William Henry Bartlett, who was born of a middle class family in London, was apprenticed at the age of 13 to the architect and antiquarian John Britton (1771-1857). He worked for him as a journeyman providing both purely architectural and detailed landscapes sketches, making him one of the greatest illustrators of topography of his generation at a time when the taste for picturesque landscape and the sublimity of mountain scenery was popular. He travelled all over Britain and in the mid 1840s in the Balkans and the Middle East.
Between 1835 and 1852 he made four visits to the United States in order to draw the buildings, towns and scenery of the North-eastern states. These illustrations were published uncoloured by Nathaniel Parker Willis’s American Scenery (1840) and Canadian Scenery Illustrated (1842). American Scenery was also published by George Virtue, his major publisher, and was immensely popular. The five-by-seven-inch sepia sketches included in it owed much to the theories of William Gilpin and Edmund Burke, emphasizing the irregularity of the landscape and the contrast between light and shadow. Bartlett’s primary concerns to render ‘lively impressions of actual sights’ still make his landscapes easily recognisable and consequently historically considerably valuable.
Bartlett was also the author of numerous works including two books on the United States, one containing original chronicles of the Pilgrims. In these books his narrative is realistic and descriptions accurate. Bartlett’s work which merits great attention can be seen in institutions such as the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and the British Museum and the V&A in London.
James Charles Armytage was an English engraver, born in London, who made many steel engravings of landscapes, historical and military scenes as well as portraits of famous people of the Victorian era. He is better known for his plates after J.M.W. Turner.
George Vertue was a London writer, engraver and antiquary well known for print engravings. He selected the best artists and engravers to produce books of the highest quality and created a prodigious business, producing more than 20,000 copper and steel engravings throughout his career. He published two magazines, The Art Union and Sharpe’s London Magazine. His publishing house was at 26 Ivy Lane in London. In 1717 he was appointed first Draughtsman and Engraver to the Society of Antiquaries and most of his work from that date concentrated on recording and illustrating archaeological finds, ancient buildings and antiquities. He amassed an enormous amount of information on aged and contemporary artists and catalogued numerous collections, including the Royal Collection under the patronage of Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1749. Forty volumes of his notes in preparation for a publication on the history of art of England were edited and published by Horace Walpole after his death as Anecdotes of Painting in England. These can be seen at the British Library, London and have been published by The Walpole Society.
Colchester Castle is one of the most important historic buildings in the country. It was built by the Normans between c1076 and 1100 on the order of William the Conqueror by Gundulph, Bishop of Rochester on the vaults of the Roman Temple of Claudius, the most famous Roman building at the time in England. The castle is larger than the White Tower at the Tower of London also built by Gundulph and has the largest surviving Norman keep in Europe. Roman brick and clay which were used for the building can still be seen today. At the time of this engraving the Castle belonged to Charles Gray, the Member of Parliament for Colchester, who received it as a wedding gift in 1727. It was meant to be a garden ornament in the grounds of his house, Hollytrees. Charles Gray partially restored the building following the designs of James Deane between 1746 an 1804. James Deane (1699-1765) was a carpenter, builder and illustrator designed quite a number of famous buildings and monuments in Colchester including the Minories Folly, a gothic summerhouse built in 1745 to ‘terminate a prospect’ at East Hill House. At the castle he added the Italianate facade, the tiled roof and the dome. He also laid out the Castle grounds as a small park with a raised walk, formed out of part of the earthwork defenses, a canal, a summerhouse in the form of a Greek temple, and a rotunda. The many trees he planted included two cedars of Lebanon, two cedars of Bermuda, and a cork tree. Gray’s successor, James Round, who acquired the building after Gray’s death in 1782, carried out more work. In the 1920’s the Round family though sold the Castle to the Borough of Colchester as a War Memorial. This engraving shows the castle when it was still owned privately. It became a Museum in 1860.
- BRITTON, J., ‘Mr. William Henry Bartlett’, Art-Journal, London and New York, 1855
- BRITTON, J., The autobiography of John Britton, 3 vol., London, 1849-50,
- BRUNET, Michel and HARPER, J. Russell, Québec 1800, W.H. Bartlett: un essai de gravures romantiques sur le pays du Québec au XIXe siècle, Montréal, 1968
- HARPER, J. Russell, Early painters and engravers in Canada, Toronto, 1970
- WALPOLE, Horace, Anecdotes of painting in England : with some account of the principal artists and incidental notes on other arts/collected by the late Mr. George Vertue and now digested and published from his original Mss, London, 1782