often called the Cabinet Crozat, it was reprinted by Basan in 1763 with aquatint tones by Francois Charpentier replacing the woodblock tints.]
The drawings were reproduced in chiaroscuro while the paintings were rendered in black-and-white by a corps of engravers. The chiaroscuros were made by combining an etched outline, usually by de Caylus or P. P. A. Robert, with superimposed tones, mainly in green or buff, from one or two woodblocks cut in most cases by Nicolas Le Sueur, or under his direction. This was not a new printing method. Hubert (not Hendrick) Goltzius had first employed it in a set of Roman emperors after antique medallions in 1557. To reproduce drawings by Raphael, Parmigianino, and himself, Abraham Bloemart, as well as Frederick and Cornelius Bloemart in the early 1600's, had used this combination extensively, and as described earlier, p. 11, Kirkall had used it between 1722 and 1724. The combination method produced rather feeble prints that lacked the vigor of straight woodblock chiaroscuro. The etched outline was thin and ineffective, and the tints were pallid so as not to overpower the drawing. Only Abraham Bloemart's prints in this style were convincing, although Kirkall's chiaroscuros, in their soft, over-modeled way, had individuality. But the Cabinet Crozat lacked distinction entirely. The chiaroscuros had a mechanical look, a fact not surprising when we remember that they were produced by a team of engravers— assembled, as it were, from several hands working in different media. The best prints were a few chiaroscuros made entirely from woodblocks by Nicolas Le Sueur, although these were also rather tepid, no doubt to harmonize with the rest of the work.
[Footnote 22: Imperatorum imagines, Antwerp, 1557. The woodblocks were cut by Josse Geitleugen.]
[Footnote 23: In the Enquiry (p. 31) Jackson asserts that Kirkall's tints were made from copper plates, not woodblocks.]
Jackson tells us that he worked on some tint blocks, first from a drawing by Giulio Romano and later from a drawing by Raphael, Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter, the original modello for one of the famous tapestry cartoons. Count de Caylus, he says, liked the work and wanted to employ him further on the project, but Crozat rejected him flatly. De Caylus, according to Jackson, was embarrassed and distressed and offered recompense for the lost time and labor, but Jackson, not to be outdone in generosity by a nobleman, refused, explaining that the honor of knowing the Count and receiving his approbation more than made up for his lost effort.
Vincent Le Sueur objected to the combination method and withdrew early from the project. Possibly Jackson, who also disliked this method and was not known for his discretion, was considered by Crozat to be a disruptive element. Possibly his style of cutting was not retiring enough for Crozat's tasteful French notion of chiaroscuro. This project, in any case, aroused the Englishman's interest in the process. Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter, after Raphael, made about 1727, was probably Jackson's first chiaroscuro woodcut. No doubt he produced it on his own and offered it as a plate for the publication, perhaps at the time he was commissioned to cut the tint blocks to be used in combination with de Caylus' etching of this subject.
With both Papillon and the powerful Crozat against him, Jackson was finished in Paris. De Caylus urged him to go to Italy. Accordingly, in April 1730, he left Paris in the company of John Lewis, an English painter, and set out for Rome, where he expected to continue his studies in drawing and deepen his knowledge of art.
Jackson's style was still being formed during his Paris period. Confined for the most part to initial letters, headbands, and tailpieces, his work differed from contemporary French cuts only in its technical handling, which was firmer and broader. Little of a more creative nature came his way, and the Paris stay therefore served as a useful interim during which he became adept in his craft. The necessity for keeping himself alive by cutting on wood developed his powers of invention and his facility: he became a remarkably rapid and skillful cutter. Jackson gathered strength in Paris, but it was in Venice that he really came to maturity as an artist.
