Morland's paintings were a popular source for prints by his fellow artists, such as J.R. Smith and William Ward. John Raphael Smith (1752-1812) was a successful artist in his own right, variously a portrait painter, print publisher, and miniaturist. However, Smith is best thought of as a talented mezzotint engraver and in fact was honored as Mezzotint Engraver to the Prince of Wales in 1784. William Ward (1766-1826), who began as an apprentice and later principal assistant to Smith, is regarded as one of the greatest mezzotint engravers of the early nineteenth century. Much of this reputation comes from his work after paintings by Morland, his brother-in-law. Ward went on to become the engraver to King William IV.
Morland's prints were made using mezzotint. This flexible medium allows full attention to be given to the soft light and rich textures that pervade his scenes. These are examples of English printmaking at its best and most sophisticated.
Famous for his mastery of sentimental, rustic genre subject matter, George Morland was a prolific painter who produced much material for contemporary printmakers. Born in London, he would spend most of his life in and around the city, living hard and painting hard. It was, perhaps, with tongue-in-cheek that the reckless Morland produced such moral images as this pair, which warn against the corrupting urban influences on innocent country girls. Echoing conservative tones common to Morland’s work, they were made when the artist was living in debt and one step ahead of those who would collect it. Though his sincerity may be in question, one cannot doubt the skill of Morland’s composition nor the competence of engraver M.C. Prestel, who capably translated the artist’s painting to these fine aquatints. $850 for pair
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©The Philadelphia Print Shop, Ltd. Last updated October 25, 2010