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Antique Prints For The DenAuthor: Yolande Gwin
(Article orginally published December 1960)
WHEN it comes to den decorations, the do-it-yourself method can be an interesting as well as fascinating experience. With a variety of prints, it will enable you to picture yourself in any mood you may choose. Whether one is an amateur or a professional print fancier, there is a wide range available in the seemingly inexhaustible supply in the valuable personal collection of Mr. Walter Barnwell of Atlanta, Georgia. This noted collector of rare and antique prints, from the thousands in his possession, has presented some splendid ideas and contributions for three special areas in today's pattern of living.
Dens, bars and rumpus rooms are magnetic in their appeal to all the family, each having a separate and distinct lure. No one room is complete when the furniture has been moved in and placed to its best advantage. It is the accessories that give it its character. The pictures chosen tell stories and are the personal signature of the owners.
With prints a person can order his own prescription. Today there are ways to picture your hobbies, your interests, your dreams and your career. Every mood, every interest, every flight of fancy is represented in Mr. Barnwell's museum library of priceless prints.
The den is traditionally a hide away for the man of the family. He is the lion in his den. Here indeed, he is the master surrounded by the things he likes, his treasures, and his personal and sometimes his sentimental keepsakes. In his den, a man can get away from it all and perhaps maintain one last stronghold against feminine invasion. He can let his interest run wild in the direction he himself likes best. Politics, history, sports, and times of peace and war can be at his fingertips in wall to wall boundaries.
Mr. Barnwell's collection is one of fine and rare originals. "Modern prints have no place in my folios", he says. "That is unless they are very rare, and of unusual interest-conversational pieces and the like".
Consider some of the outstanding examples in the collection. There is a composite coat of arms, brilliant in its tracery, containing more than 80 names. Over 200 years old, it can he used effectively with individual family pictures or daguerreotypes. For sentimental journeys, there are some exquisite old maps, particularly French, published in 1849 and hand colored. They show agricultural scenes, industries, etc, and not only provide an economic insight into life more than a hundred years ago, but also open the door to a study of the nation. The borders are beautifully colored by hand, giving it a contrasting touch.
Another step into the past is provided by the companion print of all the United States Presidents up to William Howard Taft. These are colored lithographs. Also in this line are prints of Revolutionary generals, all hand colored. Two are of special interest-Baron Steuben and Horatio Gates. Both are on horseback.
Two fine examples of American farm scenes are included. These subjects are perennial ingredients for atmosphere. They are chromo lithographs in pleasing colors. For the novice, this is a print from stone which gives a softness from the delicate tracing on the stone. The present day lithograph is from a metal plate.
These early American scenes, made around 1850 by Kitnmel and Foster, the famous American lithographers, are, according to Mr. Barnwell, far superior to the much bally hooed and popular series of contemporary date. Kimmel and Foster's highly colored early American personalities are extremely rare and show individuals as well as two people in beautifully done chromo-lithograph.
For a light touch in the den there is an excellent caricature of "The Politician" by William Hogarth, in the original folio size, issued around the mid 1700's. Representing past glories of triumph are the collections of military science, medals and decorations, circa 1851, in a colorful print which would be a perfect wall decoration for a retired military man's den. Ancient coins and armor are interesting as well as educational.
The den "dressings" are uncountable and almost any idea, pastime, trade or sport is represented. The same unlimited variety applies to bar decoration, and whether a small area in a home, or the more elaborate ones in clubs and hotels, pictures are as necessary and certainly as appropriate as the cocktail shaker.
As a rule, in these rooms where informality reigns supreme, the decorations are good, unique and satisfy the most discriminating. Hunting and sporting prints on dark wall panelling give the proper touch. Formal, as well as informal, prints of early English life create a pleasant atmosphere.