Venice: The Heroic Effort
After leaving Paris, Jackson and Lewis journeyed to Marseilles, where Jackson became seriously ill and remained for six months, while Lewis continued to Genoa. Regaining his health, Jackson went on to Genoa and then to Leghorn, Pisa, and Lucca, arriving in Florence in January 1731. There, during a stay of several months, he discussed with the Grand Duke of Tuscany a reprinting of Vasari's Lives of the Painters. Jackson was to make cuts for the headpieces, but the project was eventually dropped, and he continued to Bologna, where he remained a month chiefly in the company of the woodcutter G. M. Moretti, who showed him some original blocks cut by Ugo da Carpi for printing in chiaroscuro. He then proceeded to Venice, arriving "three Days before the Feast of the Ascension in 1731, and was highly surprized to find no one Engraver on Wood capable to do such poor Work, he has seen at Bolonia." Jackson was amply supplied with strong recommendations from Florence, and on showing his work to leading printers was urged to settle in Venice, where a fine woodcutter capable of both designing and executing cuts was urgently needed. Here he also met Count Antonio Maria Zanetti, who was well-known as a chiaroscuro woodcutter besides being a collector and patron of the arts. Their first meeting is described in the Enquiry:
... very soon after his [Jackson's] Arrival he had an Interview with Signior Antonio Maria Zannetti; from the Accounts he had heard from Mr. Marriette in France of this Man's Work in Chiaro Oscuro, he expected to see some wonderful Performance, but Parturiunt montes nascetur ridiculus mus is a most applicable Proverb on this Occasion. I who have perused this grand Raccolta of Zannetti's, must acknowledge that they are a trifling Performance, inferior to any Attempts of this Kind in our Times; and indeed it is no Wonder, when we come to know that this Man never used a Press, nor so much as a Hand Roll to print his Works with. Our Countryman says he had room to suspect he neither did cut or print these Works, which was confirmed by the poor Men who performed both. But such was the Vanity of this Author, that he told the Public in his Dedications that he was the Restorer of that lost Art, whereas he only drawed them on the Blocks, which might have been done as well by those that cut and printed them. At this first Interview the low Cunning of this Man was discovered....
[Footnote 24: Zanetti certainly cut many of his own blocks, as the prints with the signature "A. M. Zanetti, sculp." attest. But he also made use of craftsmen in the traditional fashion for other blocks and for the mechanical phase of printing.]
Jackson undoubtedly disliked Zanetti's soft and delicate treatment, so characteristic of 18th-century work, and considered his interpretation of Parmigianino and Raphael little short of sacrilege. Since Jackson was incapable of hiding his feelings a quarrel became inevitable. The first rift came when Zanetti let Jackson have for a few weeks a drawing by Parmigianino, the Venus and Cupid with a Bow, to be executed in four blocks. The print was done "intirely in Hugo's [da Carpi's] manner, with this Difference, that no Oscuro block has a Contour to resemble the original Drawing it was done from, which is seldom seen in Hugo's works...." Zanetti, surprised by the fine quality of the first proof, proposed to pass it off on Mariette in Paris as an original da Carpi print. He even stained it and cut holes in it to give the impression of aged worm-eaten paper. At the same time Jackson executed another chiaroscuro, also based on a Parmigianino drawing, the Woman Standing Holding Jar on her Head. Zanetti, says the Enquiry—
... caressed the Author with the highest Expressions of Zeal for his Service, protesting he would communicate his Capacity to his Correspondents all over Europe, which would be the Means to advance his Fortune, especially amongst the English Quality and Gentry who travelled Italy. The intent of all those fine Promises was to get the two Sets of Blocks into his Hands, which he expected as a Present for the Use of the two original Drawings, from which these Prints were taken; but this not being complyed with, the Restaurati expressed a Resentment at this Refusal, and took all the Opportunities to distress the Undertakings of any Sort performed by Mr. Jackson, during fourteen Years Residence in Venice.
Zanetti was charged, in some obscure way, with obstructing Jackson's work in cutting 136 blocks for the Istoria del Testamento Vecchio e Nuovo, popularly known as the Bibbia del Nicolosi, published by G. B. Albrizzi in 1737. We are informed that Filippo Farsetti, one of Jackson's patrons, paid him for the whole set of cuts after rebuking Zanetti for interference.
[Footnote 25: These cuts were also used for the Biblia Sacra, published by Hertz in Venice in 1740.]
The Englishman evidently was kept well occupied with preparing cuts for printers, among them Baglioni and Pezzana. For the latter he made 24 woodcuts for a quarto edition of a Biblia Sacra and an unspecified number of ornaments for a folio edition. Jackson was given a free hand to conceive and carry out the cuts as he pleased.
