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James Johnson


Scenery of Bristol by James Johnson

Scenery of Bristol   1823

  Original lithographs by Francis Danby, Samuel Jackson and James Johnson.
With the artists’ names on the stones.
Ref: Greenacre 130
S (average) 395 x 570 mm; I (Danby) 224 x 334 mm; I (Johnson) 240 x 390 mm; I (Jackson) 240 x 334 mm
The complete folio containing three original lithographs, stitched in original brown paper wrappers, as first published. Extremely rare.

The folio contains:
“View from Kings, Weston Hill” by Francis Danby
“Redcliffe Church” by James Johnson
“View of St. Vincents Rocks, and the Old Hotwell House” by Samuel Jackson

The three original lithographs are stitched, as issued, into the original brown printed wrapper which reads “No. Price 7/6 (inscribed in ink in a contemporary hand). Three Views, illustrative of The Scenery of Bristol, and its Vicinity / London: Printed and published by Rowney and Forster, at their lithographic press, no.51, Rathbone Place. / 1823.” When writing on this folio in The Bristol School of Artists. Francis Danby and Painting in Bristol 1810-1840, Francis Greenacre remarks “They are the finest engraved Bristol views but of considerable rarity” (City Art Gallery Bristol, September 1973, p.96, item 72).

This exceptionally rare folio contains Francis Danby’s only original lithograph.

The Bristol artist James Johnson (1803-1834) was described by George Cumberland as “a very clever artist” and “a worthy pupil” of Francis Danby. An accomplished draughtsman, James Johnson is now considered to have been one of the finest landscape painters of the Bristol School. His earliest dated drawing is of 1819 and by 1821 he was producing a number of highly accomplished local views. At the time of this lithograph he was working closely with Francis Danby and was very much a part of his evening sketching groups. Like others of the Bristol School he produced imaginary landscapes as well as those of the local area. James Johnson appears to have been plagued by some form of mental illness and after his untimely death at the age of only 31 Francis Danby remarked “I never met a young man who I more highly esteemed”.

The Irish born artist Francis Danby is considered to have been the leading painter of the Bristol School of artists during the Romantic period. Francis Danby moved to Bristol in 1813 and over the next eleven years established himself as the finest landscape painter in the vicinity. During most of this time he painted in watercolours and it was only around 1818-19 that his work in oils began to emerge with his first major exhibited painting dated to 1820. The original lithograph by Francis Danby in this group is his sole work in the medium and reflects the style of his watercolour drawings of the period. This was to be one of Francis Danby’s final productions in Bristol, for he was to flee the city in secrecy, heavily in debt, in 1824. Indeed financial and marital problems plagued Francis Danby throughout his life and although he rose to considerable fame through his paintings emulating the style of John Martin, he fled England for Europe in the late 1829 as a result of the breakdown of his marriage and continued debt. Although he returned to England around a decade later he never re-established the fame which he attained during the 1820’s. In recent times Danby’s work has been re-appraised and he is now acknowledged for his remarkable ability as a landscape artist rather than just for the few dramatic oils paintings through which he first rose to fame.

Samuel Jackson (1794-1869) was a successful artist and primarily a painter of views in watercolour. He does not appear to have had the ambitions of Francis Danby and remained based in Bristol, establishing himself in a position of some eminence. Samuel Jackson was highly respected and his work extends from accomplished local landscape views to romantic visions of imaginary lands. The area of St. Vincents Rocks, and the Old Hotwell House, depicted in this original lithograph, was also to provide the subject of one of his few oil paintings and a number of his watercolour drawings.

This combined production by the above three artists is considered to be the most important group of Bristol prints of the period. Each lithograph is printed on cream wove paper with full margins and deckle edge. All are separated by tissues and all are in very fine original condition. The original paper wrappers are completely intact with only minor soiling. Altogether an exceptional example of this rare folio in particularly fine original condition. The folio is housed in a specially made linen portfolio with gilt leather title label.