Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Alfred Hartley, Silver moon

Alfred Hartley
British painter, etcher and portraitist

Sometimes there’s no real reason choosing an artist to research, just a fortuitous encounter will do, but in the case of Hartley’s atmospheric aquatints there is an actual (and probably more than one) explanation, a link to what has drawn my eye and attention in the first place.
It’s these "sheep and green poplars" I discovered first,  reminding me of this little woodblock print by Frank Morley Fletcher (1866-1949), printmaker, treated recently by Charles in Modern Printmakers.

As Charles correctly points out in an early comments (below) the probable influence of William Giles' (1872-1937) 1901 woodblock print "September Moon" on Hartley's aquatint print (of which I have no date) cannot be denied. The artists knew each other most probably through teacher Frank Short. William Giles featured in multiple posting in Charles' Modern Printmakers.

Alfred Hartley was taught engraving by Sir Frank Short (1857 - 1945) the great etcher, while in the Royal College of Art at South Kensington Art School. The influential and famous Frank Short was a great admirer of William Turner (1775-1851), certainly Englands and without any doubt one of the greatest painters the world ever saw, and studied his idol to great extent. 
Frank Short and Turner are on my list of heroes on Mount Olympus too. Malcolm Salaman dedicated an Album of the Studio’s Modern Masters of  Etching (Vol.5) to Sir Frank Short. An affordable copy is still  on my books searchlist.

Alfred Hartley was a painter of landscapes, etcher in line and aquatint and a notable portraitist and I now can see where his love for Nocturnes or moonscapes has originated. The genre, said to have been invented by James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) was a favorite of Frank Short too.
Here's Shorts' atmospheric 1914 “Orion over the Thames at Ranelagh (above) and this 2010 photograph of Orion over Thames by one Peter Meade I discovered and borrowed from the Internet. I love looking at the stars and  the  constellation of Orion only is to be seen in winter in our Northern hemisphere.
But the real inventor of this type of representations, even before Whistler,  probably was William Turner himself considering this “Moon over Millbanks” (above). Millbanks on River Thames, a mile upstream of the Houses of Parliament and two miles downstream of Lord Ranelagh’s Gardens and House.
William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) (above "the Thames at Chelsea") sat here too in 1853 as did Canaletto (1697-1768) 100 years before him although not under the moon but under full sun overlooking River Thames, Ranelaghs Gardens, The Royal Hospital and the Rotunda still situated at the rivers front. Where 9 year old Mozart played a few years later in 1765. The Rotunda was demolished in 1804 and the Chelsea Embankment build in 1867.

But see the pupil surpassing the master. Silver Night 1913, definitely is my favorite Hartley print. It is strikingly reminding of a view from one of my most treasured spots on the Island of Ameland. Looking at the distant sea pines, the dunes dropping into to the North Sea. Only a few weeks ago on a rainy day, still unaware of Alfred Hartley's print I turned my 2012 photograph into a genuine Hartley aquatint with the use of some simple Photoshop fiddling. I shall return on a moonlit night, with the sheep Alfred Hartley met grazing. Under the moon and in the dunes.
Hartley married 1896 fellow artist Leonora Locking (1856-1943) and the couple lived in St. Ives until 1931. Occasionally they travelled and painted in Italie and Switserland. Along they've obviously visited Switserland:

Le Chateau de Blonay in Switserland, etching by Alfred Hartley and a woodblock print I remembered by Isobel de Bohun Lockyer (1895-1980) and borrowed from Campbell Fine Art. She's featured in Charles' Modern Printmakers too.

Then in 1931 they moved to Wales. Alfred Hartley, who painted and portrayed many famous people of his time but also this sturdy St. Ives fisherman, died only two years later crippled with arthritis. 

New: have a look in my new Gallery-Sale room for exclusive prints 


  1. Wonderful post! But like most of the time I don't know what else to say...

  2. But dear Oona, a compliment in these two words coming from you is reward enough to keep me going for a long time. Glad you've enjoyed. Such a fast comment on a fresh post is appreciated very much. You've certainly made my day.

  3. Yes, it is an interesting post though I have to say I'm not convinced by the connections you make. Hartley has more in common with William Giles, if you ask me, and it would be useful to know the dates of both Hartley's sheep prints. I think your first image owes alot more to Giles' 'September Moon' than it does to Fletcher.

  4. You're right of course, but as I pointed out my first connection was the poplars and the green colors. But I agree and see your point and will add Giles to the posting instantly as it is still very fresh. Also the colors used in the Sheep and Dunes by Hartley are very William Giles'
    Thanks Charles

  5. 'Setember Moon' was 1901 and I would have thought must pre-date Hartley by some years. The higher viewpoint is more subtle than Hartley's rather flat view of things. British printmakers were struggling to get colour etching and aquatint right at the time and I don't think they were that proficient early on. I don't remember Hartley being a founder-member of the Society of Graver Printers in Colour in 1909. I think he was a late-comer.

  6. Thanks for the enlightening comments Charles. Very helpful.

    1. Gerrie,

      wonderful images, especially the first one is gorgeous. And in my opinion he is indeed very close to some of Fletcher's works, I must say that I disagree with Charles here (Apart from that, I'm not too fond of Giles, anyway.)I surely wouldn't mind having the first one, the subtle way the artist depicts the evening light her is stunning!

      thanks for showing me!


  7. Glad you liked them Klaus, I agree about liking to have one: let's hunt together and see who comes up first.

  8. Replies
    1. Thanks for letting us know. I hope maybe a reader finds his way to you. (a really nice shop you have !)