Louis Wain, genre photographs, but no fairies

identifier 2014096 INFANTS’ MAGAZINE

The Infants’ Magazine Annual for 1904, being a collection of the 12 monthly issues for 1903. Vol. XXXVIII Publisher S.W. Partridge & Co., London. Hardback, colour cover. Size: 177 x 223 mm. 190+ pages, with illustrations on every page, several in colour (black/blue/red).

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Prominent in this annual is the work of Louis Wain, famous cat artist. He contributes the main title page and numerous sketches throughout. More unusually, a photograph of the artist also appears.

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I was also struck by the fact that almost all of the photographs of child studies in this book are credited to Miss K. Grant. It must have been unusual at that time for a woman to have had the facilities, presumably some kind of studio, to produce genre pictures like this. The simple portraits remind me of some of the sentimental child studies by photographer and magic lantern slide publisher Owen Graystone Bird, from the same era.

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The narrative scenes (see below), some with painted backdrops, are reminiscent of the Life Model magic lantern slides popular at that time, though cropped much tighter.

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The subjects of the painted backdrops, representing a poor person’s kitchen, for instance, are different from those in a typical Victorian / Edwardian portrait studio. I wonder whether anyone has researched Miss Grant? Without a complete first name, or location, that would be difficult.

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With the adoption of halftone photographic images in periodicals becoming much more widespread about this time, these photographs are evidently a challenge to the more traditional artworks of the same subjects. This can be clearly seen here with the similarities between Grandma’s Valentine (photo) and the following page Granny’s Recovery (painting); and Spring Flowers (drawing), and the opposite page A Secret (photo).

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Another point of interest is the lack of fairies (gnomes, elves, whatever). With the exception of The Fairies’ Postmen, I can’t find any.

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The book is stuffed with pictures (photos, drawings) and stories of dolls on what seems like every other page, but the fairies that would soon become so ubiquitous in children’s books haven’t yet arrived – here, anyway. Perhaps this was due to the shadow of publisher Samuel William Partridge (1810-1903) – by then retired, and who died the year these magazines were printed – who was a devout evangelical Christian and probably couldn’t be doing with fairies. Maybe it would take the imminent appearance of Tinkerbell to ensure frequent appearances of the fairy folk in periodicals and annuals.

The Infants’ Magazine is not a very scarce title, but finding particular issues – especially in good condition – can be difficult. Apparently people used to give these books to young children to play with. (Note: The BL has it as The Infant’s Magazine.)

Condition: Generally good, as shown. Pages tanned, as expected. The binding is very loose, but still holding everything together.

Price: £32.00 plus postage. Enquiries: s-herbert@easynet.co.uk

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