G. F. Watts, R. A. Mayall, J. P.  (British, 1839-1906)

While J. P. Mayall holds the copyright for all the images in Artists at Home, fifteen of the twenty-five published photographs were taken by his assistant, Frank Henry Dudman (1854-1918). Apart from his involvement with that project, very little is known about Dudman. In a note at the beginning of the book, the publisher, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, cites the photogravure process for its ability to produce pictures “which are not merely absolute facsimiles of the originals, but which bring out admirably the middle tints so often found wanting in the photograph from which they are taken, and which have hitherto been a characteristic only of high-class steel engravings.” [1] The process combines the best traits of photography and intaglio, affording the photogravurist the opportunity to either create a reproduction that is absolutely faithful to the original image or to rework, adjust, alter, and present the image in a new way.

The association between photogravures and fine art may have helped to confirm the status of photography as an art form, a highly contested topic throughout the Victorian period. Reproductions in this technique were highly regarded by the public, as evidenced by the Art Amateur’s advice to the novice consumer: “With a few hundred dollars to spend on pictures for the wall of a room . . . [it] would be best for him to buy engravings or photogravures.” [2] But even photogravures had their critics: “Anyone who claims that a photograph or photogravure gives him any artistic pleasure, is his own dupe.” [3]

References

1. J. P. Mayall and Frederic George Stephens, Artists at Home (London: Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, and Rivington, 1884), n.p.

2. “Correspondence,” Art Amateur (September 1881):68, quoted in Rachel Mustalish, “The Development of Photomechanical Printing Process in the Late Nineteenth Century," in Topics in Photographic Preservation 7 (1997): 84.

3. Hans Singer and William Strang, Etching, Engraving and the Other Methods of Printings Pictures (London, 1897): 187, quoted in Mustalish, 84.