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Archive for July, 2011

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The legendary Trojan Horse

Posted in Ancient History, Legend, War, Weapons on Friday, 29 July 2011

This edited article about the Trojan Horse originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 998 published on 25 April 1981.

Trojan Horse, picture, image, illustration

The Trojan Horse by Pat Nicolle

There is surely no legend better known than the story of the Trojan prince named Paris, who eloped with Helen, the beautiful wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, and provoked a ten-year war, as the Greeks sought vengeance for the outrage.

The cunning way in which the Greeks brought the siege of Troy to an end has been told and retold many times. Despairing of taking Troy by storm, it is said, they built a great horse of wood, concealing soldiers inside it, and left it outside the walls. Then they boarded their ships and feigned to sail away, leaving a man called Sinon with the horse.

Posing as a deserter, Sinon persuaded the Trojans to drag the wooden horse into the city. Then in the night he let the warriors out of the horse. They opened the city gates to their comrades, who had meanwhile returned. Thus Troy fell, and was burnt to the ground.

Scholars for a long time tended to dismiss the whole thing as picturesque myth – until just over a century ago. Then a German, Heinrich Schliemann, who was an enthusiastic archaeologist, went to north-west Asia Minor and excavated the supposed site of Troy. There he found the remains, not of one city, but of several, one on top of another.

One of these cities showed clear signs of having been destroyed by fire. And archaeological evidence placed the event around 1180 BC, just about the time when the Trojan War was traditionally supposed to have occurred.

So Troy, it seemed, did exist, and came to a violent end – but what other evidence is there that the war really occurred, and was not mere story-teller’s fancy? The only ancient written accounts of the Trojan War were the work of poets – hardly reliable historical authorities.

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Robert Charles Goff: Artist

Posted in Art, Artist on Friday, 29 July 2011

Robert Charles Goff was a printmaker and painter who specialised in topographical scenes.

picture, Robert Charles Goff, painter, artist, Piazza S Lorenzo, Tuscanny

A scenic painting by Robert Charles Goff of the Piazza S. Lorenzo with the statue of Giovanni delle Bande Nere

Goff was born in Ireland on 28 July 1837, the son of George Goff and his wife Elizabeth (nee Holmes). He obtained a commission from the 50th Queen’s Own in July 1855 shortly before his eighteenth birthday. He proceeded to the Crimea where he became adjutant of his regiment and fought until the end of the campaign.

Goff continued to have an active military service in Ceylon before going to Staff College and joining the 15th Foot, serving on the Staff at Malta and Portsmouth as A.D.C. to Sir William Ridley and, later, Lord Templetown. After moving to the Coldstream Guards he was promoted to colonel in March 1878 and retired later in the year after his marriage to Beatrice Teresa, daughter of Baron Testaferrata-Abels of the Maltese nobility. They had one son who died young. Having lost his wife also, in January 1899, Goff married Clarissa Catherine Larpent, daughter of the eighth Baron de Hochepied-Larpent, whose sister, Reta, was the wife of another painter and etcher, G. P. Jacomb-Hood.

Goff had learned the process of etching from a fellow officer and etched over 200 plates. He also painted a great many watercolours which were used as illustrations in books such as Florence and Some Tuscan Cities (1905) and Assisi of Saint Francis (1908), both written by his wife.

His etchings and paintings of views in England and Continental Europe earned him an international reputation. Goff was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers in 1887 and was an honourary member of the academies of Milan and Florence. His artwork was regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy and other major institutions. An obituary for Goff records: “No artist without professional training has turned out so much excellent work, and few etchers, if any, have drawn their subjects from so wide an area, or maintained their standards so far into old age.”

In British Etchers 1850-1940, Kenneth Guichard says of him: “Colonel Goff was one of the first British etchers to explore the revolutionary aspects of Whistler’s etched art. During the late nineteenth century Whistler’s etchings explored modern concerns by hinting and persuading, rather than describing. His almost calligraphic economy of statement caused etchers to explore different avenues of expression. This is clearly seen in The Tower Bridge, where Goff delineates the manner in which the eye focuses on either the foreground or the background. Hence the strong contrasts between these two areas and the almost sketchy nature of the foreground boats and the vessels in the Thames. The Tower Bridge is thus an early and important exploration of these elements.”

