back to works by this artist go to previous work   go to next work

Thomas Barker of Bath

1769 - 1847

Young Boy Seated by Thomas Barker of Bath

Young Boy Seated   1803

  Original pen lithograph, signed on the stone.
Signed on the stone.
Ref: Man 17
Dimensions of lithograph:  S & I 287 x 208 mm
Dimensions of mount: S 500 x 390 mm; P 423 x 326 mm

Original Thomas Barker pen lithograph.

Very rare early pen lithograph, on original aquatint mount, as issued. One of the twelve pen lithographs selected for the first set of artists’ lithographs ever to be published.

Excellent impression - both print and original aquatint mount in particularly good original condition. Inscribed on the stone “Barker del”. This outstanding example is from the first issue of Specimens of Polyautography, published in 1803 by Philipp André. This publication was the earliest of its kind, being the first ever to have employed the newly invented process of lithography.

Lithography, originally called Polyautography or Chemical Printing, had been invented by Aloys Senefelder, a Bavarian, by the year 1798, but it was not until 1801, during a protracted stay in England, that he began to explore the possibilities of the medium in the field of graphic art. Senefelder had arrived in England in late 1800, with Philipp André, the brother of his commercial partner, with the primary intentions of obtaining a patent for his new invention and establishing a lithographic printing press in this country.

Both Senefelder and André were aware that the new technique should appeal to artists for making hand drawn prints due to its freedom and range of expression, as the process would give artists the opportunity to draw images directly on to the printing stone using materials which were similar to those they used normally when working on paper. Since his brother now owned the rights to the technique, André was particularly enthusiastic about the artistic possibilities of the new process and he approached a number of the finest artists working in London at the time to produce drawings on stone for a projected publication. He sent them the necessary materials to try their hands at this new art and in 1803 he selected twelve of their drawings, including Thomas Barker’s Young Boy Seated, for publication in a set entitled Specimens of Polyautography.

Each original polyautograph in André’s ground-breaking publication was printed on heavily textured off-white wove paper trimmed to the borderline of the image (if a borderline existed) and glued at its corners on to a separately printed ‘wash’ mount with dark brown or buff aquatint borderlines. These mounts were prepared somewhat crudely and the aquatint borders rarely matched the exact dimensions of the print. The mounts were made of wove paper, watermarked Russell & Co 1799 or J Whatman 1794.

The twelve original polyautographs published in 1803 were re-issued in 1806-7 by J.G. Vollweiler, who took over the rights to the process from André. However, this first issue example of Thomas Barker’s Young Boy Seated is easily distinguished from both Vollweiler’s issue and the only subsequent publication to include these images, as in these later publications the lithographs were printed on a thin paper and the aquatint borders were printed in a lighter yellow-brownish ochre tint.

Sadly, these pioneering publications were not a commercial success and examples of these highly important first lithographs are now rare. They represent the origins of modern lithography which is now established as the world’s leading printing process.

Young Boy Seated is one of the most desirable of all of Thomas Barker’s printed works. It is significant both as one of the earliest lithographic images ever to be published and as one of the finest of Barker’s carefully observed studies of the peasant folk and working classes of England at his time. Thomas Barker returned to this theme a decade later when he published his series of Forty Lithographic Impressions from drawings by Thomas Barker selected from his studies of Rustic Figures after nature.

A particularly fine example on original, first issue buff aquatint mount, watermarked J Whatman 1794. Both print and mount in especially good original condition. It is exceptional to find an example from this series in such good condition, undisturbed in its original state.