Joseph Pennell

Joseph Pennell, Charing Cross, aquatint, 1896

Charing Cross at Night

Wuerth 422

aquatint with sandpaper ground (and drypoint?), 1896, on fine crisp ivory laid paper, a very fine impression with very narrow margins, the only known state, one of only a few impressions, signed in pencil (J Pennell imp.), verso, a very slight fleck of paper adhering over the impression far right center, printing undulations over most of the sheet, a few faint handling creases, traces of an old tape mount on the reverse, otherwise in excellent condition (as this impression has never been framed or matted)

P. 176x252mm., S. 182x256mm.

This remarkable aquatint is characteristic of Pennell's experiments over the mid-1890s in certain printmaking techniques (aquatint, with sandpaper ground, being a medium that Whistler, for example, never explored!), rendering the nocturnal urban atmosphere with its dark interplay of light over the Thames.

Our impression was trimmed by the artist close to the platemark*, apparently an affectation that he adopted following Whistler's practice.

There is still the question of drypoint rework, in another "state": as the AIC "proof" impression listed below shows multiple horizontal striations in certain parts of the water, this would be a plausible conjecture, though it is neither visible in ours or the DAC impression.  This is complicated by the fact that the three impressions identified show a monotyped effect of selective wiping, which results in varied tonal values of light and shade, as well as overall contrast.  The question remains open...

*As have all of the impressions that we have been able to locate (signed on the tab, as per Whistler's practice again, in the DAC impression), or even the AIC proof, with its various annotations in the narrow lower margin.