The Hatton Gallery Print Collection

Written by Lizzie Jacklin, Keeper of Art, Hatton Gallery

The Hatton Gallery’s permanent collection of over 3300 artworks includes objects ranging from paintings and sculptures to watercolours and posters. Around 1300 of these objects are prints. Sadly our plans to show a large group of prints from the collection in an exhibition this summer are on hold due to the current situation, but some of you might be interested to read more about our print collection in the meantime.

A (very!) brief introduction to artists’ prints

Prints are works of art made by printing onto a surface (usually paper) from a specially prepared block or plate. Prints usually exist in multiples as more than one ‘impression’ (or copy) of the block can be taken. Although many copies of a particular print might exist, prints made specifically as new works in the print medium are still original works of art.

Artists have been making prints for centuries, both to bring their work to a wider audience and to engage creatively with printmaking. Some of the most famous artists in the history of western art – such as Rembrandt and Picasso – have been printmakers as well as painters.

There are lots of different printmaking techniques – too many to explain in this post! They range from relatively simple methods that it might be possible to try at home, such as potato printing and linocut, to more complex processes requiring specialist studio equipment, such as etching.

Prints in the Hatton Gallery collection

The prints in the collection were acquired over the course of a century or more. They are primarily western examples, with sheets dating from the Renaissance to the present day. Areas of particular interest include: a group of works by the Newcastle illustrator and wood engraver Thomas Bewick; a sizable grouping of nineteenth and early twentieth-century etchings by artists such as James Abbott McNeill Whistler; and British colour prints from the latter half of the twentieth century. The non-British artists represented include Piranesi and Goya.

It’s difficult to choose, but here are five of my favourites:

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778), View of the Salario Bridge from Views of Rome,1754, etching on paper

This etching is from Piranesi’s print series The Views of Rome. The series includes depictions of some of the city’s best-known sites, from churches to ruins. It was so popular during Piranesi’s lifetime that he reissued it numerous times, a process continued by his sons after his death.

The subject of this print is the historic Salario Bridge. The distinctive tower topping the structure dated from the eighth century, while the main part of the bridge was even older. In his etching, Piranesi captured a sense of the grandeur and history of the bridge. Signs of decay – such as the plant-life overtaking the structure – are combined with a lively scene in terms of human activity. The bridge was later damaged during Napoleon’s invasion of Rome, and eventually demolished. As a result, this print is now also an important record of the historic structure.

Thomas Bewick (1753–1828), The Chillingham Bull, 1789, wood engraving with letterpress on paper

Thomas Bewick is remembered as the first master of the ‘wood engraving’ technique, which he used to illustrate natural history books including his History of British Birds. The technique involves using a fine tool to engrave directly into wood: in Bewick’s hands it allowed for the creation of incredibly intricate and detailed scenes.

The Chillingham Bull, which was published here in Newcastle,is one of Bewick’s most celebrated prints. The text on the print explains that Bewick’s composition shows ‘the ancient Caledonian Breed’ of bull, which was – and still is – present in the park at Chillingham Castle in Northumberland.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), En plein soleil,1858, etching and drypoint on paper

En plein soleil, or In Full Sun, is from Whistler’s ‘French Set’, the first group of prints he published after taking up etching seriously. The subjects vary from genre scenes to studies of the artist’s friends. This print was probably made in Paris and likely depicts one of Whistler’s acquaintances. It is thought that Whistler drew the figure outdoors, working from life.

Etching has often been favoured by artists, as it allows them to ‘draw’ quite freely onto a prepared metal plate. The plate is then ‘bitten’ in acid: this process incises the artist’s marks into the metal plate so that they hold ink and a print can be made.

Antoni Tàpies (1923–2012), Visca Catalunya from Poems from the Catalan, 1973, lithograph on paper https://collectionssearchtwmuseums.org.uk/#details=ecatalogue.326916

In the early 1970s Tàpies made many works in response to the situation of his native Catalonia, which had been self-governed until the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, when Franco ended its autonomy. The images often contain elements of writing, which reflect both pride and a sense of protest. The words “Visca Catalunya!” seen on this print translate as “Long Live Catalonia!”, a common cry during the Franco period, when the Catalan language was actively suppressed. The print was published as part of Poems from the Catalan, a collaboration with the poet Joan Brossa.

