E-Museum of Pyrographic Art
Hall of Antique Art
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Antique Pyrography is a 3-page e-zine article by the E-Museum curator (published on another website) that offers a general history of the art form over the centuries. Most documented is the popular movement of the early 20th century.
The E-Museum of Pyrographic Art was pleased and honored to collaborate with the documentary produced on J. Wm. Fosdick's "Joan of Arc" triptych.
Featured in late 2008 on the Travel Channel was the first in a series of documentaries on art museums in The United States with art historian and enthusiast Lee Sandstead in a program called Art Attack. That particular episode, set in the Smithsonian's American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., highlighted five of Lee Sandstead's favorite works there, including J. William Fosdick's "Glorification of Joan of Arc" (scroll down to the second image on this page to find the J. Wm. Fosdick section in the 19th C. listings).
PYROGRAPHY ART: Forgotten Gems of the Arts & Crafts Movement is an excellent article by Douglas Schneible, ethnographic art dealer and collector of antique pyrography. His article (published on his own Arts & Crafts website) offers a general history of the art form over the centuries with emphasis on late nineteenth and early twentieth century work. Of particular note are his segments on Charles H. F. Turner (1848–1908) and the George S. Stewart Co. See also here in the Antique Hall of the E-Museum, select works from Douglas Schneible's varied collection of antique pyrographic works.
An example of the furniture produced in the American turn-of-the-century George S. Stewart Co. based out of Norwalk, Ohio, with offices in New York and Chicago, as well, is a Turkish-inspired chair in the collection of The Wolfsonian Museum of Florida International University.
Robert E. Boyer published his book The Amazing Art of Pyrography in 1993, and now also on the internet has a History Section at his Free Art School.
Retired leather expert David Boland-Thoms is a man of many talents. Besides being famous for "making and repairing anything leather," he has assembled an immense body of knowledge on the subject at his web site, including a section devoted to pyrography that begins with its history. His page at KINGSMERE CRAFTS: Pyrography (History, page 78) is an excellent synthesis.
Real estate broker John P. Lewis, who is author of an important book that was recently published with the title Land Use Controls and Property Rights, has also been a collector of pyrographic art for many years. Back in the 1970's, John researched this art form in depth—traveling to study and photograph examples—and in 1979 wrote an unpublished book entitled Burnt Wood: The Collector's Guide to American Pyrography. During that period, he also served as a consultant for the English language version of Bernard Havez and Jean-Claude Varlet's book Pyrography: The art of woodburning that was published in 1978 by Van Nostrand Reinhold (from the 1975 French publication by Dessain et Tolra). In 2006, John Lewis most generously provided his own manuscript to the E-Museum, where many of his photographs and quotations are on display.
Early Twentieth Century
Alaska Salon*, works from a special Gold Rush Centennial exhibit entitled: "Burned Into Memory: Images of Alaska Through Historic Pyrography." This exhibit includes a link to an illustrated article on that Gold Rush exhibit in Fairbanks.
Max W. Kollm, Reclamation, is a circa 1910 leather hanging beautifully executed with the traditional moose scene so popular during the Gold Rush days of Alaska. This work is from a private collection.
Max W. Kollm, Pioneers, is a very rare, circa 1910, leather hanging, beautifully and elaborately executed with a campfire scene depicting three figures, three dogs, and many details from the days of the Gold Rush in Alaska. Because it is so unusual, "Pioneers" has significant historical importance, as well. From a private collection.
Poker Work* collection of pyrographic art, principally early 20th Century
Flemish Art Exhibit*
from the Private Collection of Peni and Lee Powell, with a link to an article showing how they display and care for their collection
|Untitled (Ladies Doing Pyrography Projects on Leather)
From an antique postcard advertisement
Reprinted with the kind permission of the Australian Wood Review magazine is the story of the remarkable Australian artist Olive Hughes* and her work in one of the early factories of pyrographic art in Australia. The story is told in great part in her own words and shows examples of her work then—and NOW! In the commentary following her exhibit, look for the link to "Pyrograffiti" where she was featured in the Woodcarvers On-line Magazine; there you can see additional examples of her decorative art work in pyrography.
NOTE: This exhibit has been enhanced and enlarged to include commentary and links to the collection donated by Olive Hughes to Sydney's Powerhouse Museum, which shows work by the artist herself, her mother, brother, and her friend and co-worker, Marie Forester.
See what the Flemish Art Company's Factory
used to look like in the early 1900's and take an imaginary tour with the company's president, M. B. Baer.
Exhibited here in its entirety is the Flemish Art Company's 1907 Instruction Book for Pyrography. Still meaningful and compelling, this small book is a testament to the intense interest in pyrography that flourished at the turn of the century.
Christian Maraschin offered on his web site (now in archives) pictures from his interesting personal collection of Selected Works of Old, Antique, and Unusual Pyrography which he had been collecting since 1992. Among them are a folkart work on kangaroo leather, a decorated gourd from Cameroon, a casket done by a French prisoner of war in WWII Germany, a French postcard from 1911, and an early 20th C. Austrian cameo portrait. The French and German language versions of his site are also available through internet archives at the respective links here.
The Polperro Pokerwork Cottage Industry—The Cornish Litany, the account of an English cottage industry that began in 1923 with the burning in wood of the Cornish Litany and other well known proverbs
William Fuller Curtis, Untitled is an exotic work from 1911 with a Latin inscription. This work, from a private collection, is being researched in the hope of learning its title and verifying the subject. A translation of its inscription is provided.
William Fuller Curtis, Untitled is a lovely cameo of a young woman dated 1910. Research is underway on this work in the hope of learning its title and provenance.
Published in The International Studio in 1909 is the very pretty article entitled
Wood Panels by William Fuller Curtis, pp. 73–74, featuring four excellent illustrations of his work, including the well known "Sea Fairies" owned by the Cosmos Club.
