Category Archives: painting and watercolors


27 tableaux vivants

The Graphic Arts Collection has two new book projects with covers designed by Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979), along with her original painted designs. Our expert rare book conservator, Mick LeTourneaux, solved the problem of how to store each painting with the published book by constructing custom clamshell boxes with two compartments.

The first book is Delaunay’s 27 tableaux vivants published in Milan by Edizioni del Naviglio in 1969. Pochoir designs on leporello or accordion pages stretch out to form a small exhibition of 27 costume designs created over the 84 year old artist’s lifetime. Princeton’s book is no. 457 of 500 copies on velin Aussedat, from a total edition of 650.

Sonia attracted wealthy clients: a woollen embroidered coat was made in 1925 for the movie star Gloria Swanson, in geometric shades of rich spicy reds, browns and creams. In these fashion creations, straight lines predominate as diamonds and stripes and straight-edged lines turn at right angles. It’s as if the excitement of the whirling ballroom has been supplanted by the glamour of the road. But not for long: in the 1930s the curves and wheels and arcs were very much back.

For four more decades Sonia designed fabrics for the Amsterdam luxury store Metz and Co, and latterly for Liberty. She didn’t abandon the poets, it must be said. A “poem-curtain” of the time has verses by the surrealist Philippe Soupault embroidered in wool. She made “poem-dresses” – words that walked – and lectured at the Sorbonne on “the influence of painting on clothing design”.

The book is accompanied by two trial designs for the cover along with the painted binding. Inside the covers, Delaunay’s work is illustrated with an introductory text from publisher Jacques Damase (1930-2014, who was also the former owner of this volume), extracts from Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918), and a poem from Blaise Cendrars (1887-1961), with whom Delaunay had earlier worked on Prose du Transsibérien (1913).


The second book, also from the estate of Jacques Damase and with a painted cover design by Delaunay is André Salmon’s Propos d’atelier, published in France 1938–1967. It is also accompanied by a serigraph poster for a 1967 exhibition in Arras, in which the same design from Delaunay re-appears in inverted fashion.

Winsor & Newton watercolor paintbox

Gambose; raw sienna; yellow ocher; chro.yel.pale; chro.yel.deep; burnt sienna // vermilion; light red; chimson lake; purple lake; new blue; prussian blue // emerald green; hooker’s grn.2; brown pink; neutral tint; burnt umber; lamp black

What is Gambose? It’s a bright mustard yellow, with a great story attached to it:

Read the story of Hooker’s Green:

What is a Lake color? A lake pigment is an insoluble material that colors by dispersion. Lakes are basically a pigment which has been manufactured from a dye by precipitating a soluble dye with a metallic salt. The resulting pigment is called a lake pigment. These are often used to color food.

What is New Blue? This is Ultramarine blue, also sold as French blue, Gmelin’s blue (A synthetic ultramarine blue first manufactured by Christian Gmelin in Germany in 1828), Royal blue and New blue. Different brand-names offer different strengths, degree of grinding, and consequently, differences in tinting power.

If you find the hidden pin and remove it, a secret bottom drawer can be opened and used to hold all your personal color recipes.

Unpublished drawing by F. O. C. Darley


This angling drawing signed by F.O.C. Darley just turned up. It is not his usual work and we are having trouble matching it to a publication or project. Any thoughts would be appreciated at:


Some interesting links that have been consulted:

Havana and Venice

The Graphic Arts Collection is fortunate to have acquired two volumes from Leslie Gerry Editions. The contemporary artist works with 21st century technology informed by modern fine press traditions.

With a stylus on a Wacom tablet, I paint on the computer in Illustrator. Working only with flat areas of colour and no tone, I “cut out” the shapes with the stylus, arranging them on different layers, creating a collage. In fact, I first started working this way years ago by cutting out sheets of coloured paper with scissors, similar to the way Matisse created his paper collages. Starting by sketching a composition in blocks of colour as I would have done painting in oils and using the reference photos as guidance only, I gradually build up the painting with darker areas first and then lighter shades. The paintings end up as digital files; vector images which can be reduced or enlarged to any size and are then printed with a flat bed UV ink jet printer on a hand or mould-made paper.