Tàpies emphasised the importance of ‘always experimenting with new ideas and techniques’ in his work; he particularly enjoyed the technical experimentation that comes with printmaking.

Paula Rego (born 1935), The Baker’s Wife, 1989, etching with aquatint
https://collectionssearchtwmuseums.org.uk/#details=ecatalogue.548946

This piece loosely relates to the story of a heartbroken French baker who stops making bread when his wife has an affair with a shepherd. As is the case with many of Rego’s etchings, the story she had in mind at the outset is imaginatively reworked to the point of becoming both mysterious and unsettling. We see the sad baker in the background, while the foreground figures are presumably his wife and her lover.

Rego’s etchings are particularly admired for their mastery of light and shade, for which Rego employed a tonal etching technique called aquatint.



Reopening

We are not able to confirm an opening date yet, but we are hoping we may be able to open again in the autumn. We’re making sure we have everything in place so that when you visit it is as safe and enjoyable as possible and as soon as our opening date is confirmed we will share this with you. In the meantime, we hope you’re enjoying our digital content on our website and social media. Thank you for your continued support.


As a charity, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums rely on donations to provide the amazing service that we do and our closure, whilst necessary, has significantly impacted our income. Please, if you are able, help us through this difficult period by donating by text today. Text TWAM 3 to give £3, TWAM 5 to give £5 or TWAM 10 to give £10 to 70085. Texts cost your donation plus one standard message rate. Thank you.

The Lead Shrine

Keeper of Archaeology, Alex Croom takes an in-depth look at the Lead Shrine, on display at Segedunum Roman Fort & Museum.

This lead shrine from Wallsend Roman Fort is one of only three in Britain that still retain its central figure, and the only one complete with its doors. It is made of five separate elements, each originally cast in a clay mould. The figure inside is Mercury, the god of trade and commercial success, story-telling, communication and anything requiring skill and dexterity, as well as the herald and messenger of the gods, and was therefore the patron of merchants, carriers, travellers and thieves. Mercury was one of the most popular gods in Britain and there is evidence for a temple dedicated to him at Wallsend.

The pediment has a bust in the centre, with an unusual hairstyle or head-dress. To the right is a whip, with an upright handle and curved thong. This is a symbol of the sun-god Sol, who was often depicted driving his chariot across the sky. To the left is an X with rounded ends to the bars. This could be a simplified wheel symbol, again referring to Sol’s chariot, but might be a star from the night sky, as examples of stars with just four arms are known. While most stars have pointed rays, there are also some with expanded ends, as here.

Near the top of the niche on both sides is a simplified plant or branch. This could be a palm branch, a symbol of victory and peace, but as the fronds have expanded ends it might be a different symbol of peace, the olive branch, instead.

The doors have an unusual hinge arrangement, with one vertical and one horizontal pivot. As the lower hinge loops are bent out at 90 degrees they work best with the vertical pivots. There was no way of fastening the doors, although as the doors are decorated on both sides they were clearly meant to be closed at least some of the time.

The shrine was found in a modern layer during excavation and unfortunately no record was kept of the relative position of the different pieces. A drawing of the doors made soon after discovery seems to suggest that this was the interior side. Although there is extensive decoration it would have required only a few tools to make in the mould; just a pointed stick and ruler to make both the lines and smaller pellets, and a stick with a flanged tip for the larger pellets down the centre.

As well as the pointed tool for the lines, the pellets and the shapes made by pellets joined by lines, this face of the door also required a stamp in the shape of a shell and another in the shape of a ribbed crescent, perhaps intended to be another stylized shell. The decoration on this side is not fully symmetrical, with the shell shape placed at the top of one door and the bottom of the other, which was presumably a mistake during the mould-making. This face, with the more elaborate decoration, appears to be the side visible when the doors are closed.

The figure is flat and one-sided and has a tab at the bottom, in the manner of a modern cardboard cut-out figure. Presumably when the shrine was bought the buyer could pick out the figure of the deity they wanted and it was fixed in place within the shrine. The male figure stands with one hand with the fingers out-stretched while he holds a pouch of money in the other. Mercury’s purse can come in all sorts of shapes, but some, like here, are diamond-shaped.