Goff travelled extensively, maintaining homes in London and Brighton. He moved around the end of the century to a villa overlooking Florence where he remained until the war and increasing age led him to move to Villa Valerie, Bellaria, Tour-de-Peilz, Switzerland, where he died on 30 June 1922. He was survived by his wife, Clarissa.

Many more paintings by Robert Charles Goff can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

John Vernon: Artist

Posted in Art, Artist on Friday, 29 July 2011

John Vernon was a British artist of advertising, book covers and comic strips whose career spanned at least four decades but about whom almost nothing is known.

picture, John Vernon, artist, cover artist, illustrator

John Vernon‘s expressive cover for A Dance in the Sun by Dan Jacobson

Vernon began his career working for the art department of Theatre Publicity and later for Pearl & Dean under Sam Peffer. He then began freelancing in the mid-1950s, producing paperback covers for Panther Books from 1956-58 and Hodder & Stoughton in 1957. He became the main cover artist for Harborough Publishing’s Ace Books line in 1957, producing around 100 covers for them until 1960; at the same time (1958-59), he was also painting covers for Four Square and Frederick Muller’s ‘Sombrero Westerns’ series.

Simon Marsh-Devine has commented that he was “a very adaptable artist able to work in and reproduce a variety of styles.”

In the early 1960s he began scripting and drawing many issues Micron’s Combat Picture Library (including numerous issues featuring their air ace Jeff Curtiss). Before long he found work with Fleetway Publications and began working on Tiger, his first known strips being ‘Casey and the Champ’ and ‘The Ragged Racer’. In May 1965 he began working on the strip that he was to be most associated with during his comic art career, ‘Skid Solo’, which he continued to draw until the early 1980s.

When ‘Skid’ finally came to an end in 1981, Vernon’s work could thereafter be found in Battle and Eagle, his most notable work in this period probably being ‘Truck Turpin’ and ‘Jetblade’ for Battle. His last known strip appeared in 1985 and Vernon probably retired.

Many more pictures by John Vernon can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Jesus is brought before Caiaphas

Posted in Bible, Religion on Thursday, 28 July 2011

Caiaphas is usually regarded as the leading plotter against Christ, and is credited with masterminding the cleverly manipulated events which lead to the freeing of Barabbas and condemnation of Jesus.

Caiaphas, picture, image, illustration

Jesus appears before Caiaphas and the Council, by William Hole

He had been made the Jewish High Priest by the Roman Procurator some eighteen years earlier, so he was a man of enormous influence in Jerusalem, knowing exactly how to play various factions off against each other. Of course the priests and Pharisees were anxious to silence Jesus, whose message was by now travelling far and wide, often in areas formerly quite conservative which was especially worrying for the authorities. After teaching in the temple over some five days it was inevitable that Jesus would be called before the Council headed by Caiaphas to answer their questions, all framed to elicit an incriminating response from Him. During this trial he wisely remains silent until, that is, Caiaphas asks Him if He is the Christ, whereupon Jesus replies: “I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of poower, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14: 62). The charge of blasphemy can at last be brought against Him, and Caiaphas famously rents his own garments in pained disgust at what he has heard, though overlooking  the fact that this is also a blasphemous act in itself.

Many more pictures relating to the Bible can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Edmund Burke

Posted in America, Historical articles, History, Literature, Politics, Revolution on Thursday, 28 July 2011

Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797) was an Irishman whose eloquence and oratory made him one of the greatest statesmen in the Europe of his day, and his peerless reputation as an MP of passionate principles perfectly expressed had perhaps never before, nor has it since, been equalled.

Burke, picture, image, illustration

Burke the Great Orator, by Kronheim

He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, the city of his birth, and as a young man distinguished himself beyond measure with his first and only purely philosophical book, A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757), a seminal book on aesthetics which influenced Diderot and Kant and many later thinkers, artists and poets. But it was his support of the American colonists and opposition to the French revolutionaries for which he is best remembered, the latter producing his Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), a book widely reinterpreted by conservatives keen to counter the arguments of socialism and the widely feared communist ideology of the twentieth century. Burke was long committed to the impeachment of Warren Hastings and the exposure of the criminality and corruption endemic in the East India Company, and his paternalistic benevolence towards the colonies of the Empire led to him championing many causes favourable to the subjugated peoples. Yet this enlightened attitude was itself the very beginning of a thought process which logically could only ever lead to the eventual granting of freedom to those nations and the disintegration of Empire, as happened almost two hundred years later. This extraordinary man, friend of Johnson and Gibbon, left a legacy which still underpins modern Conservatism and Liberalism too. He placed property at the heart of a law-abiding, flourishing democracy, and a principled and vigorous opposition alongside the elected government of the day, to keep it in check and hold it to account. His principles were so firmly held and he so unwavering in his spirit that, even at the end he could not be reconciled with his friend, the ‘New Whig’ Charles James Fox, though “rending asunder a long friendship” had caused him heart-felt pain.

Many more pictures relating to Edmund Burke can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures of Napoleon

Posted in Best pictures, Historical articles, History, War on Thursday, 28 July 2011

The best pictures of Napoleon Bonaparte portray an heroic figure in his pomp and at the moments of his greatest failure and humiliation. The first picture of Napoleon is a superb portrait of a romantic hero and imperious conqueror.

Napoleon, picture, image, illustration

Napoleon Bonaparte by Angus McBride

The second picture of Napoleon is an atmospheric depiction of him leading his army’s disastrous retreat from Moscow in the falling snow.

Retreat from Moscow, picture, image, illustration

Napoleon’s crushing retreat from Moscow, by Peter Jackson

The third picture of Napoleon Bonaparte shows the defeated man gazing out from his exile on St Helena.

Exile on St Helena, picture, image, illustration

Napoleon in exile on St Helena, by Severino Baraldi

Many more pictures relating to Napoleon can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The Roman soldiers mock Jesus

Posted in Bible, Religion on Thursday, 28 July 2011

Along with the scourging, the mocking of Christ represents one of the fourteen Stations of the Cross.

Jesus mocked, picture, image, illustration

Jesus is mocked by Roman soldiers, by William Hole

After Pilate has freed Barabbas he delivers Jesus up for crucifixion and the soldiers take the condemned man into the Praetorium where, in a typical show of sadistic fraternity, the entire company gathers round to mock and jeer. They take off his robes and find a purple cloak which they place on his shoulders as a regal costume, and carefully entwine thorny twigs to make a crown of thorns, which they then place on His head. After dressing Him thus they salute Him – “Hail, King of the Jews!” – and strike His head with a stick so the thorns sink deep into His flesh. Then they spit on Him, and fall down on their knees as if to worship Him; everything that happens in their quarters is systematic cruelty, mockery and intense humiliation. When they have had their fill of this charade, they take off the purple mantle and give Him back His own clothes, before setting out on the road to Calvary.

Many more pictures relating to the Bible can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Henry Fielding – novelist and magistrate

Posted in English Literature, Historical articles, Law on Thursday, 28 July 2011

Henry Fielding (1707 – 1754) was the first great novelist in English literature; he often depicted characters and incidents of considerable criminality, all brought to life with a sharp eye for the telling detail and a satirist’s instinct for comedy and truth.

Riot, picture, image, illustration

The London riots of 1749, by Ron Embleton

This was unsurprising given his position as London’s Chief Magistrate, one he held for several years, and in which he was followed by his blind half-brother, John. This patriotic and politically astute Englishman had frequently lampooned Sir Robert Walpole, whose government he reviled, and in his novel Jonathan Wild he drew comparisons between the notorious highwayman and criminal and the odious Walpole, who simply craved power, glory and fame. The Fielding brothers were highly respected as magistrates, and it was largely at their suggestion that the Bow Street Runners were established, literally forerunners of the modern police force. Henry Fielding’s greatest novel, Tom Jones, was a picaresque narrative following a foundling boy through the travails of poverty via frequent amorous adventures to the possession of a fortune. Like all his works it is peopled with country folk and townsmen who are clearly drawn from life, the teeming eccentric variety of which London’s Chief Magistrate saw week after week, whether staying at his country residence or sitting in judgment back at Bow Street. It was unfortunate that during the contagious London riot of 1749 he was out of town for a few days, but on his return he called in the army and began to formulate his plan for a company of law officers to prevent such chaos and mayhem breaking out on London’s streets.

Many more pictures relating to Henry Fielding can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The best pictures of Mozart

Posted in Best pictures, Music on Thursday, 28 July 2011

The best pictures of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart portray the great composer as a famous child performer and successful composer doomed to die young and be buried in a pauper’s grave. The first picture of Mozart shows the child prodigy playing the keyboard at one of his concerts, with his violin-playing father, Leopold, and sister, “Nannerl”.