While working on these prints he began—
to consider on his favourite Work in Chiaro Oscuro, and by intervals examined what he had projected at Paris. He began first to make experiments with Tints, and having proved that Four Impressions could produce Ten positive Tints, besides Tratti and Lights; he resolved to try a large Piece from Rubens's Judgment of Solomon, with an intent to prove what could be done with the Efforts of a Type Press before he launched into greater Expences with another Machine.
He wanted this press in his home, where he could experiment as he pleased without tying up workmen or equipment in Pezzana's shop. It might have been professional delicacy that prompted him to ask Pezzana's permission to have a private press built, or it might have been a bid for patronage from the generous and influential printer. In any event, Pezzana responded by having his carpenters build and install the press at his own expense. To avoid official registrations or craft suspicions, he had it registered as his own. The trial proofs of The Judgment of Solomon, printed from four blocks, pleased Jackson in every regard except vigor of impression. Unfortunately no edition was published, despite the dedication to Filippo Farsetti.
Finished in 1735, this woodcut was probably the first to translate a painting in a full range of tones. From the purely technical standpoint it was an incredible achievement. Jackson created a vivid approximation of a large and complex painting and at the same time produced a vigorous woodcut. From four superimposed woodblocks, with almost no linework, he was able to capture the full-blooded forms of Rubens. By keeping his means simple Jackson asserted the importance of his cutting and printing, the expressiveness of his drawing, and the fluidity of his tones. Obviously such a procedure required major decisions as to what to omit and what to stress; in other words it required interpretive abilities of a high order.
Evidently Jackson believed that his new chiaroscuro method required heavier pressure than the platen press was capable of. (On the usual wooden screw press the size of the platen never exceeded 13 by 19 inches, because the impressions made with a larger platen would not have been strong enough; for prints larger than the platen, the bed was moved and the platen pulled down twice.) He had the press returned to Pezzana and set out to build a more suitable printing machine.
He found there were other means to be employed beside a Type Press, and having examined the Theory of his Invention put it in Practice, by erecting a Rolling Press of another Construction than what is used for printing Copper Plates.
In Paris Jackson had suggested using a cylinder press for printing wood blocks. The gentlemen to whom the suggestion was made, Count de Caylus, Coypel, and Mariette, were sure that the enormous pressure would split the blocks. The Englishman, on the contrary, felt that the pressure, properly controlled by a chase, would hold the blocks together. Printing would be much more rapid and the exceptional vigor of the impression would suggest a hand drawing. The use of cylinder presses for chiaroscuro printing was already well known to experts. George Lallemand and Ludolph Businck, sometime between 1623 and 1640, had used not one but a series of six cylinders on three joined presses, with three printers simultaneously inking separate blocks with different tones. Impressions were then printed from each block in succession. Papillon described this press, and also another with a special chase designed at an unspecified date by Nicolas Le Sueur. Jackson's prints show a much stronger impression than those of Businck or Le Sueur. No details of his press are known, although Thomas Bewick reported that Jackson as an old man had shown him a drawing of its construction.
[Footnote 26: Papillon, vol. 2, 1766, pp. 372-373.]
[Footnote 27: Bewick, 1925, p. 213.]
The cylinder press of Jackson's design was finished in 1735 and paid for by the income from prolonged sieges of work for printing offices. But the overwork and resulting exhaustion laid him low; a serious illness followed and for several months he was close to death. When he eventually regained his health he found that his cuts for Baglioni and Pezzana had been copied and mutilated by an engraver at Ancona. This pirate was encouraged by the head of a large printing establishment newly founded in Venice, who thereupon offered Jackson work at greatly reduced prices. He refused the offer. With hack woodcutters now stealing both his designs and his manner of cutting, and working at a far lower rate than he could afford, he found that the market for his higher priced work had almost entirely disappeared. He still received occasional commissions, among others the title page to a translation of Suetonius' Lives of the Twelve Caesars, printed by Piacentini in Venice in 1738. His splendid design, which shows considerable burin work, is at odds with the crudity of the remainder of the book. Inferior hands reproduced in woodcut outline Hubert Goltzius' medallion portraits of Roman emperors, originally executed in chiaroscuro (see p. 22). Stimulated, no doubt, by the combination of chiaroscuro and antiquity, Jackson produced a portrait of Julius Caesar in four tones of brown after Egidius Sadeler's engraving of a subsequently lost painting attributed to Titian. This was not the only time Jackson translated a line engraving and added chiaroscuro modeling of his own. He did not make line-for-line copies. Jackson was interested in broad effects even when leaning heavily on the delicate linear conventions of line engraving. The lines, therefore, are firm and widely spaced, like photographically enlarged details of copper-plate work. Apparently Jackson felt that the addition of one or two tones from wood blocks would supply the intermediate tints and at the same time would prevent the line system from becoming obtrusive.