Behind his curly hair can be seen the plain brim of a hat; this has two projections, the one on the left surviving better than the one on the right. This is a traveller’s hat with added wings, a common attribute of Mercury in his roles as a messenger and the god of travellers. The figure is naked apart from a cloak, which is a typical for Mercury. His cloak is fastened on his right shoulder with a large brooch with a circular central setting, with the rather confused folds of cloth hanging down in a V-shape on his chest.

At Mercury’s feet to the left is a dolphin and to the right a hippocamp wearing a bridle, with the rein rising upwards. The hippocamp is a sea-horse, a creature that was half horse and half fish. Neptune used them to pull his chariot, while individual examples were ridden by Tritons (mermen), Nereids (sea nymphs) or occasionally Cupids. Such creatures were usually associated with water deities rather than Mercury, and their presence here can be interpreted in various ways. Dolphins were associated with life and death as they carried souls to the afterlife, which was a role also carried out by Mercury, so the two creatures may represent this voyage of the soul. Alternatively, as dolphins were also celebrated by the Romans for being friendly to humans and commonly saving drowning men, and hippocamps were creatures of the sea, their presence here could relate to Mercury’s role as the patron of travellers. Perhaps the artist wanted to emphasise Mercury’s help for people travelling by sea in particular.

The back shows the bumps and tears that have damaged the shrine. The line running down part of it is a mould seam where two pieces of the mould used to make it met. Usually this would be removed with a file.

One end of the rectangular hole in the base can be seen, with the rest of the slot obscured by the folded tab of the figure that has been fed through it. This holds the figure of the god in place.


As a charity, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums rely on donations to provide the amazing service that we do and our closure, whilst necessary, has significantly impacted our income. Please, if you are able, help us through this difficult period by donating by text today. Text TWAM 3 to give £3, TWAM 5 to give £5 or TWAM 10 to give £10 to 70085. Texts cost your donation plus one standard message rate. Thank you.

Opening Segedunum – a recollection

By Bill Griffiths, Head of Programmes and Collections

20 years ago this month, we opened Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths and Museum to the public. It’s a cliché – but to me it feels like yesterday!

At the time of its opening, I was newly in post as the Museum’s Curator, having been the on-site Archaeology Project Officer right through its development. We had been working for three and a half years on the project since receiving funding from, among others, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and I had been involved for about two years before that working for Paul Bidwell on the initial feasibility study for the site.

The opening was a big deal. We had a couple of preview days for the families of people involved in the project including from the museum service, North Tyneside Council, and the contractors – and I remember putting them through a fire alarm just so we could test the system!

That week also saw a lot of local TV coverage, which you don’t get so much of these days. I particularly remember a local TV news presenter doing a piece from the bath-house. The final shot was a bit Monty Python as he stripped off and took a bath – showing his naked backside on camera – and this was the early evening news, hours before the evening watershed!

The day before we opened to the public, the car park was covered in a huge marquee for the VIP launch. I had been rushing around getting all sorts of things ready – and in my memory I suddenly heard our then Director David Fleming introducing me to say a few words. I don’t recall having a speech ready!

Opening day itself saw the famous Roman re-enactment group, the Ermine Street Guard, march from Wallsend Metro station, where we had a Metro train decked out as a massive advert for the Museum, down to the site, where we had a queue of eager visitors awaiting the opening moment. They presented a ceremony alongside members of Cohors Quinta Gallorum, our own re-enactment group based at Arbeia.

As I recall, the first day went well and the public were none the wiser about just how frantic things were behind the scenes.

In the original plan, the builders were meant to finish the Museum six weeks before opening. We were to recruit the staff team at that point and have them in place for about a month’s training before we opened to the public. In the event, the builders did not fully finish on site until part way through opening day itself! We were actually trained on how to set the intruder alarm on the afternoon of the first day. Geoff Woodward (now the Museum Manager for North and South Tyneside, but then Customer Services Officer for Segedunum and about three weeks in post) and I sat with the builders that afternoon for about an hour as they handed the keys to the building over to us – one by one.

The next few weeks passed in a blur as Geoff and I and the team started to learn how to operate the building. My overarching memory is of colleagues from across TWAM coming down and helping us learn the systems needed to run a museum, from conservation requirements to cash-handling, to accepting objects from members of the public. On top of that, and I am really showing my age here, email was another brand new thing we had to learn!

After all those years working on the project, it was a great relief to find that the public loved the Museum too. I recall that analysis of the visitor’s comments book identified over 20 different spellings of the word ‘excellent’. 20 years on, I still cannot argue with that.

