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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Samuel Hieronymus Grimm

An English Harvest Home, 1776, Samuel Grimm
Very seldom do we stop to consider how much journalism and the mass media we know today has changed over the centuries. I was born in 1945, and just in my lifetime, now approaching seventy years, newspapers have gone from ruling the journalistic roost to struggling to cover the cost of the paper their printed on. Television has gone from a seven-inch black and white novelty to a seventy-inch color commodity. Iconic news magazines have either disappeared or now exist only on the Internet. And as for the internet...well, we all know what instantaneous social media has done to and for journalism (for better or worse). There's no point in discussing that. Going back into the 19th century, when type was set by hand and images (what few there were) had to be carved into blocks of wood, journalism was more weeks-old rumor than eye-witnessed facts. Going back a century before that, to the 18th century, we're talking about printed pages posted upon walls. Pictures? What pictures?

Northeast View of Selborne from the Short Lythe (Foldout frontispiece), Samuel Grimm,
 The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne, by Gilbert White and Sir William Burrell.
South Gate at Rye,1785,
Samuel Grimm
Actually, there were pictures, though during the 1700s, they'd not yet been married to what passed for journalism at the time. In printed form, they were called etchings; and such art, as it relates to journalism or history (which have always gone hand in hand), were classed as topographic landscapes. In effect, they depicted the "lay of the land" (above). That might include everything from simple rolling hills and streams, to muddy (or dusty) country roads. In cities, such works would depict cathedrals, palaces, and other architectural edifices. In England during this time, perhaps the best of all such landscape artists was the Swiss-born Samuel Hieronymus Grimm (no relation to the fairy tale Brothers Grimm). If you're expecting to see a picture of the guy here, forget it. He didn't do faces. Despite the narrowness of his talents, when Samuel Grimm died in 1794, he left behind more than 2,600 such drawings and 882 watercolors resulting from his travels, almost literally, to "every nook and cranny" on the island.
Tintern Abbey located near Hay-on-Wye, ca. 1780, Samuel Grimm.
(Probably his best watercolor depicting ruins).
Bodiam Castle Interior, 1784,
Samuel Grimm
In many cases, Grimm's drawn and painted images have turned out to be the only surviving visual records of many of the structures he drew. In fact, by the time Grimm got around to drawing some of them, they were already in ruins (above, a particular fascination of his). England has not been a particularly "peaceable kingdom" either before Grimm was born in 1733, or after his death. The bombings of WW II damaged or destroyed a HUGE amount of England's architectural heritage. Some it was rebuilt. The highly detailed paintings and drawings of Samuel Grimm and other topographical landscape artists like him, contributed immensely to that undertaking. Beyond that, in the years after his death, it was discovered that his etching of the coronation of the boy-king, Edward VI (below), was the only surviving image of the event.
The Coronation of Edward VI, Samuel Grimm
Helmsley Castle, York, Samuel Grimm
Besides ancient ruins resulting from England's 16th century religious wars, the vast majority of Grimm's drawings (many serving as source material for later artists, who created the actual etchings) were of castles and churches, with a generous quantity of stately manor houses thrown in for good measure. His Helmsley Castle (right) in York was one of his more popular etchings. But there are also country fairs (below), historic events (and some not even close to being historic), as well as a smattering of genre scenes depicting the common folk of the day being...well, common. His An English Harvest Home (top), from 1776, is typical of this type of work, and one of his best.

Country Fair, 1765, Samuel Grimm.
It would appear country fairs haven't changed all that much.

Stonehenge, Samuel Grimm
Curiosity, coupled with wanderlust, a wealthy patron or two, and more than adequate talent, comprise a fortunate combination. Grimm's primary patron and traveling companion, Rev. Sir Richard Kaye, commissioned him to draw and paint "anything curious" as in his "snapshot" drawing of Stonehenge (left). Like many photojournalists today, Samuel Grimm had a fascination for oddities. His Mother Ludlene' Hole in Moor Park (below) from 1790, depicts a cave near Farnham which was the home of a 17th century woman known as Mother Ludlene, also known as the White Witch of Ludlene. When Samuel Grimm died in 1794, he left his money to his niece in Switzerland. Naming his friend, Sir Richard, his executor, Grimm ordered in his will that all his paintings and drawings be destroyed. Fortunately, the Reverend Kaye valued them more than did the artist.

Mother Ludlene' Hole in Moor Park, 1790, Samuel Grimm


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