"A Good Story," a painting by Leo Herman shows two monks, their appearance and gay conversation illustrating that they have really swapped a good story. This type of print stimulates the imagination and could also be used in a den. This also applies to the painting by F. W. Edwards and engraved by Alfred Jones called "The New Scholar." It shows great feeling and can inspire some good personal memories as it shows a mother bringing her small child to the school master. It can suggest one of those "Do you remember our first days at school"' conversations.
William Hogarth, an outstanding English artist, depicted English middle and low class life and his copperplate etchings are quite notable. The originals were done around the middle 1700's. Most of them are colorful and amusing and one set of six, entitled "Marriage a la Mode," is quite colorful in more ways than one.
The Dr. Syntax collection shows English low life at its gayest and gaudiest. There is a set of six in aquatint. drawn by Rowlandson and engraved by Drayton, which shows Dr. Snytax and the Gypsies, while still another shows the same Dr. Syntax present at a coffee house quarrel at Bath. These could be used in a den, but they would probably be more effective as conversational pieces in a bar.
One of the most outstanding prints is the French hand colored lithograph by Emile Vermen, done in Paris in 1860, entitled "The Cock Fight." It is from the M. Montjean collection and presents a dramatic appearance.
Another original William Hogarth copperplate etching in the Barnwell collection, in the giant folio size, is the famous "O The Roast Beef of Old England." Circa 1740. The painting is by Hogarth and is engraved by C. Mosley and Hogarth. This is to be noted as very unusual as most plates were etched by Hogarth alone. On another subject, "The Analysis of Beauty," Hogarth again bids for recognition on bar walls.
A gay whimsical note can be achieved by the use of a group of caricatures called "Modern Athenians," which in reality are pictures of prominent men of Edinburgh, Scot land, in 1848. One shows Archdeacon Williams and the Reverend Thomas G. Sttther in companion prints, while the other duo includes Captain Thomas Fraser and Major Pearson.
Mr. Barnwell suggests "These caricatures would make an exceptionally interesting and effective frieze around the ceiling or even to frame a door. Hung frame to frame they make an interesting sequence."
Other prints suitable for a bar run the gamut from Indians to jockeys, with animals, gay or sombre, adding their personalities, charm and attraction.
The rumpus room, the something new which has been added to the American home life, also comes in for its share of picture treatment. Aimed primarily for the use of the small fry, the rooms have a trend toward gay frivolity, youthful interests and the appeal of make-believe.
The lithograph print of the Tom Thumb wedding is not only a rare item, but is of interest because it shows the four wedding principals whose combined weight is less than 100 pounds.
Fables are highly rated for collectors and decorators, and the subjects cover a wide range, both of the well known and lesser known. The series of etchings over 200 years old in French rhyme are not only educational but provide a different diet for the benefit of the young. The titles are "Le Satyre et Le Passant," "La Tortue et Les Deux Conards," "L'oiseleur l'autour et l'alouette," and "L'elephant et le Singe de Jupiter." All are gay and provide hours of endless amusement and entertainment for the children.
An amusing lithograph by Edward Bawden, huge in size and brilliant in coloring is called "The Dolls at Home." There is also an English print called "The Fun Fair," and several other similar subjects in extra large size.
Circus prints, as well as animals in ludicrous positions, such as dogs fishing, smoking, playing cards, etc., lend atmosphere in the right setting. One highly prized print is the interior of the Pickwick Club, by Charles Albert Waltner, in 1868, showing Mr. Pickwick addressing the members. There are historical sub jects such as maps and old prints dating back to the 1600's, battles, old firearms and old soldiers. In the sporting category, there are ships, yachts, golf themes, hunts, dogs and various pets.
Colonial days are represented by prints of Indians and Pilgrims with their high crowned, wide brimmed hats. From the deep South there are Mississippi River scenes, minstrels and southern cities, and the early West is depicted in prints of cowboys, pioneers, covered wagons and buffalos. Old and famous cities of the world, many showing harbor scenes with sailing vessels and galleys go hand in hand with early maps.
The den and rumpus room have become important areas in the modern home, and with prints such as these adorning the walls the rooms take on the quality of older times.