It’s easy to forget how significant Segedunum is for its archaeology. It is the most excavated fort on Hadrian’s Wall, and the first place to see Roman Cavalry barracks fully excavated. Since Segedunum’s opening, the extra mural bath-house has been rediscovered by the Wallquest community archaeology project and additional funding has allowed the completion of the section of Hadrian’s Wall that lies within the Museum’s grounds. These tell an incredible story of several phases of collapse and rebuild, as well as containing outstanding evidence for the function of the water supply system in Roman times. And of course, its not just Roman; the Wallsend B pit excavation won an award from the Association for Industrial Archaeology.

Today, 20 years on, Segedunum stands proud, not only as a celebration of Hadrian’s Wall and the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site, but with its displays of the mine and shipyard, it is also a testament to the place Wallsend occupies in history. Segedunum has become a source of pride for the town’s past and an inspiration for its future.

 

As a charity, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums rely on donations to provide the services that we do and our closure, whilst necessary, has significantly impacted our income. Please, if you are able, help us help us continue to inspire people through arts, culture and heritage in the North East by donating by text today. Text TWAM 3 to give £3, TWAM 5 to give £5 or TWAM 10 to give £10 to 70085. Texts cost your donation plus one standard message rate. Thank you.

A Floating Hospital

Assistant Keeper of History Adam Bell at South Shields Museum and Art Gallery shares how a floating hospital stemmed the influx of infectious diseases into South Tyneside in the late 19th century.

A late 19th century floating hospital once moored at Jarrow Slake in South Tyneside was a clever local solution to prevent the danger of importing infectious diseases from overseas ports.  

Commissioned by the River Tyne Port Sanitary Authority (est. 1879) the floating hospital was built by Wood, Skinner & Co. of Bill Quay.  

Launched on 2 August 1886, it was 140 ft x 70 ft, and was built upon ten cylindrical iron pontoons 

TWCMS : 2001.3556. This image was taken around the time the hospital launched 2 August 1886

The Port Sanitary Authorities (PSAs) checked shipboard health and conditions, and ships with visible signs of disease on board were required to be disinfected and the sick removed to an isolation hospital. 

TWCMS : 2011.2066 What was the South Shields River Police and Tyne Port Sanitary Authority Office, at the Mill Dam next to the Customs House, South Shields.

In 1902, for example, River Tyne PSA officers boarded and inspected 2,323 vessels, and the River’s Medical Officer of Health visited 46 vessels which had reported or suspected cases of smallpox, measles, enteric fever (typhoid), scarlet fever, diarrhoeal diseases, malarial fever, dysentery and influenza.  

TWCMS : K7799 Lithograph of young girl suffering from cholera (an acute diarrhoeal disease).

Of these, 17 cases were treated at the floating hospital. That year, due to a serious smallpox epidemic on land, an additional 51 patients were also admitted for treatment from districts which had no suitable hospital provision.

TWCMS : 2013.1200 Booklet “History of the Small-Pox Epidemic in South Shields, 1871”, written by Andrew Legat and published in 1871. The text was originally a paper read on 15 June 1871 before the Northern Branch of the British Medical Association at Tynemouth.

The floating hospital at Jarrow Slake had three main buildings each consisting of a six-bedded ward and a four-bedded ward, divided by a nurses’ room and bathroom. Each ward had a scullery and a water closet. A small mortuary was located behind the central ward. A yellow and black flag was flown when there was infection on board. 
 
The Tyne PSA shared a building with the River Police, beside the Customs House at Mill Dam, South Shields from 1886 until 1985. As for the floating hospital, with the improved watch kept on the health of ship’s crews and the establishment of isolation hospitals ashore, the floating hospital was declared redundant and was scrapped in 1930.  

Image courtesy of South Tyneside Libraries [ref. STH0000056]. Here, the partially dismantled structure is towed away to the breakers.

 


As a charity, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums rely on donations to provide the amazing service that we do and our closure, whilst necessary, has significantly impacted our income. Please, if you are able, help us through this difficult period by donating by text today. Text TWAM 3 to give £3, TWAM 5 to give £5 or TWAM 10 to give £10 to 70085. Texts cost your donation plus one standard message rate. Thank you.

Joseph Crawhall II – A Victorian Artist and Man of Many Parts

In my role as the librarian at the Great North Museum: Hancock Library I’m fortunate to regularly come across many beautiful and interesting books.  The authors and illustrators who created these volumes are often just as fascinating as the books themselves, and many have connections with Newcastle upon Tyne.

One example of such a person is Joseph Crawhall II (1821 – 1896) who is the subject of this blog.

Portrait of Joseph Crawhall II

As his title suggests Crawhall was part of an artistic family that spanned the 19th and early 20th centuries. His father was a local politician, businessman and former Mayor of Newcastle as well as an amateur artist. His son, also called Joseph, became a celebrated artist.

Joseph Crawhall II was born at West House, Newcastle. Along with his brother and sister he inherited artistic ability from his father. Joseph developed a passionate fascination with the past which led to a specific interest in reproducing the kind of woodcuts and engravings associated with locally published chapbooks and ballad sheets. Chapbooks were a type of printed street literature which formed a rich publishing tradition in his native Newcastle in the 17th and 18th centuries. They were cheaply produced and contained rudimentary, but evocative woodcut illustrationsCrawhall also took inspiration from the decorations on medieval glass and manuscripts and the wonderful engravings of the local wood engraver and naturalist, Thomas Bewick. By creatively combining and synthesising these diverse artistic influences Crawhall was able to formulate his unique and individual graphic style which still appears vital and contemporary today.

Illustration from Chap-Book Chaplets

Published in 1883 Crawhall’s book “Chap-Book Chaplets” and its companion volume “Old Ffrendes With Newe Faces” are a testament both to his artistic skill and his love for the folk literature tradition of the northern region. The illustrations in the volumes use the medium of wood-engraving. Crawhall cut the blocks out of less coarse box wood, he then drew his designs onto the polished end-grain blocks using dark ink. Finally, he made incisions in the block using a tool called a “graver”, supporting the block on a sandbag as he worked. Although the printing for these volumes was done in black and white Crawhall added colour by hand to bring the images to life. Crawhall was noted for his sense of humour which permeates and elevates his imagery giving it great vibrancy and appeal.

Illustration from Old Ffrendes With New Faces

 Crawhall was a man of many and diverse interests. He loved the Northumbrian pipes and north eastern songs and published a book titled “Beuk O’ Newcassel Sangs”. As a leading member of Newcastle’s Art Association, he helped to organise exhibitions and he is held responsible for much of the groundwork for establishing the City’s art collections. He was also a keen rower and had an interest in archaeology. Crawhall developed a friendship with Charles Keane, the noted cartoonist, who worked for Punch, the famous humorous periodical of that time. Crawhall provided him with rough drawings and “punch” lines which the cartoonist completed and published.

Another of Crawhall’s pastimes was that of angling of which he was a keen practitioner. Indeed the first book that he produced was the self-printed “Compleatetest Angling Booke That Euer Was Writ”, published in 1859. This established his characteristically quirky and idiosyncratic style.

Illustration from Compleatest Angling Beuke That Ever Was Writ

After a long and productive life Joseph Crawhall died in 1896 at the age of 75 and he was buried in Morpeth. He was a much respected and admired figure, both locally and nationally and his passing was marked by the Newcastle Daily Leader who described him in an obituary as “One of the north of England’s most conspicuous and interesting figures.”

His son’s biographer described him as “One of the most fascinating characters of the Victorian era”.

I hope that this blog has sparked an interest in Joseph Crawhall II and his rich and unique body of work. If you would like to view some of his marvellous publications, you are welcome to visit the Great North Museum:  Hancock Library where they are part of the library of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne. The library is free to use and is open to everyone. At the moment the library is temporarily closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Further information about the library can be found at https://greatnorthmuseum.org.uk/collections/library-and-archives

I would like to thank Newcastle University Special Collections who kindly allowed me to reproduce the photographic portrait of Joseph Crawhall II, which is part of the archive of material that they hold on him. The collection details are as follows:

Photograph taken from an ‘Album Amicorum’ in JCII, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive], Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186


As a charity, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums rely on donations to provide the amazing service that we do and our closure, whilst necessary, has significantly impacted our income. Please, if you are able, help us through this difficult period by donating by text today. Text TWAM 3 to give £3, TWAM 5 to give £5 or TWAM 10 to give £10 to 70085. Texts cost your donation plus one standard message rate. Thank you.