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Let’s Give Jane a Hand: The Austen Silhouette Manicure

The Austen Silhouette Manicure This Easter I added a set of Nail Art Pens to my seven-year-old’s Easter basket. We had seen them demonstrated at our local warehouse club and she was eager to try the fun for herself. The idea is that each “pen” comes with a brush and pen attachment for creating detailed works of art on your finger nails. Nail art sets like this one can be purchased from Amazon.com. After church that morning, we headed off to spend the day with family. Bella with polish eagerly clutched in hand, was sure that her artist Auntie Diana could work some magic for all the little girls in attendance. Being the good sport that she is, Diana had a steady stream of customers for watermelons, ladybugs and even snowmen, but when I saw the white and black pens, I was sure that an Austen silhouette could be had. Grandma was game to give the silhouette a try. To create your own works of Austen art, you will need a bottle of white nail polish (available for French Manicures) and one black nail pen (or fine tipped permanent marker. Used on the polish, it should wipe off with nail polish remover and not leave a mark on the actual nail) File your nails and paint a coat of white polish, as you would begin any manicure. Using this silhouette as a guide, gently draw an outline of Jane Austen’s silhouette– your basic design will include the head with bun (more…)
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Thomas Hope: Banker, Author, Adventurer

Thomas Hope (30 August 1769 – 3 February 1830/1831), was a Dutch and British merchant banker, author, philosopher and art collector, best known for his novel Anastasius a work which many experts considered a rival to the writings of Lord Byron. His sons included Henry Thomas Hope and Alexander Beresford Hope. Hope in oriental dress; colour print after the portrait of 1798 by William Beechey. The eldest son of Jan Hope, Thomas was descended from a branch of an old Scottish family who for several generations were merchant bankers known as the Hopes of Amsterdam, or Hope & Co. He inherited from his mother a love of the arts, which the efforts of his father and grandfather made possible by acquiring an enormous wealth. His father spent his final years turning his summer home Groenendaal Park in Heemstede into a grand park of sculpture open to the public. After he fled to London with his brothers to avoid the French occupation of the Netherlands from 1795–1810, he never returned. The Hope Dionysus is a statue of Dionysus, the god of wine, wearing a panther skin and casually stretching his left arm over a smaller figure of a woman, in a Neo Attic or archaic pose. This statue, 821⁄4 in. (2.1 m) high, dates to between 27 BC and 68 AD. It was once owned by the 18th Century English antiquities collector Thomas Hope (hence the name), and later belonged to a descendant of Benjamin Franklin, before being acquired by the (more…)
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Prussian Blue

Considered the first artificial pigment, Prussian Blue was created in the 1700’s, ironically, by an artist seeking to create a new source for red paint. It rapidly gained popularity as first an artist’s medium, and later as a color fast dye. It is the traditional “blue” in blueprints and is used as an antidote for certain kinds of heavy metal poisoning

A sample of Prussian Blue pigment.
A sample of Prussian Blue pigment.

Prussian blue was probably synthesized for the first time by the paint maker Diesbach in Berlin around the year 1706. Most historical sources do not mention a first name of Diesbach. Only Berger refers to him as Johann Jacob Diesbach. It was named “Preußisch blau” and “Berlinisch Blau” in 1709 by its first trader. The pigment replaced the expensive Lapis lazuli and was an important topic in the letters exchanged between Johann Leonhard Frisch and the president of the Royal Academy of Sciences, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, between 1708 and 1716. It is first mentioned in a letter written by Frisch to Leibniz, from March 31, 1708. Not later than 1708, Frisch began to promote and sell the pigment across Europe. By August 1709, the pigment had been termed “Preussisch blau”; by November 1709, the German name “Berlinisch Blau” had been used for the first time by Frisch. Frisch himself is the author of the first known publication of Prussian blue in the paper Notitia Coerulei Berolinensis nuper inventi in 1710, as can be deduced from his letters. Diesbach had been working for Frisch since about 1701.

