Three drawings in pencil on gray-blue paper, each 7 1/2" by 12" approximately inside the mat, all of coastal scenes with multiple figures, sailing ships and even dogs and donkeys. Two are signed with the "W C" initials and are dated Nov. 1866; the third one with conjoined initials is titled "Falmouth" (a city in Cornwall, on the southwest coast of England) and is dated 12 June 1867. All are in generally good condition with some flaws including a few foxing and brown marks, slight rippling, and fading of the paper color. It proved difficult to photograph these works due to the general faintness and delicacy of the drawings, as well as some reflections in the glass. The artist was a kind of Grand Old Man of English Victorian art, renowned especially for his watercolors. Callow dictated his autobiography shortly before his death, leaving for posterity the story of a fascinating life encompassing most of the 19th century. A conversationalist who moved easily in all levels of society, the list of important figures with which he had interactions is most impressive: Queen Victoria was well familiar with his skills, and he met with her several times. Callow mingled comfortably with European royalty and nobility throughout his life, actually teaching the children of King Louis Philippe of France. He personally met or knew artists J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, Samuel Prout, James Whistler, David Cox, Thomas Shotter Boys, Peter de Wint; authors William Makepeace Thackeray, Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas; and the explorer of Africa, Speke. Callow began showing artistic talent at a young age, sketching in plein air. In his teens he was apprenticed to artist Copley Fielding learning watercolor painting and engraving. By age 17 Callow was on his way to France, jumping at the opportunity to hand color prints. His first exposure to the continent was an eye-opener, and he embraced the new foreign lands with vigor, traveling extensively in the 1830's through France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, the Low Countries, experiencing often difficult and primitive conditions, but always sketching, and even copying old master works at the Louvre. In the course of the next 70 or so years he made innumerable continental journeys, always returning to England with detailed diaries of his adventures, finished works, and sketch books filled with hundreds of pencil drawings, as he was the finest of draughtsmen. Many of these drawings remained with him until his death, used as studies for more finished work in watercolor and oil. Callow received tremendous recognition and even adulation during his long life, awarded medals, showing at the Royal Academy, and made a member of a number of prestigious watercolor societies. The popularity of his works is sustained today, with watercolors achieving over $100,000 at major auctions. His long autobiography, or perhaps an excerpt from it, shows that in 1866 and 1867 he would have been in England, as the Prussian-Austrian war raging at that time made continental travel challenging. So, the three present drawings were made during this English interlude. On January 28, 2011, a very similar drawing, executed in the same year and on the same blue paper, was offered at Sotheby's New York, (lot 257, estimate $3-4,000). It did not sell. I would like to keep the three drawings together. More detailed photos happily provided upon request.
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