Mozart, picture, image, illustration

The Mozart family give a concert on one of their tours of Europe, by Peter Jackson

The second picture shows Mozart being dismissed from his musical post by the unpleasant Archbishop of Salzburg.

Mozart, picture, image, illustration

Mozart is literally thrown out of a job by the Archbishop of Salzburg, by Peter Jackson

The third picture of Mozart portrays the mysterious stranger calling at the composer’s lodgings to commission a Requiem,

Mozart, picture, image, illustration

The legendary mysterious stranger visits Mozart and asks him to compose a Requiem, which will turn out to be Mozart’s last and unfinished composition. Picture by Roger Payne

Many more pictures of Mozart can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

George Cruikshank: Artist

Posted in Art, Artist on Thursday, 28 July 2011

George Cruikshank was a British caricaturist and illustrator, one of the most popular artists of his era.

picture, George Cruikshank, illustrator, caricaturist, Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist

A famous scene from Dickens’s Oliver Twist illustrated by George Cruikshank

George Cruikshank was born in London on 27 September 1792, the second son of Isaac Cruikshank, one of the leading caricaturists of the late 1790s, and his wife Mary (nee MacNaughton). Along with his brother Robert (later better known as Isaac Robert Cruikshank) and sister Margaret Eliza (1807-1825), young George inherited his father’s artistic inclinations, the children often watching their father at work in his attic studio.

Cruikshank’s education was erratic, briefly attending classes at an academy in Edgware, and his education in art was learned on his father’s knee. Robert’s interest in the sea led him to became a midshipman in the East India service and, for some while, the family believed he was dead, shocked to see him arrive home alive in 1806.

During this period (1803-06), Isaac’s health was failing and George became his assistant. Even in 1803 he was supplying simple designs for children’s books and games and, by the age of 13, he was drawing in copperplate titles and backgrounds, furnishings and dialogues for his father’s caricatures. George rapidly grew in confidence and skill and, by the time of Robert’s return, was the better artist. Over the next few years he produced hundreds of designs for adverts, songheads and frontispieces and, by 1808, was signing his own work in full.

Between 1808 and 1811, Cruikshank became one of the leading illustrators of caricatures, Robert L. Patten saying, “Caricaturists, competing daily for the public’s coppers, had to be inventors and plagiarists, taking popular forms and changing them to hit the new day’s fancy. George Cruikshank was the most fecund, original and deft graphic satirist after Gillray … By the age of twenty he was celebrated.”

Following his father’s death in 1811, Cruikshank became the family breadwinner; a younger brother died aged four in 1810, but the family included, until 1825, his younger sister and, until 1853, his mother. Cruikshank produced hundreds of prints, sold through dealers and radical publishers in London, Napoleon being a favourite target. His plates appeared in The Scourge and The Meteor and individually from printsellers.

From 1815 he was closely associated with radical publisher William Hone, illustrating pamphlets that parodied politics and repressive laws. Following the death of George III, Cruikshank took up the cause of the estranged Princess of Wales, Caroline of Brunswick, who was even forbidden from attending the coronation of her husband, George IV. Cruikshank was offered £100 to stop caricaturing the king in “any immoral situation” and further negotiations took place when George and Robert Cruikshank travelled to the Royal Pavilion at Brighton.

The storm over Caroline soon blew out and Cruikshank turned to book illustration, his first major work being a joint venture with brother Robert to illustrate Pierce Egan’s Life in London (1820-21). Cruikshank began issuing his own albums, including Phrenological Illustrations (1826), Illustrations of Time (1827), four series of Scraps and Sketches (1828-32) and My Sketch Book, issued in 9 parts (1833-36).

By now Cruikshank was married – to Mary Ann Walker in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, on 16 October 1827 – and sought a steadier income. Through Charles Tilt he published a regular Cruikshank’s Comic Almanack (1835-53), although competition from Punch’s Almanack, which launched in 1844 doomed Cruikshank’s efforts to steady decline.

picture, George Cruikshank, illustrator, caricaturist, Charles Dickens

George Cruikshank and Charles Dickens

In 1835, Cruikshank was introduced to Charles Dickens and they worked together on two series of Sketches by Boz (1836). Richard Bentley, capitalising on the success of these, created Bentley’s Miscellany and signed up both writer (to act as editor) and illustrator. For Bentley’s, Cruikshank illustrated Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist and W. Harrison Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard, having previously illustrated the fourth edition of Ainsworth’s Rookwood some years earlier. His association with Ainsworth would also encompass The Tower of London (1840) and Windsor Castle (1842-43).