William Fuller Curtis is featured in a 6-page article covering the tenth annual Exhibition of the Boston Arts and Crafts Society, which took place in February of 1907. His work entitled "Royalty" was selected as one of only eight illustrations highlighting that large exhibition of nearly 600 participants.
William Fuller Curtis, Untitled, Goatherd is an unusual copper repoussé panel in a pyrography frame with color dated 1904. From the private collection of Douglas Schneible.
William Fuller Curtis, The Golden Dish is a relief panel of a young woman bearing an offering on a golden dish. From a private collection.
William Fuller Curtis, Pyrographer is a comprehensive 4-page article published in House & Garden in 1903, featuring six excellent illustrations of his work, as well as some biographical aspects.
William Fuller Curtis, four untitled, undated (turn-of-the-century) works
from the collection of the Ashfield Historical Society of Massachusetts
and one earlier 1897 panel entitled "The Song of the Tide "
from a private collection in Hawaii; an undated panel entitled "Monks" and a 1904 untitled panel that were recently auctioned. Most recently added is a 1903 catalogue illustration and a critique by C. H. Caffin.
Harriet Keith Fobes, multiple exhibits and biographical material for this multi-faceted artist. Includes a small portrait photograph. She also authored a series of pyrography articles for the 1895 Delineator magazine.
Anonymous, Lion, a circa 1910 wood panel of a lion in bas relief detailed in burning against a richly textured pyroengraved background
from the private collection of Douglas Schneible
Pyrographic Folk Art Wardrobe, ca. 1910, is a link to a video, which was originally transmitted 23 January 2012 on the Antiques Roadshow television show and is now available on their web site. Rarely are pyrographic works seen on this show; however, this one is a unique folk art work, a series of children's portraits on the façade and Art Nouveau decoration, as well.
Mr. Souther, Settee—Joan of Arc, cited in a 1908 New York Times review of the second annual Arts and Crafts Exhibit, held by the National Arts Club in collaboration with the National Society of Craftsmen, which opened December 2, 1908. Here is the specific review: "...and Mr. Souther a settee with panels in burnt work, illustrating the story of Joan of Arc, an ambitious attempt to bring the art of burnt woodwork in line with that of the carver's tool."
Clyde Marshall Stewart, The Guide, professional artist, circa 1907 wood panel, from the private collection of Douglas Schneible
Along with J. Wm. Fosdick, who is featured in his own large 19th Century subsection below, are eighteen artists cited along with their works in the 1900–1904 catalogues of the Architectural League of New York. Following is the impressive list of those nineteen artists, whose pyrographic works were accepted for display in likely the most prestigious professional exhibitions of that time in the United States:
- Harriette Amsden (also Harriette Amsden Lyon)
- Nancy Barrows
- Claude Fayette Bragdon
- Estelle M. Burdick
- William Fuller Curtis
- Eunice Drennan
- Harriet Keith Fobes
- J. William Fosdick
- E. M. Gulesch
- Ethel Hore
- H. Revere Johnson
- Harriet Martell
- Paul Schramm
- Sylvia Sewell
- O. P. Staber
- R. R. von Thadden
- Margaret C. Uhl
- Charles C. Waterbury
- Raphael A. Weed
T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), Screen and Pencil Box, 1903–1904, two decorative items in medieval designs each done when the famous Lawrence of Arabia was still a teenager and recovering from an illness. These works are from the Catalogue of the T. E. Lawrence Centenary Exhibition
held at the National Portrait Gallery, London, 1988–1989.
William S. Rice, Chair, circa 1902, remains in the collection of the artist's family, who will soon provide images for display here in the E-Museum. It is the same chair illustrated in his 1902 article. (See the Library of the E-Museum for three articles from the early 1900's by Wm. S. Rice.)
Anonymous, Pair of Knights, pair of circa 1900 Arts & Crafts Movement wood panels, each depicting a knight in full armor with his shield
from the private collection of Audrey Hamby
Introducing Susan M. Millis: Artist and Conservator is the first page of Pyrograffiti 30 (published on another website*) that introduces this present day pyrographic artist who has studied the history of pyrography and obtained a university degree in the conservation and restoration of pyrographic works.
A segment entitled The Pinto Collection: Important 19th C. Pyrographic Artists on page two of the same article highlights Susan Millis' research and notes on that collection at the Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, U.K. Subsequent segments on that page illustrate additional 19th C. pieces in private collections.
Notes from Richard Withers*, from a Welsh pyrographic artist who has visited and documented much of the antique pyrographic art in the U.K. This is a valuable resource for researchers and anyone planning a visit to the U.K.
Sid Huttner's Lucile Project*, display of pyroengraved antique book covers in split suede plus an introduction and links to Sid Huttner's quest to locate individual examples of the many published versions of the book Lucile as a way of encapsulating 19th C. bookbinding techniques.
Norman W. Kingsley, an extraordinary 1899 portrait of a young Rembrandt van Rijn, from the private collection of Douglas Schneible
Norman W. Kingsley, the biography—including a portrait photograph—of this remarkable dentist, artist, sculptor, writer, lecturer, and inventor; exhibit includes 12 pyrography panels done after Rembrandt's paintings, as well as a sculpture bust of the head of Christ.
Along with J. Wm. Fosdick, who is featured in his own large 19th Century subsection below, are six artists cited along with their works in the 1893–1899 catalogues of the Architectural League of New York. Following is the impressive list of those seven artists, whose pyrographic works were accepted for display in likely the most prestigious professional exhibitions of that time in the United States:
- Claude Fayette Bragdon (one illustration in this exhibit)
- J. William Fosdick
- E. M. Gulesch
- Paul Schramm
- O. P. Staber
- R. R. von Thadden
- Raphael A. Weed
Raphael Weed, an 1899 memorial panel by this artist is documented here. It was a commissioned work, used as part of a very elaborate presentation ceremony for Admiral Dewey upon his triumphal return to New York City that year.
