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Old Water-Colour Work
( Originally Published 1913 )
When the little dealer had packed together the fine David Cox sketch, 12 inches by g, the two large Tudor exteriors by Nash, 16 by 12, and the unfinished bit by Copley Fielding, he handed them to his customer, took the L3 8s. 6d, which he had asked for the four, and said, " Thank you kindly, sir ; there's not much demand for water-colours nowadays; it's mostly prints." And the customer said, " Well, here's another sovereign for you, anyhow. You don't know what you've been selling me, my man ! "
Nowadays and Then.-I do not wonder if there is little demand for modern water-colours, for I have seldom seen one that I would care to buy to hang against my study wall. But the old English watercolours! I think they are the most delightful things ever done in pictorial art. A few impalpable washes of tinged water, a few deft, swift strokes, and the light of the sky and the colour and shadow of the earth are caught and renewed for ever to the eye, transfixed in beauty and verity upon an oblong of paper behind a slip of glass. I go into the WaterColour Rooms at South Kensington again and again, and again and again I tell myself that the Umbrian School and the Florentine, the Venetian and the Flemish, the Castilian, the French, and all but the unapproachable greatness of Shakespeare Rembrandt himself, must vail the crest before some of the work of the Water-Colour School that rose and flourished and faded within the nineteenth century, here in its island home.
Some Prices among People who Know.-And knowledge about old water-colour work is knowledge worth the having. Let me mention a few recent prices given for old English water-colour drawings at Christie's and elsewhere : David Cox, 38 guineas, 90 guineas, 260 guineas, 510 guineas ; Copley Fielding, 52 guineas, 80 guineas, 270 guineas ; Nash, II guineas, 43 guineas, 70 guineas; Sam Bough, 30 guineas, 83 guineas, 280 guineas ; Gilbert, 16 guineas, 60 guineas; Holland, 46 guineas, 48 guineas; Prout, 40 guineas, 200 guineas; de Wint, 42 guineas, 53 guineas, 620 guineas; and so on. So much for filthy lucre but the artistic pleasure of them !The pride at being able to pick them out ! The joy of owning a score or so of old English water-colour drawings, by renowned hands, that you have come across (at last) in your patient hunt, and have recognised and verified and carried off " for a song " !
Some" Finds:'-A friend of mine can look around the walls of three rooms and view scores of watercolour drawings which he himself has picked up and recognised and verified, and now delightedly ownsCox and Varley, and Nash and Clarkson, Stanfield and Rossetti, and Bonington and Cattermole, and Owen and Hart, and Roberts and de Wint, and Chambers and Prout, and Collins and Payne and Marny ; but the list grows too long for my space. And each of those old water-colours of his has been bought " for a song."
To pick up a large Dalmatian landscape by E. Lear, the inventor of limericks, initialled, the author's handwriting on the back in the directions to the titled purchaser, and all enclosed in a fine contemporary carved-wood frame, for 7s. 6d. is a thing worth doing by any reader, collector or not, who wishes to decorate his walls with good old pictures. And that was done, in a principal thoroughfare, too, only the other day.