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Print - The Chillingham Bull
  • The Chillingham Bull
    Bewick, Thomas, born 1753 - died 1828
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The Chillingham Bull

  • Object:

    Print

  • Place of origin:

    England (printed)

  • Date:

    1789 (printed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Bewick, Thomas, born 1753 - died 1828 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Wood-engraving on parchment

  • Museum number:

    23539

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case EDUC, shelf 9, box F

Thomas Bewick was the first artist to exploit fully the potential of the printing technique of wood-engraving. He is known above all for his engravings of animals and birds.

In wood-engraving the image to be reproduced is usually made on a block of hard wood, such as boxwood. The wood-engraver can work it like a copper plate with a special tool called a burin, which cuts lines into the printing surface and is capable of achieving more delicate effects than the woodcutter's knife.

This print is said to be Bewick's masterpiece. It is also unusual in his oeuvre for its large scale and its use of animal skin (parchment). Commissioned by the naturalist Marmaduke Tunstall, it shows one of the wild cattle belonging to Lord Tankerville at Chillingham Castle in Northumberland. The subtle gradations of tone are the result of Bewick's many technical innovations.

Physical description

A Chillingham bull in a landscape. In the distance on the right hand side of the image are two bulls running amongst trees. The print has an elaborate, decorative border.

Place of Origin

England (printed)

Date

1789 (printed)

Artist/maker

Bewick, Thomas, born 1753 - died 1828 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Wood-engraving on parchment

Dimensions

Height: 14 cm, Width: 19.7 cm

Object history note

The print came to the Museum through the Reverend Chauncy Hare Townshend bequest in 1869. There is an entry in the register at the time of the acquisition which states 'Late in the coll. of S.W. Kelelle[?], Newcastle'.

This print is an early impression before letters. The block was cut and a few impressions on paper and parchment were produced. However the block split in two shortly after it had been made and the elaborate border had to be shed. The print was commissioned by Marmaduke Tunstall of Wycliffe in North Yorkshire. The original block still exists in the Pease Collection, Newcastle upon Tyne Central Library.

Historical significance: The first engraver to exploit fully the advantages of end-grain wood (the wood is cut across, rather than along, the grain) was Thomas Bewick. Once it had been proved that the technique could rival the fine effects of metal engraving, the advantages of wood engraving to the book trade were quickly recognised. Allowing both text and illustration to be printed in one operation, it ousted the intaglio process as the favourite for book illustration and was only superseded at the end of the nineteenth century when methods of photomechanical reproduction were developed.

Descriptive line

Wood-engraving on vellum. Thomas Bewick. The Chillingham Bull, 1789; first state.

Labels and date

Thomas Bewick 1753-1828
The Chillingham Bull
1789

This print is said to be Bewick's masterpiece. It is also unusual in his oeuvre for its large scale and its use of animal skin (parchment). Commissioned by the naturalist Marmaduke Tunstall, it shows one of the wild cattle belonging to Lord Tankerville at Chillingham Castle in Northumberland. The subtle gradations of tone are the result of Bewick's many technical innovations.

Wood engraving on parchment
Museum no. 23539 []

Materials

Printing ink; Parchment

Techniques

Wood engraving

Subjects depicted

Bull (animal)

Categories

Prints; Frames; Printmaking techniques

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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