Leslie Gerry, Havana, paintings by Leslie Gerry; extracts from Cuba by Irene A. Wright, 1912 (Dowdeswell, Gloucestershire: Leslie Gerry Editions, December 2016). Copy 39 of 70. Graphic Arts Collection GAX E-000092

Leslie Gerry, Venice reflections, paintings by Leslie Gerry; extracts from Venice by Jan Morris (Dowdeswell, Gloucestershire, UK : Published by Leslie Gerry Editions, The Eight Gabled House, 2019). Copy 15 of 120. Graphic Arts Collection E-000093


Buffalo Bill Novel Magazine Covers

Robert Prowse, Jr (1858-1934?), Collection of 71 pieces of original cover art for the Buffalo Bill Novels Magazine series. [London: Aldine Publishing Company, 1918-1932]. Watercolor and gouache paintings, about 14 x 11 in. each. Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2019- in process.


With the much appreciated support of the Friends of the Princeton University Library, the Graphic Arts Collection recently acquired a remarkable group of original cover art for the Buffalo Bill Novels, a British pulp magazine for boys and girls, published from 1916 to 1932 by the Aldine Publishing Company in London. Despite its name, the stories were not always about Buffalo Bill, though they were always set in the American West and featured plenty of cowboys and Indians (and even female heroes!).

The paintings are all signed by Robert Prowse (R.P.), who did artwork for this and other similar projects; some are dated below his initials. The series ran for 342 issues, though the last cover in this collection is for No. 344, possibly an unpublished issue, as we could find no trace of this title associated with the Buffalo Bill Novels. See more here:


This acquisition will allow students and researchers to study the cover art along with the text, given the large number of these books already owned by Princeton. As outlined on the Special Collections website, “the Library’s extensive holdings relating to Dime Novels are divided chiefly among two collections.

One major portion, about 1,700 individual issues, is in the Cotsen Children’s Library. Some details about these are covered in the exhibition “Cheap Thrills,” mounted in Cotsen during the fall of 2006. The second major portion is in the general rare books collection, chiefly in three sub-units thereof, namely The Stanley Lieberman Memorial Collection (900 individual numbers); The Mary Robinson Memorial Collection of Hero Fiction (400 individual numbers); The John Murray Reynolds ’22 Collection, consisting of 111 issues of various dime-novel, mystery, and other such pulp magazines published in the United States between 1925 and 1947.

Each issue contains a story or contribution by John Murray Reynolds of the Class of 1922. A checklist is available here: The Stanley Lieberman Memorial Collection and the Mary Robinson Memorial Collection of Hero Fiction complement each other to form a fine collection of Hero Fiction, with a total of about 1,300 volumes. There is also the John Murray Reynolds ’22 Collection, which consists of 111 issues of various boys, dime-novel, mystery, and other such pulp magazines published in the United States between 1925 and 1947.”



Above: original painting for cover.       Below: published volume with printed cover.

American publishers weren’t the only ones cashing in on the pulp magazines craze and this collection offers a good example of international hegemony of the genre. The Aldine Publishing Company of London produced, from the late 1880s onwards, reprints of American dime novels, such as the adventures of Buffalo Bill, eventually opening a subsidiary in New York.

Complementing the watercolors, Princeton also holds proof covers for the first 51 numbers of the Aldine Publishing Company’s “O’er Land and Sea” Library. These single octavo leaves, rough trimmed, some mounted on thin card, others showing signs of mounting. [London, 1890-1891], available at (Ex) Item 4697736.

See also:
Chambliss, Julian and William Svitavsky (2008), “From Pulp Hero to Superhero: Culture, Race, and Identity in American Popular Culture, 1900–1940,” Studies in American Culture 30 (1) (October)
Dinan, John A. (1983) The Pulp Western : A Popular History of the Western Fiction Magazine in America. Borgo Press, ISBN 0-89370-161-0.
Goulart, Ron (1972) Cheap Thrills: An Informal History of the Pulp Magazine, Arlington House, ISBN 978-0-87000-172-7.
Gunnison, Locke and Ellis (2000). Adventure House Guide to the Pulps (Adventure House) ISBN 1-886937-45-1
Lesser, Robert (2003). Pulp Art: Original Cover Paintings for the Great American Pulp Magazines (Book Sales) ISBN 0-7858-1707-7
Locke, John-editor (2004). Pulp Fictioneers – Adventures in the Storytelling Business (Adventure House) ISBN 1-886937-83-4
Robbins, Leonard A. (1988). The Pulp Magazine Index (Six Volumes). Starmont House. ISBN 1-55742-111-0.
Robinson, Frank and Davidson, Lawrence (2007). Pulp Culture (Collector’s Press) ISBN 978-1-933112-30-5
Sampson, Robert (1983) Yesterday’s Faces: A Study of Series Characters in the Early Pulp Magazines. Volume 1. Glory figures, Vol. 2. Strange days, Vol. 3. From the Dark Side, Vol. 4. The Solvers, Vol 5. Dangerous Horizons, Vol. 6. Violent lives. Bowling Green University Popular Press, ISBN 0-87972-217-7.
Springhall, John (1994), “‘Disseminating Impure Literature’: ‘The ‘Penny Dreadful’ Publishing Business Since 1860,” The Economic History Review, New Series, Vol. 47, No. 3. (August), pp. 578.

Tingatinga School of Art

Nguta (active 2000s). [Hippopotamus, Tropical Birds ] and [Three Gazelles, Tropical Birds ]. [ca. 2006]. Enamel paint on muslin cloth. Graphic Arts Collection GA 2006.02320, Gift of John Delaney


The Graphic Arts Collection holds two examples from the Tingatinga (also spelt Tinga-tinga or Tinga Tinga) School of Painting, originally found in the Oyster Bay area in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) but later spread to most of East Africa. These are signed by the artist Nguta.

Sometimes relegated to the category of “tourist art” sold in markets and airports in Tanzania, Kenya and neighboring countries, the style was derived from Tanzanian painter Edward Said Tingatinga (active 1970s) who often used Masonite and commercial enamel paints for his work.

Today the Tingatinga Arts Cooperative Society (TACS) is a recognized collective but only represents a small number of the artists working in this style, see:

Hawkeye in Edinburgh

John Syme, John James Audubon, 1826, oil on canvas. White House Historical Association.

Within the first six months of John James Audubon’s arrival in Great Britain, he was immortalized with two portraits: an oil painting by John Syme and a life mask cast under the supervision of George Combe. James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans was taking Europe by storm and Audubon was everyone’s image of an American woodsman.

For the oil painting, he was instructed to wear his wolf-skin coat and later wrote, “if the head is not a strong likeness, perhaps the coat may be. …It is a strange-looking figure, with gun, strap, and buckles, and eyes that to me are more those of an enraged Eagle than mine.”

Still the portrait had lasting effect:Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans, released September 25, 1992.

N. C. Wyeth (1882-1945), Last of the Mohicans, 1919. Oil painting reproduced as the endpapers of James Fenimore Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1919).

November 27, 1826: …at nine was again with Mr. Lizars, who was to accompany me to Mr. Combe’s, and reaching Brower Square we entered the dwelling of Phrenology! Mr. Scot, the president of that society, Mr. D. Stewart, Mr. McNalahan, and many others were there, and also a German named Charles N. Weiss, a great musician. Mr. George Combe immediately asked this gentleman and myself if we had any objection to have our heads looked at by the president, who had not yet arrived. We both signified our willingness, and were seated side by side on a sofa. When the president entered Mr. Combe said: “I have here two gentlemen of talent; will you please tell us in what their natural powers consist?” Mr. Scot came up, bowed, looked at Mr. Weiss, felt his head carefully all over, and pronounced him possessed of musical faculty in a great degree; I then underwent the same process, and he said: “There cannot exist a moment of doubt that this gentleman is a painter, colorist, and compositor, and I would add an amiable, though quick-tempered man.”