Baron Reinhold R. von Thadden, an elaborately decorated
baby grand piano by this artist is displayed and described in detail in this exhibit compiled from issues of The Music Trade Review. The piano was a commissioned work, used to celebrate the fifty-thousandth piano manufactured by Hardman, Peck & Co. of New York. Other works in this exhibit include the artist's pyrographic self-portrait, an elaborate decoration for a Miller and Sons Co.'s upright piano, and a pyrographic portrait after Rembrandt's "Gilder" done as a medallion for a Hazelton piano decoration.
These articles and additional related ones from the turn of the century make this a comprehensive exhibit of this specialty.
Baron Reinhold R. von Thadden, three panels, a private collection of three works by this artist: A portrait of George Washington, a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, and a panel with a composition of a dog with a butterfly.
Charles H. F. Turner*, two 1898 exquisite pyroengraved works by this late 19th century Bostonian artist; from the private collection of Douglas Schneible.
On the 23rd of May in Hampton, New Hampshire, U.S.A., where Turner spent his youth, the Tuck Museum is inaugurating the 'Charles Henry Turner' room. Read more in the commentary following the exhibit.
O.P. Staber, Music and Poetry, three 1897 richly pyroengraved panels by this turn-of-the-century, Brooklyn, New York artist; from a private collection.
O.P. Staber, Mediaeval Falconer, a single panel circa 1898. In the commentary following the exhibit is a significant amount of biographical information on this artist.
Claude Fayette Bragdon, an 1897 article about this multi-faceted artist and architect and his many accomplishments. A 2010 exhibit of his works took place at the Allen Library in Rochester, New York. More will be forthcoming in this salon, as new details emerge on a special internet exhibit dedicated to him that is planned by the Allen Library for 2011.
RAVERMEY 1896, a well rendered 1896 portrait of an unknown subject by an unknown artist; from the private collection of David Fox.
Count Waléry de Rottermund, Cossacks of the Imperial Guard, a circa 1895 panel displaying a grandiose march of many figures on horseback;
from a private collection in Wisconsin, U.S.A.
LeRoy, Suite of three fine furniture pieces in decorative and applied art. The first is a very rare throne chair richly decorated in pyrography and bearing a pyrographic painting on the chairback with a poem inscribed below it.
The second is a four-panel screen of naturalistic irises displaying a painting of a different nude on each of the four panels. The third (the only that is signed) is an elaborately decorated settee (or settle) with a single painting in pyrography of three women in the center of the back.
From the Douglas Schneible collection.
A. S. F. Kirby, circa 1895, Untitled Japanese Panel. See also Section on J. William Fosdick below (subsection on Century Magazine article, p. 495).
Note also that four works by A. S. F. Kirby of 96 Washington Street in Boston were listed in the 1890 Catalogue of the First Annual Exhibition of the Boston Architectural Club, as follows:
810, 811, 812 PANELS, BURNT WORK.
813 TABLE ORNAMENTED WITH BURNT WORK.
A. S. F. Kirby, Pair of Panels: Whaling Ship Motifs are two 1899 "unusual pyrographic" Maple panels each 58.5 by 61 inches, described at Art Fact as lot 301 in a 1989 auction, as follows: "One ... depicts a whaler departing with a crew waving to men in small boats; the second [depicts] the Ship 'Mattapoisett' rafting casks ashore. Both scenes [were] rendered to simulate the view from a whaleship's agent's window."
Aldam Heaton, circa 1895, Untitled English Burnt-Wood Panel in Library of White Star Steamship "Teutonic." See also Section on J. William Fosdick below (subsection on Century Magazine article, p. 500).
|James William Fosdick In His Studio|
Posing with His Thermo-Pyrography Tool and a Work in Progress
Published in his article in The Art Interchange in July 1894
Published 1899 in TRUTH Magazine is an article about J. William Fosdick (and also including some history of his predecessor Ball Hughes) entitled FIRE ETCHINGS by Gustav Kobbé. It has four illustrations, including the picture displayed above, which was first found in an 1894 article, as well as one same panel pictured in the Caffin article (in the following entry here in the Antique Hall). The other two panels shown in this article have not heretofore been seen in the E-Museum.
Published 1899 in THE ARTIST Magazine is an article about J. William Fosdick entitled An American Artist in Burnt Wood by Charles H. Caffin. It has four illustrations.
J. William Fosdick, Decorative Portrait, Title Unknown
A large panel with a portrait medallion thought to be of Sarah Bernhardt
from the private collection of Nancy Stepien.
First published in 1898 is the chapter Pyrogravure by Emma Haywood in the book The Cyclopaedia of Home Arts that was compiled and edited by Montague Marks of London. This work illustrates a design for a frieze by J. William Fosdick.
J. William Fosdick, Decorative Portrait
(Lady Gainsborough? )*
Very large panel portrait circa 1897
from the private collection of William Drucker.
J. William Fosdick, Let the Blaze Laugh Out*
Decorative wooden bellows dated 1897,
from the private collection of Jennifer Betts.
J. William Fosdick, A dozen portraits of literary and other famous figures
rendered on decorative wooden panels, enhanced with gilded details.
The twelve panels are in the library of Georgian Court, which was once the stately mansion that graced the 155-acre estate of railroad magnate George J. Gould in Lakewood, New Jersey, U.S.A. Today that mansion graces the campus of Georgian Court University, and the twelve panels decorate the beautiful library that serves as the meeting room for the president of the university.
An 1897 Puritan Magazine article entitled THE FOUNDER OF A NEW ART by Mabel Percy Haskell features five illustrations, one of which is an important tetraptych by J. William Fosdick. Another, a decorative portrait, is believed to be the one that appears on the easel in his iconic photograph showing him at work with his large thermo-pyrography tool. Included, as well, are images of two of his studios, notably his much publicized "Nutshell" seen for the first time. Also shown is his masterpiece triptych.
J. William Fosdick, Catalogue of His 1896 Exhibition in Philadelphia
Forty-two works documented in this important catalogue including the debut of his Jeanne D'Arc and Louis XIV. This exhibition, hosted by the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, was an important landmark in the artist's career.
Published in the Ladies' Home Journal in September 1896 is an article by J. William Fosdick entitled The Fire Etcher and His Art, which displays in a large black-and-white photograph across the top half of the page his 9-ft by 13-ft triptych of the Glorification of Joan of Arc. This first link immediately above is to the E-Museum's display of the top half of the article (showing the magnificent triptych). Linked following are the text of the article and additional images (including a bellows) from the bottom half of The Fire Etcher and His Art, which also includes a short biographical note on the artist and author at the end.
In August 1896, Century Magazine published an article by James William Fosdick entitled Burnt Wood in Decoration: With Modern and Ancient Examples. The preceding link is for the first page of the article (p.495) and features three images: a Japanese panel by A. S. F. Kirby, one of J. William Fosdick's contemporaries; a decorative portrait entitled "Evening" by Fosdick himself; and a 16th Century English chest. Following is the link for Page 496 featuring a Gothic panel by Fosdick; Page 497 is mostly taken up with Fosdick's massive panel of Louis XIV that is still today in the collection of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. Note that the calligraphy in that panel is gilded. Page 498 illustrates a fragment of a frieze by Fosdick of Henry VIII entitled "The Field of the Cloth of Gold," which won a gold medal at the Atlanta exposition. Page 499 has one work by Fosdick's predecessor Ball Hughes, an 1862 panel entitled "The Witches from 'Macbeth'" plus an Italian sideboard from the 16th Century. The article closes at the top of Page 500 with a pyrography work by another contemporary of Fosdick's—Aldam Heaton, whose panel was in the library of the steamship Teutonic. Truly this article was a treasure to find. [Note that the page images exhibited here are adapted from the small pages of the 1896 Century Magazine publication acquired by the E-Museum. The black-and-white original pages are only 9.5 inches tall by 6.5 inches wide.]
J. William Fosdick Bequeaths a Treasure* is a 2001 article in Pyrograffiti written by the E-Museum curator when that Century Magazine article was first discovered on the internet thanks to Cornell University's "Making of America" series. It has excerpts and illustrations from Fosdick's 1896 article (including the grand Louis XIV by Fosdick and the 1862 panel of the Three Witches by Ball Hughes) and discusses a controversy Fosdick initiated regarding this art form and its applications. Included in that 2001 Pyrograffiti article was a link to another important work by J. William Fosdick: his Glorification of Joan of Arc (also known as The Adoration of St. Joan of Arc) in the American Art Museum of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
Linked here is a recently added larger image at the Smithsonian of Fosdick's Joan of Arc, which is a magnificent, relief burned, gilded triptych 9 feet high and a total of 13 feet wide. Commentary by the E-Museum Curator on a 2006 visit with Susan Millis to see the Smithsonian's triptych is at this second link.
In a separate part of the Smithsonian's American Art Museum's web site dedicated to The Gilded Age of American Art is still another page (showing only the central panel of Fosdick's Joan of Arc) that features a short, very nice description of this work and its historical context. In addition, the Smithsonian published a lovely coffee-table book entitled The Gilded Age: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum with descriptive text and a reproduction of Fosdick's Joan of Arc, as well.
One more site with a very lovely picture shows Fosdick's triptych of the Glorification of Joan of Arc displayed in its new (2006) setting in the Gilded Age Gallery of the American Art Museum as the lead image in an article by New York art historian and critic N. F. Karlins entitled Portrait America celebrating the opening of the American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery on Independence Day weekend 2006 after six years of renovation.
The E-Museum of Pyrographic Art was pleased and honored to collaborate with the documentary produced on Fosdick's Joan of Arc triptych.
Featured in late 2008 on the Travel Channel was the first in a series of documentaries on art museums in The United States with art historian and enthusiast Lee Sandstead in a program called Art Attack. That particular episode, set in the Smithsonian's American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., highlighted five of Lee Sandstead's favorite works there, including J. William Fosdick's "Glorification of Joan of Arc". The image linked here from Lee Sandstead's personal collection is of the figure of Joan.
J. William Fosdick
1896 Triptych: The Glorification of St. Joan of Arc
This is an exhibit of fourteen images from photographs by Sharon H. Garvey taken especially for the E-Museum. This salon offers large, close-up details of various parts of the famous triptych that are ideal for studying Fosdick's bold technique.
Despite his enormous talent for pyrographic work, you may be surprised at some of
J. Wm. Fosdick's opinions about this art form. Also surprising was his apparent disapproval of adding color to pyrographic works—he did, however, employ gilding in his Joan of Arc in the Smithsonian's American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. It is also relief burned/carved.
In contrast, his 14 Stations of the Cross in Waterbury, Connecticut; his pentaptych of the Life of St. Joan of Arc in Jackson Heights, New York; and his Venetian Reader are pyrographic works with color, exhibited in the salon linked here, which also features comments by John P. Lewis on Fosdick's changes in technique after the turn of the century.
An important technical article by J. William Fosdick entitled, A Short Treatise Upon the Art of Fire-Etching was published in the book HANDICRAFT by Arthur Carey et al., for the National League of Handicraft Societies, from page 116 (the lead image of his "Glorification of Joan of Arc") to page 123.
Offering decorating ideas for rural homeowners is this fourth article by J. William Fosdick entitled FIRE ETCHING IN HOME DECORATION exhibited here in the E-Museum from the large format magazine Country Life. It offers five small illustrations, one of which previously we have seen cited but never illustrated, "The Adoration of the Kings," which was the third work by Fosdick known to have belonged to Wm. T. Evans.
Offering a wide range of topics, including technical instruction, and some new information on the artist himself is this fifth article by J. William Fosdick in two parts entitled THE ART OF FIRE ETCHING exhibited here in the E-Museum from the magazine Palette and Bench. It offers three illustrations, one of which was previously unknown to the E-Museum, "The Welcome," which was still another work by Fosdick that belonged to art collector Wm. T. Evans. Following is the link to THE ART OF FIRE ETCHING—Concluded.
J. William Fosdick, Decorative Portrait, Catherine Parr
An elegant small panel with color
from the private collection of Douglas Schneible.
J. William Fosdick, Decorative Portrait, Queen Elizabeth I
A regal panel with color
from a private collection.
Additional works by J. William Fosdick, including a Reredos of St. John with Jesus Christ done for a church in Montclair, New Jersey, and the Kennard Family Crest are exhibited in the salon linked here, which is Salon no. 3. This exhaustive exhibit encompasses many aspects of J. William Fosdick's life and accomplishments, including citing additional works by him, listing (with links) other (non-pyrographic) writings of his, and additional biographical notes on him and his wife Gertrude Christian Fosdick.
Two feature articles entitled STUDIO TALK and published in the International Studio: An Illustrated Magazine of Fine and Applied Art display four works by J. William Fosdick in the first and a critique in the second.
A series fiction article in Delineator Magazine entitled The House that Jack and Jill Built
features J. William Fosdick's "The Miller's Daughter" seen for the first time as part of a triptych and set in an interior as an over-mantel.
An article written by Marie Jonreau entitled BURNT WOOD DECORATION and published in Puritan Magazine features five works by J. William Fosdick and notes on his technique and style. One work "A Fury" may be the same one pictured in his 1896 Ladies Home Journal article. The other four are heretofore unseen ones.
Published in The Art Interchange in July 1894 is a sixth article by J. William Fosdick entitled BURNT-WOOD DECORATION, which includes a photograph of the artist posing in his studio with his enormous thermo-pyrography tool (also shown above at the beginning of this section). The article also illustrates two works by him: Francis I (a companion to the Henry VIII in the Century Magazine article of 1896; together they make up the central panels of a frieze) and The Miller's Daughter.
|Patty Thum's Electric Pyrography Tool, circa 1891|
and a Demonstration of "Fire Drawing"
Drawing by Patty Thum
Published in The Art Interchange in September 1894 as a response
to their July 1894 article by J. William Fosdick.
PATTY THUM'S ELECTRIC PYROGRAPHY TOOL APPEARED A QUARTER OF A CENTURY AHEAD OF ITS TIME.
It is astonishing that, published in The Art Interchange in September 1894 as a response to their July 1894 article by J. William Fosdick is a letter to the editor submitted by Patty Thum, describing and illustrating the ELECTRIC pyrography tool SHE INVENTED.
Added September 2008 to the Patty Thum exhibit is a link to an 1891 letter with additional information regarding Patty Thum's invention.
In 1892, there were two noteworthy articles about J. William Fosdick published:
the first is a well illustrated, seeming compilation of other Fosdick articles and interviews, entitled
Etching With Fire. This comprehensive article is by Franklin Smith in the American Magazine.
This Franklin Smith article even includes material found in the second, which is a New York Times article entitled The Fire Etcher's Work: Beautiful Bits of Art That Are Burned in Wood. An excerpt from the New York Times article can likewise be found in Fosdick's 1884 Salon below.
J. William Fosdick, Untitled, a lovely, circa 1891, decorative portrait of an unknown (female) subject; from a private collection.
Published in the Art Interchange Magazine in December 1891 is a seventh article by J. William Fosdick— including a portrait photograph of him—entitled BURNT WOOD IN DECORATION, which is immediately followed with biographical notes on the author, including the story of his beginnings in this art form linked to Ball Hughes, as well as notes on his works.
J. William Fosdick, Rose, a lovely 1890 decorative portrait of unknown provenance; from a private collection in New York, U.S.A.
A December 1888 article on pyrography in Art Amateur Magazine with the odd title of
The Use of Charred Wood in Interior Decoration turned out surprisingly to be in great part about J. William Fosdick (and also about Ball Hughes). It also has an interesting reference to an electric tool in Germany.
J. William Fosdick, 1888 Decorative Portrait, Evening
This panel is one of his earlier works exhibited in Paris before his return to the United States and exhibited again in New York City, St. Louis, and elsewhere.
J. William Fosdick, 1888 Decorative Portrait, Lady Godiva
This panel is one of his earlier works exhibited in Paris before his return to the United States and exhibited again in New York City, St. Louis, and even the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893;
from the collection of Sathya Designs.
A whimsical 1884 Wood Panel by J. William Fosdick Dedicated to E. D. Adams
is of historical importance because it is related to the first architectural commission
for a frieze that launched the artist's career.
English immigrant to America Lawrence Willmore Pennington aka "Lon Penn" was a jeweler by profession and a pyrographic artist by avocation. This interesting account tells his story and cites in detail some of his considerable body of work, including two pieces said to be in the Dublin Art Gallery and the White House, respectively.
On display at long last are two fine pyrographic works by Lawrence Willmore Pennington. The first is entitled "October Potato Harvest" and the second is "Psyche and Cupid" after a painting by Bouguereau. Both works are in the collection of a family who inherited them (ultimately) from L. W. Pennington's widow.
"Mr. H. C. Ives, art director of the Columbian Exposition [of 1893], in his visits to all the capitals of Europe found but one interior completely decorated with burnt wood. It was the reception-room of the Stockholm Technological School of Art, which school, says Mr. Ives, is one of the best in the world. The apartment—a reception-room adjoining the director's office—was finished in every part by students. The mass of the woodwork was dark; the panels of doors, wainscot, and ceiling were all of satinwood, into which had been burned Renaissance designs."
From an article by J. William Fosdick entitled Burnt Wood in Decoration: With Modern and Ancient Examples
in The Century Magazine, p. 499, 1896.
Wall Mural of Wood Panels*
dedicated in 1893 to the Church of St. Gwynog, Aberhafesp, Wales, U.K.
by E. B. Proctor.