The decided influence of line engraving was probably the result of his association in 1731 with G. A. Faldoni in Venice. Influenced by Claude Mellan, this engraver made use of swelling parallel lines to create tonal gradations. Jackson had first become interested in this technical method through Ecman's woodcuts after Callot, and once Faldoni had strengthened the attraction he found kindred influences in the engravings of Villamena and Alberti, particularly the former, from whom he also acquired design ideas he later put to use in his wallpapers. Jackson's discovery that he could to some extent use copper-plate techniques was not a reversion to the style of the Parisian group of Le Clerc copyists. Jackson used the line system as a means for creating forms in conjunction with tones; the Parisian woodcutters used it to imitate the delicate quality of line engraving. He had a formal aesthetic end in view; their purpose was to render realistic details in a decorative framework.
With opportunities for book illustration gone, Jackson was in a difficult position. His novel chiaroscuro experiments had consumed valuable time and had lost him his standing as a steady worker for printers. Near destitution and scouting around for fresh applications of the woodcut, he decided to make prints for wallpaper on his new press. It was a logical step for Jackson, not only because he knew something of the process but also because he could make use of the chiaroscuro blocks already prepared. Late in 1737 or early in 1738 he had his first samples ready and sent them to Robert Dunbar in London, together with his conditions for carrying on the trade in Venice. Negotiations dragged, and Dunbar died before they could come to terms, but the idea of using his skill and his machine for turning out wallpaper continued to occupy his mind as a possibility. But, for the time, the undertaking had to be laid aside while Jackson looked for more immediate means of employment.
At this juncture Joseph Smith befriended him. A merchant of long standing in Venice, who became the British consul there in 1745, Smith was a bibliophile, gem collector, and connoisseur of the arts. In spite of Walpole's sneering reference to him as "the merchant of Venice," it must be said that he was expert in his fields of interest. He had excellent taste. His fine collection of books was purchased by George III in 1765, and the small Rembrandt Descent from the Cross once in his possession is now in the National Gallery in London.
From Smith's bronze statuette of Neptune, by Giovanni da Bologna, Jackson produced a chiaroscuro print in four blocks, in imitation, he asserted, of the prints of Andrea Andreani. In suggesting the influence of this master, Jackson did not refer to his technique or style but to his subject: in 1584-1585 Andreani had produced a chiaroscuro series after other statues by Giovanni da Bologna (B. XII, VI, 1-4).
[Footnote 28: The Neptune was printed on a type press. One of the blocks split in printing and Jackson stated that thereafter he used the cylinder press exclusively.]
The next work in Smith's collection to be reproduced in chiaroscuro was Rembrandt's Descent from the Cross. Jackson was evidently well satisfied with the results, and with good reason. It is an extremely effective print, with pale yellow lights and transparent shadows. The drawing is remarkable in its feeling for the Rembrandtesque style. The sky and other parts show English white-line burin work of the type found in Mattaire's Latin Classics and Croxall's Aesop's Fables. The Enquiry says (p. 45):
As this Painting was extremely favourable for this sort of Printing, he endeavoured to display all his Art in this Performance, and the Drawing of Rembrandt's Stile is intirely preserved in this Print; it is dedicated to Mr. Smith, who generously gave the Prints to all Gentlemen who came to Venice at that time in order to recommend the Talents of a Man whose Industry might please the curious, and at least be of some Use to procure him Encouragement to proceed in other Works of that Kind.
Encouragement soon came. Smith interested two of his friends, Charles Frederick and Smart Lethieullier, and the three proposed in 1739 the undertaking of a grand project in chiaroscuro, the reproduction of 17 huge paintings by Venetian masters. This was to be financed by subscription, says the Enquiry (p. 46):
the Proposals in French, and the Conditions expressed therein, were drawn up as they thought proper, without consulting the Difficulties that must attend an Enterprize that required some years to accomplish.
Their own subscriptions were no doubt generous but Jackson found that his total income from this form of financing, together with possible future sales, would hardly cover his expenses. Other hazards made his situation even worse. War broke out in Europe before he was halfway through, and many English gentlemen, his potential subscribers, left the country. This exodus meant financial disaster, but Jackson kept at his task. He should, he said, have gone to England for his own best interests but felt that he couldn't disappoint his distinguished patrons.
The first print completed was after Titian's St. Peter Martyr at the Dominican Church of Sts. Giovanni and Paolo. In coloring it is similar to the Rembrandt print, with gray-green sky, yellow lights, and cool brown shadows. While attractive and forceful, it is not as effective as the Rembrandt because Titian, with his greater range of color, presented a more complex problem. Most of the prints thereafter leaned to monochromes in either browns or greens. The St. Peter was finished in 1739 and in the same year five more prints were brought to completion.
In 1740 he produced the three sheets which made up Tintoretto's Crucifixion in the Scuola di San Rocco. These were intended to be joined, if desired, to form one long print measuring about 22 x 50 inches.
[Footnote 29: Jackson mentioned that he was seen drawing the blocks in the presence of Sir Roger Newdigate, Sir Bouchier Wrey "and other gentlemen of distinction." The reason for such reference was probably some comment that he might have traced his outlines from Agostino Carracci's 1582 engraving of the same subject in three large sheets (B. 23), each of which joins the others at precisely the same places as Jackson's sheets. I am indebted to Dr. Jakob Rosenberg of the Fogg Museum for pointing out these similarities.]
Of the ten remaining subjects, the last, Jacopo Bassano's Dives and Lazarus, was finished at the end of 1743, and the set of 24 plates (some paintings, as noted, were reproduced in three sheets and some in two) was published as a bound volume by J. B. Pasquali in Venice, 1745, under the title Titiani Vecelii, Pauli Caliarii, Jacobi Robusti et Jacobi de Ponte; opera selectiora a Joanne Baptista Jackson, Anglo, ligno coelata et coloribus adumbrata.
The Venetian prints were not merely an extension of chiaroscuro, they represented a daring effort to go beyond line engraving for reproducing paintings. Justification for this attempt is given in the Essay (p. 6):
... and though those delicate Finishings, and minute Strokes, which make up great Part of the Merit of engraving on Copper, are not to be found in those cut on Wood in Chiaro Oscuro; yet there is a masterly and free Drawing, a boldness of Engraving and Relief, which pleases a true Taste more than all the little Exactness found in the Engravings on Copper Plates ... and indeed has an Effect which the best Judges very often prefer to any Prints from Engravings, done with all that Exactness, minute Strokes of the Graver, and Neatness of Work, which is sure to captivate the Minds of those whose Taste is formed upon the little Considerations of delicately handling the Tools, and not upon the Freedom, Life and Spirit of the separate Figures, and indeed the whole Composition.
A novel device, embossing, was employed to give added strength to the prints. This development had been foreshadowed by earlier prints and pages of text which showed a slight indentation where the dampened paper received the impression. Embossing had probably first been used systematically by Elisha Kirkall in 1722-24, and by Arthur Pond in his chiaroscuros, made in 1732-36 in conjunction with George Knapton, after drawings by old masters. Jackson admired Pond's work even though it combined etched outlines with two tone blocks printed from wood. Pond's embossing was delicate and applied sparely only in certain forms, such as ruined columns, but Jackson's sunken areas were heavier and franker, consciously intended to give an all-over effect. Since the paper could not be pressed out without weakening the embossing, it often took on the scarred and buckled look that characterizes the Venetian chiaroscuros.
[Footnote 30: Enquiry, p. 35. The Japanese began to use embossing about 1730. See Reichel, 1926, p. 48.]
The set had occupied him for 4-1/2 years, during which he had planned, cut, and proofed 94 blocks.
No sooner was that ended, and a little Breathing required after that immense Fatigue, in the Year 1744 he attempted to print in Colours, and published six Landskips in Imitation of Painting in Acquarello.
This new set, dedicated to Robert d'Arcy, British Ambassador to the Republic of Venice, was based on gouache paintings by Marco Ricci, probably done on goatskin or leather in his usual manner. For Jackson to make these color prints was a logical step, since his work had tended toward the full chromatic range even in the chiaroscuros, which "adumbrated" color. His new prints were all color— clear, sensitive, and tonally just. It is not surprising that he seized upon Ricci's opaque watercolors. The paintings of the Venetian masters had darkened in ill-lit churches, the shadows had become murky, there were too many figures. But the Ricci paintings were small and clearly patterned, the color sparkled.
The original gouaches have not been located, but from other examples in the same manner, in Buckingham Palace and in the Uffizi, it is plain that Jackson took certain liberties. Ricci's rather sharp colors were considerably modified and mellowed when they weren't changed entirely: witness the two sets in different harmonies in the British Museum. Peter A. Wick (1955) believes it most likely that Jackson did not copy specific paintings, and suggests that details from Ricci's etchings and gouaches were combined and freely amended to create Ricci-like designs.
Having determined his color scheme Jackson cut seven to ten blocks, each designed to bear an individual color which was to combine with others when necessary to form new colors. No outline block was used. To obtain variations from light to dark in each pigment Jackson scraped down the blocks with a knife; he thus lowered the surfaces slightly and created porous textures which would introduce the white paper or the underlying color. Examination of the prints clearly shows granular textures in the light areas. Scraping to lighten impressions was a common procedure in black-and-white printmaking, and was described by both Papillon and Bewick. In addition Jackson no doubt used underlays, that is, small pieces of paper pasted in layers of diminishing size on the backs of the blocks where the color was most intense. The pressure was therefore greatest in the deepest notes and lightest in the scraped parts. The copper plate press enabled Jackson to get good register without making marks on the blocks. The paper was dampened and fastened to the chase at one end. After each impression the next inked block was slid into the chase and printed wet into wet. Problems of register were eliminated because the sheets were held in place at all times, the blocks fitting the same form. No doubt the paper was sprinkled with water on the reverse side after each impression to eliminate shrinking and to keep it soft for printing. This method would explain Jackson's transparent effects.
Although the Ricci prints were certainly the most ambitious and complexly planned prints of the century, the cutting is crisp and decisive and the effect fresh and unlabored. As in the Venetian set embossing is consciously applied. Most likely Jackson impressed the finished prints, specially redampened for the purpose, with one or two of the uninked blocks. Jackson interpreted Ricci's qualities with great spirit, and in doing so he liberated the color woodcut from its old conventions. The "true"-color prints he produced in the medium preceded the Japanese, if not the Chinese. In Japan, it must be remembered, simple color printing in rose and green supplanted hand coloring in about 1741, and rudimentary polychrome prints can be dated as early as 1745, but, as Binyon puts it, "it was not until 1764 that the first rather tentative nishiki-ye, or complete colour-prints were produced in Yedo, and the long reign of the Primitives came to an end."
[Footnote 31: Altdorfer's Beautiful Virgin of Ratisbon, about 1520, (B. 51, vol. 8, p. 78) made use of five colors in some impressions (Lippmann describes one with seven colors) but these were used primarily for decorative, not naturalistic purposes.]
[Footnote 32: Laurence Binyon, A Catalogue of Japanese & Chinese Woodcuts in the British Museum, London, 1916, p. xx, introduction.]
In making his Ricci prints Jackson sought a method of color printing that would overcome the deficiencies of Jacob Christoph Le Blon's three-color mezzotint process. Le Blon, a Frenchman born in Germany, had begun experimenting with color printing as early as 1705. His idea was to split the chromatic components of a picture into three basic hues— blue, red, and yellow— in gradations of intensity so that varying amounts of color, each on a separate copper plate, could be printed in superimposition to reconstitute the original picture. This was based upon a simplification of Newton's seven primaries. Later, Le Blon added a fourth, black plate. Incredibly, this is the principle of modern commercial color printing, the only difference being that Le Blon did not have a camera, color filters, and the halftone screen at his disposal and had to make the separations by hand. Le Blon came to London in 1719, produced an enormous number of color prints, published his Coloritto, or the Harmony of Colouring in Painting in a very small edition about 1722 (it is undated), and shortly thereafter failed disastrously. About 1733 he returned to Paris, where he attracted a few followers. Most of his prints have disappeared, only about fifty being known at present.