Monday, December 18: At five I dined with George Combe, the conversation chiefly phrenology. George Combe is a delightful host, and had gathered a most agreeable company. . . . Mr. Combe has been to see me, and says my poor skull is a greater exemplification of the evidences of the truth of his system than any he has seen, except those of one or two whose great names only are familiar to me; and positively I have been so tormented about the shape of my head that my brains are quite out of sorts. Nor is this all; my eyes will have to be closed for about one hour, my face and hair oiled over, and plaster of Paris poured over my nose (a greased quill in each nostril), and a bust will be made.

Wednesday, December 20: Phrenology was the order of the morning. I was at Brown Square, at the house of George Combe by nine o’clock, and breakfasted most heartily on mutton, ham, and good coffee, after which we walked upstairs to his sanctum sanctorum. A beautiful silver box containing the instruments for measuring the cranium, was now opened … and I was seated fronting the light. Dr. Combe acted as secretary and George Combe, thrusting his fingers under my hair, began searching for miraculous bumps. My skull was measured as minutely and accurately as I measure the bill or legs of a new bird, and all was duly noted by the scribe. Then with most exquisite touch each protuberance was found as numbered by phrenologists, and also put down according to the respective size. I was astounded when they both gave me the results of their labors in writing, and agreed in saying I was a strong and constant lover, an affectionate father, had great veneration for talent, would have made a brave general, that music did not equal painting in my estimation, that I was generous, quick-tempered, forgiving, and much else which I know to be true, though how they discovered these facts is quite a puzzle to me.

January 14, 1826: After receiving many callers I went to Mr. O’Neill’s to have a cast taken of my head. My coat and neckcloth were taken off, my shirt collar turned down, I was told to close my eyes; Mr. O’Neill took a large brush and oiled my whole face, the almost liquid plaster of Paris was poured over it, as I sat uprightly till the whole was covered; my nostrils only were exempt. In a few moments the plaster had acquired the needful consistency, when it was taken off by pulling it down gently. The whole operation lasted hardly five minutes; the only inconvenience felt was the weight of the material pulling downward over my sinews and flesh. On my return from the Antiquarian Society that evening, I found my face on the table, an excellent cast.–

James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), Last of the Mohicans (Philadelphia: H.C. Carey & I. Lea, [February 1826]).
James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), Last of the Mohicans (London: John Miller, [March] 1826).
James Fenimore Cooper (1789-1851), Last of the Mohicans (Paris: L. Baudry, [April] 1826).

In the Aberlian manner

Johann Heinrich Meynier, Die Kunst zu Tuschen und mit Wasserfarben: sowohl in Miniatur, als in Gouache und in Aberlischer-oder Aquarell-Manier, Landschaften, Porträte, und andere Gegenstände zu mahlen: nebst Vorausgeschickten Bemerkungen über die Kunst zu zeichnen (Leipzig: Bey Heinrich Gräff, 1799). Graphic Arts Collection GAX 2019- in process

As an added incentive to the young artists using this late-18th-century painting manual, a final hand-colored plate purports to offer 784 different color options. This is particularly interesting because Meynier’s text promoted coloring “in the Aberlian manner.” The technique was made famous by the Swiss painter Johann Ludwig Aberli (1723-1786) who designed line etchings printed in black ink and then, hand colored the scene to make each print seem unique. The method was quick and easy, not unlike modern color by numbers. These paintings were promoted to the popular print market.

Meynier went on to write and published a number of dictionaries, grammars, and training manuals. Sources indicate he wrote under various pseudonyms that included the surnames Jerrer, Sanguin, and Renner.