Anonymous, Four Seasons, set of four circa 1890 wood panels each representing
one of the four seasons and inscribed with apropos quotes
from William Shakespeare
from the private collection of Douglas Schneible
A. Kohlbagen, Untitled, 1886, large framed wood panel inscribed
in German; from the private collection of Douglas Schneible
Ernst Haeckel circa 1880 étagère in Villa Medusa.
Vincent Van Gogh* 1880 and 1881 images of a pair of unauthenticated works believed to be by this artist.
Unknown artist (Vincent Van Gogh?), Boys Playing Dice is an undated wood panel thought possibly to be by Van Gogh; it is after a painting by 17th century Spanish artist Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
from the private collection of Robert J. Miller
I. W. Wells, Wait A Wee, a rare 1876 panel.
From the private collection of Philip Scott
I. W. Wells, The Deadly Combat, a rare 1877 panel.
From the private collection of the Fitz family
I. W. Wells, Christ Carrying His Cross, a rare 1862 panel—the earliest known work by Wells.
From the private collection of Sallyanne Hajaj
I. W. Wells, Independence, an intriguing portrait of a young man, dating from 1866.
From antiques dealer Richard White.
I. W. Wells, Untitled portrait of a Young Woman Holding a Rose, dating from 1874.
From a private collection in Canada. Note that another work (for which no images are available) is also described in the commentary following this exhibit.
I. W. Wells, Suspense, dating from 1876 (one of two known works by this artist with this title).
From a private collection.
I. W. Wells, Pharaoh's Horses, dating from 1879 is, so far, the latest work seen by this artist and the largest, as well.
From a private collection in New York.
I. W. Wells, Gen. George Washington in Prayer at Valley Forge, dating from 1868 is the earlier of two panels depicting George Washington in prayer.
This panel is being sold at auction on 24 February 2015.
Otto Johnson, McIntyre & Heath, an 1874 Early American naïve portrait on wood panel, which has a sign in the mid section that says, "New York: Own Your Own Home"
from the private collection of Douglas Schneible
Th. Hall, The First Prayer in Congress, an 1870 wood panel depicting the 1774 first American Congress assembled in prayer in Philadelphia's Carpenter Hall; inscribed.
Charles Dickens, All the Year Round is the name of a weekly journal he "conducted" in conjunction with Chapman and Hall, who published it in London. In an 1870 article he wrote for that publication, he cited some of the important artists of pyrography, who worked in the 19th and even 18th centuries, as follows:
- Smith of Skipton [see the Joseph Smith salon entries here in the Antique Hall in the early part of the 19th and into the late 18th centuries below].
- Cranch of Axminster [see an entry and image of Cranch here in the Antique Hall in the 18th century below]
- Thompson of Wilts [no further information available]
- Collis of Ireland [no further information available]
- Mrs. Nelson* (fifty-three works) and
- Miss Nelson (thirteen works) (noted by Dickens for a joint exhibit of their works in London at the beginning of the 19th century at the farrier's adjoining the Lyceum, in the Strand) [* See Elizabeth Nelson in the 18th C. listings below]
|Portrait of Robert Ball Hughes (1804–1868)|
Drawing believed to be by Georgina Ball Hughes
After an oil painting by John Trumbull, 1839
Digital image from a very small black and white photograph of the drawing,
in the article "The Poker-Drawings of Ball-Hughes" by Edward Daland Lovejoy,
The Magazine ANTIQUES, September 1946, p. 175.
Owner: Frederick R. Brown, Jr., Ridgefield, Connecticut
Owner of companion portrait of Ball Hughes' wife Eliza Wright (1807–1892):
Landsdell K. Christie, Syosset, New York
Following this brief introduction is a long list of works by Robert Ball Hughes (1804–1868), a famous sculptor and engraver, known especially among numismatists for his beautiful American coins, who is also considered the artist who brought pyrography to America. [Note that his date of birth is sometimes shown as 1806; however, according to conservator Susan Millis, 1804 seems more likely.]
J. William Fosdick was Ball Hughes' successor in the latter part of the 19th century. Four of the six articles by J. William Fosdick, as well as five of some eight or more articles about him (all cited in his large section above) include some history of his revered predecessor. Most recommended of all in this regard is the 1892 article by Franklin Smith. It was Ball Hughes' widow Eliza (Wright) Ball Hughes whose reference was the source of Fosdick's first architectural commission in pyrography (see Update item highlighted in yellow text below).
In a 2006 Pyrograffiti article entitled
Susan M. Millis: Pursuing a Unique Degree*
is an update on this British pyrographic artist and conservator who was introduced earlier in that publication (linked at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century listings above).
In this travelogue of her July–August 2006 trip to the United States, besides the news that Susan had begun research for an advanced degree in the conservation and restoration of pyrographic works, was that she was doing a paper for her thesis on the history of pyrography that featured the works of Robert Ball Hughes, which were the focus of her research trip. She presented that paper in November of 2006 and is pursuing getting it published in an academic journal.
|Untitled (Gentlemen at Pokerwork Gathering)|
"Years and years ago, when art and conviviality went hand in hand in England, and when the tavern was a clubhouse, it was the custom of the artists to exercise their passing inspirations on the walls around them. A poker, heated red-hot in the fireplace, was their tool. With it they sketched faces and figures—a memory of a scene of nature—an idea for a new ornament—a cartoon of some public man."
Excerpt and image of an engraving from WHEN AND HOW TO USE ORIENTAL LACQUERS, "Pyrography, Poker Painting, or Burnt Wood Etching," Chapter IX, pp. 27–28, published by Thayer & Chandler, Chicago, Illinois, 1925.
Rev. William Calvert, Christ and the two disciples at Emmaus, a circa 1845 pokerwork (originally a reredos), can be viewed here at St. Mary the Virgin's Church in Forthampton, where today it is placed against the wall of the south aisle.