In 1731, Georg Ernst Stahl published an account of the first synthesis of Prussian blue. The story involves not only Diesbach but also Johann Konrad Dippel. Diesbach was attempting to create a red lake pigment from cochineal but obtained the blue instead as a result of the contaminated potash he was using. He borrowed the potash from Dippel, who had used it to produce his “animal oil”. No other known historical source mentions Dippel in this context. It is therefore difficult to judge the reliability of this story today. In 1724, the recipe was finally published by John Woodward.

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James Gillray: Regency Caricaturist

507px-JamesgillrayportraitJames Gillray (13 August 1756 or 1757 – 1 June 1815), was a British caricaturist and printmaker famous for his etched political and social satires, mainly published between 1792 and 1810.

He was born in Chelsea. His father, a native of Lanark, had served as a soldier, losing an arm at the Battle of Fontenoy, and was admitted, first as an inmate, and afterwards as an outdoor pensioner, at Chelsea Hospital. Gillray commenced life by learning letter-engraving, at which he soon became adept. This employment, however, proved irksome to James, so he wandered about for a time with a company of strolling players. After a very checkered experience he returned to London and was admitted as a student in the Royal Academy, supporting himself by engraving, and probably issuing a considerable number of caricatures under fictitious names. His caricatures are almost all in etching, some also with aquatint, and a few using stipple technique.

None can correctly be described as engravings, although this term is often loosely used to describe them. Hogarth’s works were the delight and study of his early years. Paddy on Horseback, which appeared in 1779, is the first caricature which is certainly his. Two caricatures on Admiral Rodney’s naval victory at the Battle of the Saintes, issued in 1782, were among the first of the memorable series of his political sketches.

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“Pinkie”: The Story Behind the Painting

the fashions of childhood

Pinkie is the traditional title for a portrait of 1794 by Thomas Lawrence in the permanent collection of the Huntington Library at San Marino, California where it hangs opposite The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough. These two works are the centerpieces of the institute’s art collection, which specialises in 18th-century English portraiture. The painting is an elegant depiction of Sarah Barrett Moulton, who was about eleven years old when painted. Her direct gaze and the loose, highly-movemented brushwork give the portrait a lively immediacy.

Pinkie, by Thomas Lawrence, 1794, around the same time as the "Rice Portrait" of Jane Austen (1788).
Pinkie, by Thomas Lawrence, 1794, around the same time as the “Rice Portrait” of Jane Austen (1788).

Sarah Goodin Barrett Moulton was born on 22 March 1783, in Little River, St. James, Jamaica. She was the only daughter and eldest of the four children of Charles Moulton, a merchant from Madeira, and his wife Elizabeth. Sarah was baptised on 29 May 1783, bearing the names Sarah Goodin Barrett in honour of her aunt, also named Sarah Goodin Barrett, who had died as an infant in 1781. She was a descendant of Hersey Barrett, who had arrived in Jamaica in 1655 with Sir William Penn and by 1783, the Barretts were wealthy landowners, slave owners, and exporters of sugar cane and rum. Inside her family, she was called Pinkie or Pinkey.

By the time Sarah was six, her father had left the family and her mother was left to raise the children, Sarah and her brothers Edward (1785–1857) and Samuel (1787–1837), with the help of her relatives. In September 1792, Sarah and her brothers sailed to England to get a better education. Sarah was sent to Mrs Fenwick’s school at Flint House, Greenwich, along with other children from Jamaican colonial families. On 16 November 1793 Sarah’s grandmother, Judith Barrett, wrote from Jamaica to her niece Elizabeth Barrett Williams, then living on Richmond Hill in Surrey, asking her to commission a portrait of ‘my dear little Pinkey … as I cannot gratify my self with the Original, I must beg the favour of You to have her picture drawn at full Length by one of the best Masters, in an easy Careless attitude’. Sarah probably began sitting for Lawrence, painter-in-ordinary to George III, at his studio in Old Bond Street soon after the receipt of this letter on 11 February 1794. Continue reading “Pinkie”: The Story Behind the Painting

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Sailor’s Valentines: A gift of Love

Let’s start this look at Sailor’s Valentines with a poem;
The distant climes may us divide
to think on you shall be my pride
The Winds and Waves may prove unkind
In me no change you’ll ever find.
A magic spell will bind us fast
And make me love you to the last
Let Cupid then your heart incline
to take me for your Valentine!
Sailor’s Valentine – “A Present/Think of Me”, shell, cedar, glass, metal, cotton, tintype, ca. 1895. Courtesy of Strong Museum.

Jane Austen’s brothers, Francis and Charles, often sailed in the East Indies. Is it possible that one of them might have brought back a ‘Sailor’s Valentine’ for his sweetheart or wife? It is thought that by 1820, the craze for these treasures had reached a peak that would last through the Victorian era.

A Regency needlework silk picture- “The Sailor’s Farewell”, depicting a Tar leaving a weeping woman in front of a domestic setting with stumpwork trees.

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Illustrating Jane Austen: The Artist’s Challenge

“These are done by [Elinor],” said he; “and you, as a man of taste, will, I dare say, be pleased with them. I do not know whether you ever happened to see any of her performances before, but she is in general reckoned to draw extremely well.” -Sense and Sensibility Several years ago, Cassandra Chouinard worked with the Jane Austen Centre, to illustrate our comissioned novella, There Must be Murder, by Margaret C. Sullivan. Her charming illustrations brought Jane Austen (and Ms. Sullivan’s) characters to life and we were delighted when we heard that she had again illustrated an Austen novel– this time, Sense and Sensibility, for the online publisher, Girlebooks. Here, she tells us about the challenges she faced as she brought this novel to life. Cassi, please tell us about your background in art. I must have started drawing once I developed the manual dexterity required for holding a crayon instead of eating it because I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing.  After many childhood years of appallingly crude and nonsensical scribblerish, I thought about becoming an artist (and not a cowgirl).  In high school, I practiced painting in oils with the guidance of my art teacher, Daphne Dain, and then I explored other media while not completing a degree in Fine Arts.  Mainly I’ve drawn a bunch of cartoons and portraits and animals. Tell us about your background with drawing Jane Austen-related scenes. When did you first read Jane Austen? When did you first start (more…)
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Kate Greenaway: Regency Revivalist

Catherine Greenaway (17 March 1846 – 6 November 1901), known as Kate Greenaway, was an English children’s book illustrator and writer. Although she lived and worked in the Victorian era, her many paintings, portraits and prints of Georgian and Regency children make her one of the most prolific painters of an idealized Regency childhood. The pictures she created, for a long running series of children’s literature, are some of the images most commonly brought to mind when thinking of the children of that era, and influenced a generation of mothers to create a mini “Regency Revival”. Although her work is not technically set in Jane Austen’s lifetime, her art most definitely is, and remains an inspiring…if sanitized homage to the Regency era, Austen inhabited. Susan Blue, from Greenaway's book, Marigold GardenMarigold Garden: Pictures and Rhymes, London, Routledge, 188 Greenaway spent much of her childhood at Rolleston, Nottinghamshire. She studied at what is now the Royal College of Art in London, which at that time had a separate section for women, and was headed by Richard Burchett. Her first book, Under the Window (1879), a collection of simple, perfectly idyllic verses about children, was a bestseller. Greenaway’s paintings were reproduced by chromoxylography, by which the colours were printed from hand-engraved wood blocks by the firm of Edmund Evans. Through the 1880s and 1890s, her only rivals in popularity in children’s book illustration were Walter Crane and Randolph Caldecott. “Kate Greenaway” children, all of them little girls and boys too young to (more…)