See also: Johann Heinrich Meynier, Erzählungen für Kinder : zur Erweckung eines feineren moralischen Gefühls und zur Bildung milderer Sitten (Nürnberg: bei Friedrich Campe, 1817). Cotsen Children’s Library Euro 18 46196

Varley’s List of Colours

Watercolorist John Varley (1778-1842) helped to establish the first Watercolour Society in London, and later the Society of Painters in Oil and Watercolours, serving as one of the leading instructors in the medium. In his cottage at Twickenham, Varley’s students learned to draw and paint from nature, among them William Mulready, John Linnell, and Samuel Palmer.

This sheet, recently placed on deposit in the Graphic Arts Collection, is assumed to have been created for his students rather than the general public. Eighteen colors are illustrated with hand-painted samples and explanations of their qualities along with recommendations for use. The upper nine painted in pure pigment colors are Prussian blue, indigo, lake, gamboge, burnt sienna, yellow ochre, Venetian red, vermilion and burnt umber. The lower nine painted in mixed tints are warm grey, purple grey, neutral tint, dark warm grey, warm green, olive green, orange, roman ochre and sepia.

The copy of Varley’s list held by the British Museum illustrates nineteen colors, beginning with cobalt blue, not found on the sheet in the Graphic Arts Collection at Princeton.

The Art Journal, 1841 Vol. 3-5

In conjunction with his classes, Varley published a number of instruction manuals including:

A Practical Treatise on the Art of Drawing and Perspective, 1815.
Precepts of Landscape Drawing, exemplified in fifteen views, 1818.
Varley’s List of Colours, 1818 (Princeton’s 1816)
A Treatise on the Principles of Landscape Design, illustrated by sixteen views on eight aquatint plates, issued in eight parts at 5s., between 20 Feb. 1816 and 1 May 1821.
A Treatise on Zodiacal Physiognomy (five illustrations), 1828.

The final volume was developed with his closest friends John Linnell (1792-1882) and William Blake (1757-1827). The two portraits above are by Linnell.

The works that brought Blake most notoriety in his lifetime, and were most responsible for accusations that he was mad, were the ‘Visionary Heads’ he did for the delectation of the landscape watercolourist John Varley, whom he had met in 1818 through one of Varley’s pupils, John Linnell, the great patron of Blake’s later years. These Heads … portray biblical and historic individuals such as David, Socrates and Richard Coeur de Lion, semi-historical characters such as Wat Tyler’s Daughter and imaginary beings such as The Man who built the Pyramids. They were executed from 1819 onwards, mainly in the evenings at Varley’s house. –selection from “Blake, Linnell and Varley and A Treatise on Zodiacal Physiognomy” by Martin Butlin.


John Varley (1778-1842), J. Varley’s List of Colours, 1816. Letterpress and watercolor. Graphic Arts Collection. On deposit from Bruce Willsie, Class of 1986.

See also:
John Varley (1778-1842), A Practical Treatise on Perspective [adapted for the study of those who draw from nature … by] (London: The author, 1815). Rare Books » Oversize NC730 .V43f

John Varley (1778-1842), A Treatise on the Principles of Landscape Design; with general observations and instructions to young artists ... (London: Sherwood, 1821). Rare Books » Oversize NC730 .V42f

John Varley (1778-1842), A Treatise on Zodiacal Physiognomy : illustrated by engravings of heads and features, and accompanied by tables of the time of rising of the twelve signs of the Zodiac : and containing also new and… (London: Published by the author … ; and sold by Longman and Co. … , 1828). Rare Books 2005-2238N

Before you build a wall, remove the art

As Firestone Library comes to the end of a ten year (or so) renovation, we are still finding collections in unexpected places. This morning, a six-foot framed canvas was uncovered behind a storage closet for emergency preparedness supplies. Happily, the canvas and the frame have been retrieved thanks to our wonderful security and maintenance staff.