Sir Frank Short

1857 - 1945

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The importance of Sir Frank Short in the development of modern British printmaking cannot be overstated. As head of the first engraving school at the Royal College of Art, and later as President of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, Frank Short exerted the fundamental influence which was responsible for the technical excellence of British etching and engraving during the first decades of the 20th century. Whether through direct contact, or through contact with printmakers whom he had trained, Sir Frank Short’s teaching has affected the work of almost every British printmaker up to the present day. An outstanding and highly disciplined technician, Frank Short was responsible for the revival of the mezzotint and aquatint processes in England, working, where possible, direct from nature. Apart from his original works, Sir Frank Short produced some of the most inspired mezzotint interpretations of the work of earlier masters, such as Peter de Wint, John Constable, David Cox, and in particular J.M.W. Turner. Indeed, the greatest undertaking in his printed work was to extend and complete Turner’s Liber Studiorum as it had been projected originally by the great artist.

The vast majority of Sir Frank Short’s original printed works were created as pure etchings and it is as an etcher that Short exerted his fundamental influence upon the following generations of printmakers. Indeed, it is in his most open and sketchy etchings that Frank Short displays his particular mastery for capturing a sense of space. In his own characteristic manner he required only a few minimal strokes to convey an impression of great detail. Many of Short’s pupils carried this open style into the next generation of etchers but even those who went their own way stylistically remained indebted to Frank Short's rigorous teaching of printmaking techniques.