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William Blake

1757 – 1827

Industrious Cottager by William Blake

Industrious Cottager   1788

  Stipple and line engraving, enhanced with roulette.
With William Blake’s name in the plate.
Ref: Essick XXXI iii/iv
S 347 x 270 mm (total); I 213 x 260 (borderline) mm
Stipple and line engraving by William Blake.

Very good impression printed in brown ink; first issue as published by J.R. Smith, on May 12th 1788. Essick located only four impressions which can be identified to be in this state (12 in total).

Industrious Cottager is a fine and comparatively scarce example of William Blake’s work as a professional engraver in the stipple or ‘chalk’ manner. William Blake was trained first and foremost as a professional engraver and it was as an engraver of other artist’s works that he both established his reputation and earned his living. Engraved after a painting by George Morland (one of the most popular English painters of rural subjects of the late 18th century), Industrious Cottager was first published in 1788 by John Raphael Smith together with a companion entitled The Idle Laundress. The plates were subsequently acquired by Thomas Macklin, or his widow, who re-issued them in 1803 with his publisher’s imprint.

In 1799, many years after this engraving was made, William Blake wrote to Dr Trusler referring specifically to the chalk manner to justify his fees as an engraver: “chalk engraving is at least six times as labourious as aqua tinta” and in his notebook Blake recorded an article suggesting that Morland’s assistant, Peter Le Cave, may have been the original author of this work and its companion, noting that this “confirms the suspition I entertaind concerning those two [Prints del] I engraved from for J.R. Smith, that Morland could not have painted them as they were the works of a correct mind & no blurrer” (R.N. Essick, William Blake Printmaker, 1980, p.56).

On cream laid paper prepared in three sections. The print itself has been trimmed, leaving a margin beyond the borderline and artists/engraver’s names, but within the platemark. The whole lower margin of the sheet, including Smith’s publication line, the lower platemark and a wide border to the deckle edge of the sheet has been trimmed off separately and included loose inside the original frame. The title has been cut out as a separate block of text and pasted onto the backboard of the original frame. Consequently, this impression can be placed firmly as an example of Essick’s third state, all of the peripheral information concerning lettering and paper type being provided, together with the original print itself.