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Sir Frank Short

1857 - 1945

The Night Picket Boat at Hammersmith by Frank Short

The Night Picket Boat at Hammersmith   1916

  Original mezzotint.
Signed in pencil.
Ref: Hardie 125
S 455 x 582 mm; P & I 301 x 455 mm
Original mezzotint engraving by Sir Frank Short.

Superb signed proof impression of this wonderful nocturne showing London at night during a blackout in the First World War.

This magnificent original mezzotint is Sir Frank Short’s only War subject.

A beautiful proof impression with exceptional tonal range, from the famous mezzotint collection of the Honourable Christopher Lennox-Boyd.

The Night Picket Boat at Hammersmith is a tour-de-force of mezzotint engraving which displays the artist's genius in his interpretation of the effects of light through the mezzotint medium at their most inspired. On a moonlit night during the wartime blackouts the picket boat, with a single lamp, is seen from Hammersmith Bridge, leaving a bright wake as it moves upstream against the current; some Thames barges are moored at the left, whilst the silhouette of the famous Harrod’s Depository looms large on the opposite, southern bank of the river. Frank Short noted that he “often saw this effect when doing volunteer Police work at Hammersmith during the War”. Blackouts had been instituted in London since the autumn of 1915 due to the zeppelin bombing raids which the Germans had launched against the British capital. These zeppelin bombing raids were amongst the first aerial attacks in the history of warfare.

At this time Sir Frank Short was one of the few artists to use the medium of mezzotint for making original prints. Even before the Victorian era, mezzotint had become widely associated with reproductive printmaking and after the advent of photography it fell gradually into decline. Sir Frank Short was to demonstrate in plates such as The Night Picket Boat at Hammersmith that truly magnificent original works of art could be created through this painstaking process. Aside from the sheer physical difficulties of making a mezzotint, it must be borne in mind that to work in mezzotint, the artist must think in terms of creating white from blackness. A freshly grounded plate would print pure black and the image is created by the artist smoothing away areas which, when wiped, will print white. In this respect, creating a mezzotint is the absolute opposite to drawing, etching, or line engraving, all of which involve creating the image out of black lines drawn by the artist.

Short was also one of the first artists ever to create a mezzotint image directly onto the plate from nature, although he had abandoned the process by 1927 “as being too difficult to be any advantage”. A marvellous achievement of atmospheric mezzotint, The Night Picket Boat at Hammersmith is widely considered to be one of Sir Frank Short’s greatest original mezzotint engravings.

On heavy wove paper with full margins. One or two minor blemishes, mild foxing in outer margins, otherwise generally very good original condition.

Provenance: Collection of the Honourable Christopher Lennox-Boyd.