The idea of full-color printing, then, was in the air, although later, in the Enquiry, Jackson took pains to state that he had not been following in the footsteps of the Frenchman, who, he claimed, had made serious mistakes.
The Curious may think that this Tentamine was taken from the celebrated Mr. le Blond; I must here take the Liberty to explain the Difference.... Numbers are convinced already, that the printing Copper-plates done with Fumo or Mezzotinto, are the most subject to wear out the soonest of any sort of Engraving on that Metal. Had this one Article been properly considered, le Blond, must have seen the impossibility of printing any Quantity from his repeated Impressions of Blue, Red, and Yellow Plates, so as to produce only Twenty of these printed Pictures to be alike. This is obvious to every one who has any Knowledge, or has seen the cleaning of Copper-plates after the Colour was laid on; the delicate finishing of the Flesh must infallibly wear out every time the Plate is cleaned, and all the tender light Shadowing of any Colour must soon become white in proportion as the Plate wears. The Nature of Impression being overlooked at first, was the principal Cause that Undertaking came to nothing, notwithstanding the immense Expence the Proprietors were at to have a few imperfect Proofs at best, since it is evident they could be no other. The new invented Method of printing in Colours by Mr. Jackson is under no Apprehension of being wore out so soon.... Whatever has been done by our English Artist, was all printed with Wood Blocks with a strong Relievo, and in Substance sufficient to draw off almost any number that may be required.
What Jackson neglected to mention was the difficulty of repeating transparent color effects with large planks of wood. Few existing impressions match each other and some prints are off register. What saved him was his fine color sense, his brilliance as a woodcutter, and his disinclination to make literal color reproductions.
The work that Jackson left behind became a part of the cultural heritage of Venice, valued on its own account as well as for its connection with the city. Zanetti describes the Venetian set and Zanotto, in his Guida of 1856, urges a visit to the Chiesa Abaziale della Misericordia, which evidently had on permanent exhibition a "perfectly unique collection of woodcuts in various colors by Jackson, quite unmatched."
[Footnote 33: Zanetti, 1792, pp. 689, 716.]
[Footnote 34: Zanotto, 1856, p. 320, note 3.]
Gallo says that some of Jackson's blocks found their way to the printing house of the Remondini and were used to strike off new impressions, after which they became the property of the Typografia Pozzato in Bassano. This might explain some of the inferior examples of the Venetian set which could hardly have come from the presses of Jackson or Pasquali.
[Footnote 35: Gallo, 1941, pp. 23-23. Jackson's blocks are not listed in the Remondini catalog of 1817.]
England Again: The Wallpaper Venture
Jackson was married in Venice— whether to an Italian we do not know— and when he left the city in 1745 to return to England he took a family along. He mentions "an impoverish'd Family" in the Essay, but beyond this we know nothing of his personal life.
As soon as he arrived in England he was invited to work in a calico establishment, where he remained about six years. But making drawings to be printed on cloth failed to give him the scope he required. At the back of his mind was the passion to work with woodblocks in color. This led him to take a bold and hazardous step— to leave his position and attempt, obviously with little capital, the manufacture of wallpaper, not to please an established taste but to educate the public to a new type of product.
Wallpaper had come into popular use in England in the late 17th century, having been obtained from China by the East India Company. These hand-painted wall hangings, imported at great cost and in small quantities, were correspondingly expensive. The subjects were gay and fanciful— birds, fans, Chinese kiosks, pagodas, and flowers. Highly desired because they offered an escape from the heavy grandeur of the Baroque style, they were subsequently imitated by assembly-line methods. They fitted naturally into the developing rocaille style (corrupted into Rococo outside of France), and it is not surprising that they were also produced extensively in Paris. In England these imitations, which formed a substitute for expensive velvet and damask hangings, completely dominated the wallpaper field.
The first notice of Jackson's venture appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine of February 1752. A letter signed "Y. D." praised the editor "Sylvanus Urban" for attempting to revive the art of cutting on wood. It mentioned that this art was in decline for more than a century, but noted that—
Two of our countrymen, E. Kirkall and J. B. Jackson, ought to be exempted from this general charge; the former having a few years ago introduced the Chiaro Oscuro of Hugo de Carpi into England, though he met with no extraordinary encouragement for his ingenuity; and the art had died with him had not the latter attempted to revive it, but with less encouragement than his predecessor. Mr. Jackson, however, has lately invented a new method of printing paper hangings from blocks, which is very ornamental, and exceeds the common method of paper-staining (as it is termed) by the delicacy of his drawings, the novelty of his designs, and the masterly arrangement of his principal figures.
