3.1.5: 1725 - 1830 - Illustrations and decoration

The illustration and decoration of books includes frontispieces, vignettes and text illustrations. In the eighteenth century, these prints were mostly copper engravings, but later aquatints were to be seen and, from 1820 onwards, steel engravings and lithographs. For popular printed matter, however, the woodcut continued to be used as the favoured medium for illustration. Although as early as around the year 1700, experiments in coloured printing by, among others, Johannes Teyler of Nijmegen, had taken place, the colouring in of engravings and maps was still invariably done by hand up until 1830: sometimes by professional colourists such as Dirk Jansz. van Santen, but later also by women and children for ordinary printed matter in colouring workshops.

Generally speaking, book illustration in the period 1725-1830 differs from that of the previous period in decreasing baroque extravagance in favour of elegance and sensitivity.

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, two artists of the Gerard de Lairesse school were producing book decorations in the classicist style: Jan Goeree (1670-1731) and Jan Wandelaar (1690-1759). Their frontispieces were built up as an archway construction flanked with allegorical figures, cherubs or medallions. The vignettes at the end of a chapter were usually ornamental.

Around the mid-eighteenth century, the influence of French book illustration on Dutch book decoration increased. Engravings were now worked in fine lines and use was made of a stipple technique to make them look much lighter. The figures acquired a certain informality and elegance while more attention was paid to flexibility of posture and gestures. Louis Fabricius Dubourg (1693-1775), employed as a draughtsman and engraver in the workshop of the Frenchman Bernard Picart in Amsterdam, always worked in this manner. A characteristic, recognisable style was developed by the artist Simon Fokke (1712-1784). His drawing-like designs for book illustrations - which he engraved himself - bear witness to great vivacity and imagination. His etchings have nervous lines while the attenuated, narrow figures are full of action and movement.

Fine botanical and zoological works, books on gardening, topography, travel and costume books all require competent illustrations. Examples of this were the botanical works of Johann Hermann Knoop (c.1700-1769) and the travelogues of Jacob Haafner (1755-1809), both illustrated after the authors' own drawings, and costume books by Evert Maaskamp with engravings by L. Portman.

In the 1770s, a more academically oriented, neoclassicist illustrative technique appeared. The painter and draughtsman Jacobus Buys (1724-1801) and the draughtsman and engraver Reinier Vinkeles (1741-1816) are the most important representatives of this movement. The emphasis now lay on a clear drawing of the figures and an avoidance of anything which was too realistic or deformed. The scenes from every-day life exude an atmosphere of sobriety and controlled moderation, especially with Jacobus Buys. Reinier Vinkeles, who designed many of his illustrations himself, reached his high point in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.

Around 1775, young men of letters such as Jacobus Bellamy and Rhijnvis Feith began to become actively involved in the illustration of their poetical works. Whereas they usually limited themselves to a single title design, Willem Bilderdijk often took on the responsibility for all his engravings and vignettes such as, for example, in the case of his compilations Mijn verlustiging (1781) and Bloemtjens (1785). The engraving itself, of course, still remained in the hands of the professional engraver.

In the first decades of the nineteenth century, a number of late-eighteenth century illustrators are still active such as Vinkeles referred to above, Jacob Ernst Marcus (1774-1826), Jacob Smies (1764-1833) and Jacobus van Meurs (1758-1824). New names were Carl Christiaan Füchs (1794-1855) and Haatje Pieters Oosterhuis (1784-1854). These last three artists all made design drawings for book illustrations but did not engrave them themselves. The prints were characterised by a return to a certain realism which fitted into the Dutch tradition.

author: L. Buijnsters-Smets

Illustrations and decoration