Departing Bentley’s in 1843, Cruikshank concentrated on other projects, such as W. H. Maxwell’s History of the Irish Rebellion in 1798 (1845) and a series of narrative plates, a form popularised by Hogarth a century earlier. The result was The Bottle (1847) about the downfall of a respectable labourer and his family caused by drink. Experiments with cheaper production methods and their publication on various grades of paper (some having, in addition, verses supplied by Charles Mackey), gave the series a wide audience and provoked much discussion. Cruikshank – whose father had died following a drinking match – decided to go teetotal and embraced temperance; Dickens, on the other hand, believed that drinking was a reaction to poverty and the two eventually fell out.

However, neither The Bottle nor its sequel, The Drunkard’s Children (1848), made any great profits for their illustrator. The declining sales of Cruikshank’s Comic Almanack and the failure of other periodicals – Omnibus (1841-42) and Table Book (1845) – along with his refusal to work for Punch and the steady falling away of commissions, meant that Cruikshank struggled financially during a period when his wife was suffering from ill-health; she died on 28 May 1849 and, overwhelmed, Cruikshank struggled to work. An attempt to publish a serial based around the Great Exhibition – 1851; or, The Adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Sandboys – with Henry Mayhew failed, Mayhew barely scraping together enough text and Cruikshank’s illustrations usually having no connection with the text.

On 8 March 1850, Cruikshank married Eliza Widdison, a publisher’s niece, and the household – now including Cruikshank’s mother, Eliza’s mother and aunt, a cook and a maid – moved to 48 Mornington Place. Whilst the elderly family members died in quick succession, Cruikshank’s financial worries were not eased. The maid, Adelaide Attree, fell pregnant and was let go; the child, however, was Cruikshank’s, and she was set up in a nearby flat which doubled as a studio… trebled, in fact, as a nursery, as Adelaide went on to have eleven children (ten of whom survived infancy) between 1854 and 1875. Their first child, George Robert, was baptised in 1858 with the name Archibold, ostensibly the son of ‘George Archibold’, artist. Engraver ‘Robert Archibold’ appears as head of the household in the 1861 census. Cruikshank provided what he could and trying to maintain two households meant he took on whatever work he could as well as devoting much of his time to lecturing on temperance.

More failed publishing ventures included George Cruikshank’s Magazine (1854) and numerous pamphlets on topics ranging from burglary to spiritualism issued in the 1850s and 1860s. Cruikshank joined a volunteer corps, the 48th Middlesex, mustered to fight off a possible French invasion in the winter of 1859; he eventually retired in 1868 after years of battling slack discipline, petty rivalries and underfunding.

An attempt by artist John Ruskin to rescue Cruikshank from his later impoverished state resulted only in disappointment. A proposed book of fairy tales  to be illustrated by Cruikshank was set aside when Ruskin saw the first results and, instead, a reprint of an early collection of Grimm’s fairy tales – German Popular Stories, 1823-26 – was prepared, although Cruikshank’s original drawings had to be copied by someone as the original copperplates were not available. The results were disappointing. Ruskin’s attempts to persuade Cruikshank to write an illustrated autobiography also only resulted in a limited amount of laboured text.

picture, George Cruikshank, illustrator, caricaturist, Charles Dickens, Sketches by Boz

An illustration from Sketches by Boz by George Cruikshank

Cruikshank’s frustration over debts no doubt contributed to his temper in later years; he fired off letters bemoaning that he had received no credit for originating the characters and plot of Harrison Ainsworth’s The Miser’s Daughter and several other titles, and of Dickens’ Oliver Twist. The public perception of the artist was that he was cranky, preachy (over temperance and dietary matters) and self-aggrandising.

Cruikshank suffered a short illness in January 1878 and died at his home, 263 Hampstead Road, on 1 February of acute respiratory infection. Insolvent when he died, Cruikshank left his entire estate to Adelaide, leaving his widow Eliza with unpaid debts and the shock of discovering Cruikshank’s second family living only three streets away. This was somewhat at odds with his obituary in Punch which said: “There never was a purer, simpler, more straightforward or altogether more blameless man. His nature had something childlike in its transparency.”

Many more illustrations by George Cruikshank can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.