In their 2002 book Gloucestershire, David Verey and Alan Brooks describe Rev. Calvert's pokerwork as framed in wood with "crocketed ogee arch and pinnacles" and note that it was once the reredos on the circa 1300 Norman stone altar of St. Mary's. When the church was restored and enlarged in the 19th Century, Rev. Calvert's pokerwork was placed against the nave's wall. In addition, they note the following: "An almsbox nearby is also by Rev. Calvert, with a carved scene of the Widow's Mite."
Ralph Marshall, The Pretty Ballad Singer*, 1833 work from the private collection of David Plunton. This work is one of three known works in this artist's "Candlelight" series. Also included in this salon is a link to an article with background information on the artist and his other works in the Pinto Collection in Birmingham, England
Joseph Smith, Untitled (Galileo), an 1824 work after a painting by Rembrandt van Rijn
from the private collection of Richard and Linn Hart
Joseph Smith, Kneeling, an 1823 work from the private collection of Lynn Derrick
Joseph Smith, The Head of Christ with the Crown of Thorns, an 1821 work, in a private collection in Kuranda, Australia. Also included in this salon is a link to an article with background information on the Pinto Collection in Birmingham, U.K., where additional works by this artist are held
Joseph Smith, The Merchant and his Partner, an 1821 work with a variation in the typical Smith inscription, from the private collection of John Hague in England.
On an auction web site is what is likely Joseph Smith's Samuel Reading to Eli the Judgments of God Upon Eli's House. It is listed at that site as an untitled, 1821 work, which, from the description ("...of an old man conversing with a young boy...") could be a third panel by Smith with this motif like the two exhibited here in the E-Museum—one listed (above) for 1824 and another (below) for 1818.
Joseph Smith, The Nightmare, from the private collection of Shaban Munir, was done after a painting by Henry Fuseli from his "Nightmare" series. Also included in this salon is a link to an article with background information on the Pinto Collection in Birmingham, U.K., where additional works by this artist are held
Joseph Smith, Lamentation of Christ, this 1820 signed panel from a private collection is after a painting by Annibale Carracci. Also included in this salon is a link to an article with background information on the Pinto Collection in Birmingham, U.K., where additional works by this artist are held
Joseph Smith of Skipton is a research travelogue offered by collector John Hague, who travelled to Skipton to learn more about the elusive and prolific artist who signed his works "Smith, Pyrographist."
Joseph Smith, Orphans, this as yet undated panel was cited in an 1819 document—"...in pyrography, by Mr Smith of Skipton Castle..."—as being in the collection of Harewood House.
Joseph Smith, Simeon with the Infant Christ in His Arms, this as yet undated panel was cited in an 1819 document—"...in pyrography, by Mr Smith of Skipton Castle..."—as being in the collection of Harewood House.
Joseph Smith, Simeon with the Infant Christ in His Arms, this is an 1816 panel, possibly the very one cited in the 1819 document noted two entries above as being in the collection of Harewood House.
Joseph Smith, Man Wearing a Turban, an 1816 panel, after the famous Rembrandt painting with this title. This panel is one of two Smiths with this title; the other one is from 1823 and is in the Pinto Collection.
Joseph Smith, Dancing Muse and Grecian Lady, both panels in this pair of 1808 framed works are inscribed with the artist's name, date, and Skipton Castle. Also included in this salon is a link to an article with background information on the Pinto Collection in Birmingham, U.K., where additional works by this artist are held.
The following excerpt and its introduction are quoted here in their entirety as they appeared in the 1970 book by Edward H. and Eva R. Pinto, entitled Tunbridge and Scottish Souvenir Woodware: With Chapters on Bois Durci and Pyrography published in London by G. Bell and Sons:
"In Memoirs of a Highland Lady, the autobiography of Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus, 1797–1830, the author writes about her uncle, Dr. James Griffith, who was head of University College, Oxford (1810–11):
'Through this library was a small room with a fireplace used by my uncle to heat his irons for his poker-painting . . . His graver style, whether in water-colours, chalks, reeds or burnt in, are considered to have shown great genius . . . The altar-piece in his own College chapel—Christ blessing the Bread—was of his own poker-painting. In the museum was a head, I think of Leicester, and while we were with him he was busy with a tiger the size of life, the colouring of the old oak panel and the various tints burnt on it so perfectly suiting the tiger's skin. Jane (younger sister of Elizabeth Grant) was his great assistant in this work, heating the irons for him in the little end room, and often burning portions of the picture herself.'"
Joseph Smith, Royal Arms, 1798 panel in the Holy Trinity Church in Skipton. Recent research by collector John Hague has revealed that this work is not a pyrographic painting. However, his research does offer some significant biographical information on Joseph Smith and the place where he lived and worked. It includes a picture of Smith's studio over the Skipton castle gate.
Jean Roux, Royal Gourd, a 1793 pyroengraved gourd, highly and beautifully decorated and richly inscribed. It was described as a gunpowder gourd from the time of the French Revolution, in which a handkerchief with the blood of King Louis XVI was stored after the unfortunate monarch had gone to the guillotine. The central inscription in the illustration reads, as follows:
18 OF SEPT 1793 (written as 7BRE, according to the Julian Calendar)
Unknown Artist, Venetian Cedar Wood Chest, late 18th Century, decorated overall with nobles and soldiery in landscapes framed in moulding strips.
|John Cranch at age 44 (1751–1823)
Image courtesy of David Boland-Thoms, KINGSMERE CRAFTS:
Pyrography (History, page 78)
British writer and artist John Cranch of Axminster was a man of many talents, but was particularly known for his writing, music, and drawing. His first employment was as a writer in the office of John Knight, the steward to Lord Petre's estates. The anecdote regarding his first attempt at pokerwork is told in a 1901 publication entitled Devon Notes and Queries by P. Amery et al., as follows:
"During the absence of his employer from the office on a winter's day Cranch amused himself in front of the fireplace by executing a design on the panels of a large oaken chimney-piece with the pointed end of a red-hot poker, producing an effect by the boldness of style and execution which was greatly admired."
