The Prints of England.

September 17, 2013

The English political magazine Vanity Fair published over 2,000 lithographic caricatures between 1868 and 1914, the bulk of which documented the Empire’s social, sporting and governmental notables. The subjects were as often the fodder of snide editorial asides, though a sympathetic establishmentarian stance pervaded. As the magazine’s title indicated, the caricatures tore into the assorted vanities of their targets – though in the good-natured way of an inside joke. They appeared weekly and became the journal’s distinguishing feature.

Originally assailants of royalty and politicos only, the caricaturists soon enlarged their focus to include actors, artists, sporting types, judges, men about town, and the assorted ornaments and oddments of the imperial military. Victims learned to appreciate that lampooning came as recognition for some accomplishment (laudable or less so) and took it in stride, like the subjects of friars’ roasts. Few protested. Thomas Gibson Bowles, founder, explained his magazine’s purpose in response to a critical Daily News article: “There are grim faces made more grim, grotesque features made more grotesque, and dull people made duller… but there is nothing that has been treated with a set purpose to make it something that was not already originally in a lesser degree.” Bowles himself provided biographical accompaniment to the art under the pen name Jehu Junior.

Two of the more popular caricaturists proved to be Carlo Pellegrini and Leslie Ward, each also thankfully prolific. Their work was published under the pseudonyms Ape and Spy – Ape considered the wittier and more insightful of the two, Spy drier and more aloof, often studying subjects clandestinely for hours. Judges presiding over court were especially vulnerable.

Each man sketched in public, then returned to the magazine’s studios to create final drafts in water color. Lithographers printed the product by way of the innovative transfer paper, the invention of which was critical to the enterprise. Lithography eliminated the necessity of drawing backwards to account for the reversal of printing presses. Their prints remain highly collectible today, as both bits of anecdotal history and political art.


Tailors to Tinkers, Soldiers, Spies & More

February 13, 2012

Like any proud European house, London’s Savile Row is known for its progeny: from thence have sprung H. Huntsman & Sons, Gieves & Hawkes, Chittleborough & Morgan, Henry Poole & Co., Davies & Son, and the rest of that lot. Yet the Row’s favorite son, and certainly its best-known, remains the two-centuries-old firm of Anderson & Sheppard, a concern which embodies, to the extent any organization can do a thing like that, the very soul of fine men’s tailoring. The house is responsible for what they call The London Cut today: a small, highly-placed armhole, which allows for a snug collar and generous sleeve movement, and which has found favor over the years with Laurence Olivier, Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire, Noel Coward, and His Royal Highness Charles, Prince of Wales. 

The tailoring house has thrived these long years through adherence to two precepts: first, a suit should never wear a man – a man should wear a suit. And second, the instant a man is over-dressed, he becomes badly dressed. Turning dusty pages in the cracked, leather ledger in the store’s London office reveals scores more who agree: Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., financier (and progenitor of Skull & Bones) Averill Harriman, and Charlie Chaplin, among others. 

The tailors of Anderson & Sheppard and the history of their unique abilities are set forth in a new book, Anderson & Sheppard: A Style is Born, edited by Graydon Carter, of Vanity Fair. By way of preview, some of the photography from that book is presented here, below: