Black Americana Negro Print Antique.
This wonderful antique engraving print is entitled "The Smallbreed Family at the Sea-Side". It dates to 1877 and is a superb depiction of a Negro family at the beach. The father lovingly holds his small boy overhead, assuring him that he doesn't have to be afraid of the waves. The mother wears a period bathing costume and hat (missing two of her bottom teeth!). Her two young boys enjoy the sensation of the water, one just dunking his head, and the other spouting water from his mouth. The two young girls by the father's side are just precious, with pigtail hair and sweet facial expressions, and just enjoying life at the beach immensely. In the background is another family, as well as a schooner and steamship.
It is important to conserve these old engravings, as they are a fine portrayal of life in post Civil War times, the family enjoying a pastime that otherwise may have been denied to them before the Emancipation. The artist is Sol Eytinge, a popular magazine illustrator of the period. Here is the Wikipedia citation for Solomon Eytinge, Jr. (1833-1905): Illustrator, Artist, Actor.
William Winter describes Solomon Eytinge, Jr. as "[a] man of original and deeply interesting character, an artist of exceptional facility, possessed of a fine imagination and great warmth of feeling [. . .] In his prime as a draughtsman he was distinguished for the felicity of his invention, the richness of his humor, and the tenderness of his pathos. He had a keen wit and was the soul of kindness and mirth" (Old Friends 317). Though he worked as a successful illustrator on the books of authors like Alcott, Browning, Tennyson, Harte, Holmes, Lowell, and Whittier, Eytinge is best-remembered as the illustrator who first used the motif of Tiny Tim perched on Bob Cratchit's shoulders for an 1867 edition of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. In addition to illustrating other Dickens' works including Bleak House, Dombey and Son, and A Tale of Two Cities, Eytinge also painted an oil portrait of the author during his second American tour from 1867-1868. According to William Winter, Dickens claimed that Eytinge "made the best illustrations for his novels and the best portrait of himself".
As a measure of his critical and commercial success, Eytinge's caricatures also began appearing regularly in Harper's Weekly in the 1870s. Some of his sketches are redrawn from original work by Theodore Davis and W.H. Redding. His work addresses the theme of poverty as it existed in the city side-by-side with upper-class opulence. This theme occurs in "Hearth-stone of the poor-- waste steam not wanted" and in "Rich and Poor," both of which appeared in Harper's in the early 1870s. He was also "celebrated for his humorous negro drawings of the `Small Breed Family'".
These antique engravings are assembled via woodcut blocks. As many as six blocks may be employed to make the image, each one carved individually, and all aligned to produce the image. The edges of the blocks can often be seen where they adjoin. How these were made is just as incredible as the image itself that is produced, as the artisans were very skilled. Keep in mind these engravings are hard to photograph, as the camera's eye tends to give them a bit of a "moire" effect, but in reality there are fine lines in the engraver's image.
Overall size is aprox 11 x 16 inches,in VG+++ condition. The engraving is housed in a quarter-sawn oak frame, with three dimensional burnished brass quadrant embellishments. It displays wonderfully and is surely a precious piece of early Americana.
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