According to his biography on pp. 193–194 in that book, Cranch's life was one of many changes of fortune that, ultimately, did not end very well. The authors did note that he had significant success in painting although never realized an exhibit at the Royal Academy, the British benchmark of artistic recognition. Some of his paintings are still in existence.
John Cranch also became well known for having produced many poker pictures, although no examples have been located to date. In 1811, he published a book with the curious long title of Inducements to promote the Fine Arts of Great Britain by exciting Native genius to independent Effort and Original Design.
His 1811 book was heretofore believed by some to be the first such publication on the topic of (or at least to include the topic of) pyrography. However, according to conservator Susan Millis, who sought out this book to study, and who read it twice from cover to cover, there is no pyrography in it whatsoever.
A very rare Pilgrim's Flask, dated 1690 is the
decorative and pictorial gourd, probably from Hungary, that can be seen at the CINOA site with excellent images and research thanks to Lucy Johnson Antiques.
Salvator Rosa (1615–1673),
The Good Samaritan and The Temptation of Christ
A pair of framed panels by this famous 17th Century artist, poet, and satirist that were found cited in 19th Century documents as being in the collection of the Stanley Family of Knowsley Hall
A rare and superb Venetian Cedar Chest, dated 1636, initialed I.B.
Exceptional decorative and pictorial pyrographic detail, Lucy Johnson Antiques site.
The Royal Stuart Chest
An English decorative and pictorial chest, dated 1630–1650, that traveled to America in the 17th Century.
The Philadelphia Chest
A decorative and pictorial chest, dated circa 1630–1650, that is illustrated here and described as being similar to the Royal Stuart Chest, which is also described here.
According to Edward and Eva Pinto in their famous book with the chapter on pyrography, not only was there the vogue for chests "with pyrographic perspective panels" in the later Seventeenth Century, there was a popular fad for pyrography, as well, in the earlier part of that century.
"...our ancestors understood...pyrography...[as] an artistic craft—one of the oldest and most geographically widespread means of wood decoration. In Europe, it enjoyed a considerable vogue in the early seventeenth century and was used largely for the skilful decoration of small woodware, such as standing cups, which had clear lettering and outlines of birds, beasts, flowers and insects in intricate borders, similar in style to the work found on silver and in needlework, of the late Elizabethan and James I periods."
A naïve 1596 Portuguese Cassone (Chest) from the Azores can be viewed at the Lucy Johnson Antiques site at this link. It is a wonderful colonial cedar chest decorated with mythological figures.
A rare Alto Adige Cedar Chest, undated, late 16th Century
Exhibits decorative and pictorial pyrographic detail, including a central design of a sailing ship, Lucy Johnson Antiques site.
A rare Alto Adige Cedar Chest, undated, late 16th Century
Exhibits decorative and pictorial pyrographic detail, especially on inside of lid, Lucy Johnson Antiques site.
A rare, small Alto Adige Cedar Box, undated, late 16th Century
Exhibits decorative, pictorial panels in bas relief and pyrographic detail, Lucy Johnson Antiques site.
A good Venetian Cedar Chest, undated, late 16th Century
Exhibits decorative, pictorial panels hunting scenes, where much of the pyrographic detail has been lost; Lucy Johnson Antiques site.
According to the Pelican Instruction Book published by Thayer and Chandler of Chicago in 1907, Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571) counted pokerwork among his accomplishments. In the introduction to the section on Coloring (p. 13), it says, "Burnt wood has been colored as far back as the sixteenth century, when Cellini etched with a poker." Nothing was cited to substantiate this claim, and the E-Museum has yet to find any works in pyrography attributed to Cellini.
Beautiful examples of 16th Century Italian Cassoni (Chests) are in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum of London, England, (where at least one can be seen by appointment).
One example of an English cassone (chest) and another of a panel from an Italian sideboard are illustrated in the
August 1896, Century Magazine article by James William Fosdick entitled Burnt Wood in Decoration: With Modern and Ancient Examples, Page 495 and Page 499 respectively.
"The art of Burning, or Etching, upon wood with hot irons was sometimes employed by the artists of the Middle Ages. A rich XVth century chest in the Musée de Cluny at Paris was doubtless done in this way."
Excerpt from notes by J. William Fosdick, circa 1888.
"In the sacristy of the little octagonal church of Sant' Ercolano at Perugia are some ancient chests which were quaintly decorated with hot irons some four hundred years ago." [Curator's note: circa 1496, i.e., now more than 500 years ago].
From an article by J. William Fosdick entitled Burnt Wood in Decoration: With Modern and Ancient Examples
in The Century Magazine, p. 499, 1896.
At the link here, on the web site of the Victoria and Albert Museum of London, England, are illustrated and described examples of 15th and 14th Century Italian Cassoni (Chests).
An illustrated article on
Celtic Harps* in Pyrograffiti shows two very famous harps: the Trinity College Harp, which is on display (along with the Book of Kells) in the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland, and the Queen Mary Harp, which is on display in the Museum of Antiquities in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Featured also in that article segment is a magnificent reproduction of the Trinity Harp by Jay Witcher (harpmaker) and Charlotte Hallett (pyrographer and harpist) showing how the original Trinity would have looked in all its glory back in the 15th Century.
* Indicates an exhibit with a link to an illustrated feature article in the Woodcarvers Online Magazine (WOM)
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You may wish to continue your stay at the E-Museum
with a visit upstairs to the
Antique Pyrographic Tools Exhibit
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Antique Pyrographic Books Exhibit
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Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved. Updated 24 January 2012. Updated 11 February 2012. Updated 22 March 2012. Updated 23 April 2012. Updated 5 and 9 May 2012. Updated 25 May 2012. Updated 18 October 2012. Updated 3 January 2013. Updated 18 June 2013. Updated 12–15 January 2014. Updated 31 March 2014. Updated 22 April 2014. Updated 07 June 2014. Updated 17–21 July 2014. Updated 20 December 2014. Updated 7 January 2015. Last updated 14 February 2015.