Touch at the Fine Arts, A; [llustrated by Twelve Plates, with Descriptions by Henry Alken].

Twelve Hand-Colored Etched Plates by Henry Alken

ALKEN, Henry. A Touch at The Fine Arts: [Illustrated by Twelve Plates, with Descriptions by Henry Alken]. London: Published by Thomas M’Lean, Repository of Wit and Humour, 1824.

First edition. Large quarto (11 15/16 x 9 1/8 inches; 304 x 232 mm.). Twelve hand-colored etched plates (8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches; 216 x141 mm.) mounted on heavy card stock, with the leaf of descriptive letterpress mounted on the facing page. Bound without the half-title, title, preface leaf, and leaf of advertisements.

Bound ca. 1850 in half brown hard-grain morocco, ruled in gilt, over brown morocco-grain cloth boards. Spine ruled in blind and decoratively tooled and lettered in gilt in compartments. Each plate with small abrasion in the upper right corner where the plate number has been erased. Some minor worming in the margins of the mounts. A very good copy.

“A Touch at the Fine Arts…is, says the preface, ‘an attempt to elucidate, by graphic delineations, a variety of terms generally and perhaps exclusively made use of by artists, amateurs, connoisseurs, virtuosos, and the like. Long, indeed, has a generous public been, doubtless, puzzled in the endeavour to discover some ray of meaning in those glowing, brilliant and forcible phrases, which the critical catalogues, Catalogues Raisonnées, etc., of the day are woefully burthened with.’ It is a cheap kind of humour at the best. To take two of the most deserving subjects—‘A Moving Effect; the Execution rapid,’ is represented by a runaway coach, with expressions of the utmost horror in the faces and attitudes of the occupants; ‘A Striking Effect, the handling by no means good or pleasant to the eye,’ is illustrated by a fracas between two returning roisterers and some night-watchmen. In these and in plate 2, a prison-scene depicting ‘An unpleasant effect, but the Keeping is Good,’ Alken shows genuine power as a draughtsman, and infuses his work with a character lacking elsewhere. The last plate, indeed, might almost be a coloured lithograph from the hand of Daumier. All twelve plates, it should be said, are soft-ground etchings, with colour applied by hand” (Martin Hardie, pp. 183-184).

The plates are captioned: Pl. 1. “—An Imposing Effect;” Pl. 2. “—Unpleasant in Effect—but the keeping is Good;” Pl. 3. “—A Moving Effect—the Execution Rapid;” Pl. 4. “—A Striking Effect—The handling by no means good, or pleasnat to the eye;” Pl. 5. “—All Effect—The Subject far from good, but Rich;” Pl. 6. “—A Forcible Effect;” Pl. 7. “—A Sudden Effect;” Pl. 8. “—A surprising Effect—but no Execution;” Pl. 9. “—A Very Warm Effect;” Pl. 10. “—A powerful Effect—but the subject rather hurried;” Pl. 11. “—A Spirited Effect—but no order kept in the grouping of the Figures;” Pl. 12. “—A very Brilliant Effect.”

Martin Hardie, pp. 183-184 and 319. Siltzer, p. 71. Tooley 58. Not in Abbey. Item #00845

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