Thursday, August 12, 2010

Object of the Day: An Engraving by Charles Landseer, 1845

Though never achieving the huge fame of his brother, Edwin Landseer, Charles Landseer (1799-1879) possessed an enormous talent and attained the respect of his peers with his epic historical paintings. Charles was named Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools in 1851. One of his most famous works was the painting of Charles I, On the Eve of the Battle of Edgehill, 1642.

For this painting, Charles asked his famous brother, Edwin, to paint the dogs in the scene. Edwin, known for his stunning paintings of animals, was happy to oblige. This collaboration on their part caused some controversy. In 1861, the two dogs were cut from the canvas and sold as individual works of art attributed to Edwin Landseer—leaving the painting terribly damaged. Legend has it, that eleven years later, the two dogs were replicated by an unknown artist and restored to the canvas which was then sold at auction.

The original, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
This 1845 engraving of the painting was crafted under the direction of Charles Landseer himself. A crisp representation of the original, engravings such as this are our only indication of what the painting would have looked like before being cut. With its ominous sky and exquisite detail, we have the sense of being present in the tense moment just before the Battle of Edgehill. Landseer was clever to add a domestic feeling to the painting by adding representations of townspeople in the scene. These gentle faces set against the stoniness of the king show the effects of war on the population. Just as talented as his brother, Charles Landseer deserves to be remembered for his sensitive portrayals of important world events. The moments that he replicates shaped the world as we know it today.

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