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Thomas Bewick

1753 - 1828

Waiting for Death by Thomas Bewick

Waiting for Death   1828

  Original wood engraving.
Initialled in the block.
Ref: Hugo 3573
S 273 x 375 mm; I 222 x 293 mm
Original Thomas Bewick wood engraving.

Rare impression of Thomas Bewick’s final work, printed on vellum.

Exceptionally clear impression of this intricately engraved work. The lustrous appearance of the vellum sheet upon which this particular impression has been printed has greatly enhanced the overall effect of this compelling image. It is Thomas Bewick’s rare independent prints, such as Waiting for Death, which have always been the most sought-after by serious collectors.

The largest block ever engraved by Thomas Bewick, Waiting for Death was designed as an impassioned plea against the ill treatment of horses. The old horse, once a splendid steed, who devoted his life to the service of his masters, now stands neglected and dying after sinking into a life of cruel abuse at the hands of pitiless men. Turned out from the comforts of the distant farm yard, he has been left to fend for himself against the coming winter’s cold. Thomas Bewick hoped that through this illustration of a horse in a state of evident suffering, he might awaken some compassion in people’s hearts. Indeed, he intended to dedicate the finished print to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Waiting for Death was Thomas Bewick’s most ambitious engraved project. The block for this engraving was made up of four pieces of wood joined together and backed with layers of mahogany to prevent them from warping. It was Bewick’s intention to complete the print through the use of one or perhaps two further blocks of this sort which would be printed over impressions taken from the first block to add tone and shading effects. However, the project was never completed and Thomas Bewick died leaving even the first block, from which this impression was printed, unfinished. Only a handful of trial proofs were pulled in the days immediately before the artist’s death.

This is one of the rare impressions printed on vellum by Andrew Reid in November 1876 and published by Robert Robinson of Berwick’s Head, Newcastle-upon-Tyne the following year, for the then owner of the block – Mr. Gow, of Cambo, near Newcastle. The exceptional quality of these vellum impressions for many years led experts to believe them to be proof impressions printed by Thomas Bewick himself.

With margins beyond the image on all sides, narrow at upper edge, but apparently as issued. On fine cream vellum. Excellent original condition.