[Footnote 36: Vol. 22, pp. 77-79.]
The next notice appeared in the London Evening Post of April 30-May 2, 1752:
New invented PAPER HANGINGS, printed in Oyl, which prevents the fading or changing of the Colours; as also Landscapes printed in Colours, by J. B. Jackson, Reviver of the Art of printing in Chiaro Oscuro, are to be had at Dunbar's Warehouse in Aldermanbury, London; or Mr. Gibson's, Bookseller, opposite the St. Alban's Tavern in Charles-street near St. James's-Square, and no where else.
Several months afterwards, in the September 1752 issue of Gentleman's Magazine, publication of the Enquiry into the Origins of Printing in Europe was announced.
The Enquiry is an odd book. It combines rewritten versions of two Jackson manuscripts, a study of the origins of printing in Europe and an autobiographical journal covering, we suppose, the years from about 1725 on. The writer, in his introduction, says that he had been attracted by the two notices mentioned and went to see Jackson, whom he already knew by reputation. As a "Lover of Art" he considered it his duty to acquaint the public with Jackson's ideas concerning the origins of printing. These ideas, he felt, were an important contribution. After devoting half the little book to a rambling account of this subject, including a short history of woodcutting from Duerer onward, the author suddenly shifts to the journal. It is regrettable that he condensed it because we do not know what was left out. It is possible that much autobiographical information was excluded, as well as a picture of woodcutters and woodcutting of the time. The book concludes with the statement that Jackson intended to print in October of that year (1752) a paper hanging in two sheets after an original painting "by F. Simonnetta of Parma" representing the battle fought near that city in 1738.
[Footnote 37: There is little doubt that Jackson meant Francesco Simonini (1686-1753), a painter of battle subjects who was born in Parma and lived in Venice in the 1740's.]
This print was to be in full color, 3 feet 6 inches long by 2 feet high, and was to serve as a specimen for a series of four of the same size, the others being "History, Pictures and Landscapes." They were to be done by subscription:
No Money will be required of the Subscribers till the Prints are finished, and only at the Delivery. It is to be hoped the Curious and the Public will encourage this Undertaking, by a Man who has spent the greatest Part of his Life in searching after and improving an Art, believed by all to be lost, and has restored it to the Condition we now see it in his Works.
The only known copy of this battle picture, made from about seven blocks, is in the Print Room of the British Museum. It is a magnificent piece. Probably nothing with this breadth of handling had ever been done in woodcut before. The color is grave and beautifully harmonized, although the paper has deteriorated and the colors have darkened somewhat. The blocks were cut with ardor, almost fury; everything is brought to life with masterly assurance. Martin Hardie, who made the only previous comment on this print, which he could only surmise was Jackson's, says: "Jackson's supreme achievement is a large battle scene, with wonderful masses of rich colour superbly blended, reminiscent of Velasquez in breadth, in dignity, and in glory of tone."
[Footnote 38: Hardie, 1906, p. 23.]
There were competitors in London, among them Matthias Darley, who produced papers in the Chinese style; Thomas Bromwich, who was patronized by Walpole; and Robert Dunbar, Jr., of Aldermanbury, who in addition sold Jackson's papers. They lacked both Jackson's gifts and his unreasonable standards but they produced more generally acceptable wallpaper with greater facility. These competitors did not work in oil colors, like Jackson. Transparent tints were too difficult to control, especially when applied with inking balls (composition rollers did not come into use until well after 1800), and effects were too heavy. They used distemper— powdered color mixed with glue and water, with chalk added to give body. This was sometimes applied with woodblock or stencil but most often it was simply painted in by hand over a blockprinted outline. Often the painting was done directly on the wall after the paper was hung. These wallpapers were weak when examined critically, but nobody worried as long as a light bright pastel effect was obtained. Jackson's vigorous drawing and woodcutting were out of place in this field. They were, like his tonal exactitude that made holes in the wall, a distraction and an offense against interior decoration.