BENNETT, William James (1784-1844) after J. ISABEY
Monsr. J. Isabey's Exhibition Rooms, 61 Pall Mall / Salle d'Exhibition de J. Isabey, a Londres
Published by J. Isabey, June, 1820. Colour-printed aquatint. Printed on wove Whatman paper watermarked 1820. In excellent condition. Image size: 7 1/4 x 9 7/8 inches. Sheet size: 13 x 18 3/4 inches. Plate mark: 8 1/4 x 10 7/8 inches.
A fascinating view of J. Isabey's picture gallery in Pall Mall, London, by the celebrated American engraver William James Bennett.
William James Bennett (1787-1844) was born in England, and received his artistic training at the celebrated Royal Academy. He garnered a reputation as a watercolourist and exhibited many fine landscapes at the Academy's annual exhibitions. Bennett was one of the principal members of the Society of Painters in Watercolours and helped establish watercolour as a popular medium of artistic expression in England. He displayed an exceptional talent at aquatint and during his career produced many fine prints for some the most lavish English plate books. He emigrated to the United States in 1826, and is best known for his views of American cities, including the Hudson Valley Region, Niagara Falls, and numerous port cities such as New York, Charleston, and New Orleans. Bennett's series of views of American Cities set a standard, and established a compositional formula, for topographical art in America. His views remain the most memorable and beautiful examples of the genre, and they exerted a lasting influence on generations of American artists. This beautiful image of Mr. Isabey's exhibition rooms in Pall Mall is not listed separately amongst Bennett's work, but according to DeSilva and Deak, he completed a number of aquatints in 1820, which are not recorded. It is possible that this picturesque interior scene is one of the images, which was not immediately attributed to Bennett. This charming work closely resembles images published by the leading English printseller Rudolph Ackermann, in particular an image depicting his gallery "The Repository of Arts". As in the Ackermann image, connoisseurs are shown enjoying the exhibition rooms in Isabey's gallery. Jean-Baptiste Isabey (1767-1855) was a French artist and what might be called "artistic entrepreneur". He managed to become Marie Antoinette's artist in residence for miniatures. Later, he designed Napoleon and Josephine's coronation and published drawings of his own work and others commemorating the event. The exhibition in London depicted here would have been more successful than it was, but it coincided with George IV's divorce, during which most British aristocrats fled to their country estates.
Deak, William James Bennett p. 3-26; DeSilva, William James Bennett: Painter and Engraver, p. 39-42.