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Joseph Webb

1908 - 1962

Shepherd’s Haven by Joseph Webb

Shepherd’s Haven   1929

  Original etching.
Signed and inscribed in pencil.
Ref: Guichard 22, undescribed ‘first’ state.
S 258 x 382 mm; P 137 x 261 mm; I 129 x 250 mm
Trial proof in the ‘1st state’ of the plate. Signed and inscribed in pencil “Shepherd’s Haven. 1st state.”. Further annotated in pencil “R.A. B.M. R.E. V&A” to indicate the major collections holding impressions of this etching. A beautiful lifetime proof impression with exceptional tonal range, printed by the artist himself.

Whilst this early proof impression is inscribed as ‘1st state’, this inscription is somewhat misleading – the earliest known impression from this plate shows only the figure, the foreground and the shell of the chapel, whilst a more developed trial inscribed ‘2nd working proof’ is prior to the etched sky; a subsequent impression with the sky still blank carries the etched original title LAMBS (see Joseph Webb, Prints and Working Drawings, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 1990, no.14). This was Joseph’s Webb’s original title for this plate and he inscribed one early impression of the finished etching in pencil with the words “Collect lambs – the infinite compassion”. The etched word ‘Lambs’ was then removed, the sky added and the print was exhibited by Webb under the title Shepherd’s Haven at the Royal Academy, London, in 1930. From the inscription on this ‘1st state’ proof we must, therefore, assume that Joseph Webb means that this is the first state of the finished composition, once the plate had become Shepherd’s Haven and the etched word ‘Lambs’ had been removed.

Etched when Webb was only 21 years old, this inspired vision shows the considerable influence of both Samuel Palmer and F.L. Griggs. Like these two artists, Webb possessed a sense of deep religious conviction which is found throughout his work. However, there is a warm air of benediction and comfort which pervades this design and which is distinct from both the pagan lyricism of Palmer and from the severe Christianity of Griggs’ carefully worked plates. Indeed, it is this fundamentally religious devotion, linked to a sense of optimism, which so distinguishes Joseph Webb’s etchings not only from those of Griggs and Palmer, but also from the etched works of Drury, Sutherland and, more recently, Tanner.

Shepherd’s Haven is a seminal image which stresses the importance of Christianity in Joseph Webb’s profoundly religious vision of the English landscape. It is a truly Romantic image in which the rustic ‘chapel’ sybolises the body of the church as guarding God’s flock with obvious references to Jesus as both the ‘Good Shepherd’ and ‘The Lamb of God’. Kenneth Guichard singled out this etching as one of Joseph Webb’s masterpieces stating “Of all the etchings of the English School, none seems more truly religious” (British Etchers 1850-1940, p.66).

On cream laid paper with full margins and deckle edge. Very fine condition.