View of the allied troops arriving at Kertch Bay during the Crimean war. Supplies and troops unload from the boats while a naval skirmish takes place on the horizon with the destruction of a battery. This is from a series of prints that provide a pictorial journalistic account of the Crimean War (1853-1856), which began as a conflict between Russia and Turkey around the Crimean peninsula, and was soon joined by other nations, notably Great Britain and France, who were concerned about Russia’s attempt to expand its power. Simpson’s prints were issued either tinted or in full color, this being a full color example. The fame of these illustrations earned the artist the nickname “Crimean.”
William Simpson was born in Glasgow and rose from impoverished beginnings to become a well-known watercolor painter and Britain’s earliest and most celebrated war artist correspondent. Showing artistic talent, he found a job with at a Glasgow lithography firm, and in 1851 moved to London, where he went to work for Day & Son, one of the major lithography firms at the time. In 1854, Simpson was engaged by the publisher Dominic Colnaghi to make on-site drawings documenting the progress of the Crimean War. He traveled with British troops from November 1854 to September 1855. The resulting series of illustrations, published as The Seat of the War in the East (1855), brought the events to the British public and earned him the sobriquet “Crimean.” While early photographers also documented this war, they were limited by long exposure times and extreme heat. In contrast, Simpson’s drawings conveyed the dramatic action that photography still could not. Simpson later covered other important overseas news, including the opening of the Suez Canal and the marriages of Russian czars. He also painted a series of watercolors lovingly portraying daily life in his hometown of Glasgow, which were exhibited by the Glasgow Museums in 2005. Over 600 of Simpson’s manuscripts, scrapbooks, drawings, sketches and watercolors are preserved in the collection of the Glasgow Libraries.
Day & Son began as Day & Haghe, the most prominent early Victorian lithographic printing firm. William Day (1797-1845) and Louis Haghe (1806-1895) opened their business in London in 1829, and the quality of their work was rewarded by their appointment as Lithographers to King William IV and then to his successor Queen Victoria. Haghe transferred the images to stone, and Day printed them. They produced maritime prints, hunting scenes, topographical views and genre subjects as well as notable illustrated books, including George Catlin’s North American Indian Portfolio (1844). After Day’s death, the firm became known as Day & Son from 1852, and were early practitioners of the techniques of color-printed lithography. Among Day & Son’s famous publications was designer Owen Jones Grammar of Ornament, a landmark sourcebook for designers produced in color in collaboration with lithographer Francis Bedford.
Paul and Dominic Colnaghi is a venerable London art gallery, established in the 18th century and still in business today as P. & D. Colnaghi and Co. Around 1783, Paul Colnaghi went to work for the print dealer Anthony Torre, who had businesses in Paris and London, and by 1788 Colnaghi was running it himself. He proved to be a shrewd marketer, publishing a famous series of stipple engravings, Cries of London (1792-1797) and also had success with topical engravings of military, naval and patriotic heroes. His European connections allowed him to obtain engraved views of cities there, for tactical use by the British military. By 1799, he had come to the attention of the Prince Regent, who engaged him to arrange the Royal Collection. Cosmopolitan and socially well-connected, Colnaghi hosted a monthly gathering of English aristocrats and issued a series of portraits of Royal and Noble Ladies. Paul’s son Dominic joined the business and eventually took over. With the rise of photography, the Colnaghi firm was early to recognize a market for the medium as art, and sold the work of Julia Margaret Cameron beginning in 1863. In the late 19th and 20th century, the firm developed into a dealer in Old Master works, and its clientele included Isabella Stewart Gardner and Andrew Mellon, whose collections ended up in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, respectively.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual light overall toning and edge wear. Faint mat burn, not obtrusive.
Abbey, J.R. Travel in Aquatint and Lithography 1770-1860 from the Library of J.R. Abbey. 2 Vol. London: Curwen Press, 1956-57. p. 237.
“History of the Crimean War: The reporter’s war AD 1854-1856.” HistoryWorld. http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=aa47 (19 August 2005).
Peters, Greg and Connie. “Day & Hague.” Art of the Print. http://www.artoftheprint.com/artistpages/1_artoftheprint_publishershistory2.htm#Day_and_Haghe (28 May 2003).
“Roger Fenton Crimean War Photographs.” Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. 16 May 2005. http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/coll/251_fen.html (18 August 2005).
“Two Centuries of History.” Colnaghi. http://www.colnaghi.co.uk/history.htm (19 August 2005).
“Watercolours by William ‘Crimean’ Simpson.” Glasgow Museums. January 2005. http://www.glasgowmuseums.com/venue/showExhibition.cfm?venueid=11&itemid=91 (18 August 2005).
“Worcester Art Museum Exhibition Highlights Achievements in English Color Prints.” Worcester Art Museum. 17 May 2003. http://www.worcesterart.org/Information/PR/Past/5-17-03.html (19 August 2005).