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: A Portrait by Strang


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The versatility which characterized many artists in olden days but which few moderns have inherited, seems to have been revived by a group of British artists who, though their reputation is founded on their etching, have yet gained honors in many other fields. One of the most prolific of etchers, William Strang, has produced some five hundred copper plates which include such subjects as illustrations for Don Quixote, Milton, and the short stories of Kipling, as well as a series of Scotch and Belgian landscapes. Beside these, he has done some very charming oils, and lately, he has developed a specialty in drawings in chalk and pencil on tinted paper. These have often been likened to Holbein’s work, though Strang, himself, attributes his inspiration to the early work of his master in the Slade School, Alphonse Legros. Frank Newhold, writing of him in the Art journal in 1910 says: “The effect is so charming when the materials are handled by a man of real genius that the method immediately attracted many cultivated people and the artist was obliged to devote a great part of his time to producing this kind of portraits. He has always been ready to produce portraits in etching, engraving, gold point, silver point, oil painting, and colored drawing, but whereas he has produced fifteen or sixteen portraits in oils, he has finished about five hundred colored drawings. About two hundred of these had been executed when, some five years ago, a pressing invitation took Mr. Strang to the United States. There he met with such success that he received forty commissions in two months and he has repeatedly been asked to return.”One of these charming portraits is illustrated on page 149. It shows the artist’s son, a young boy in Eton jacket with a white collar. In the reproduction it is difficult to see the very extraordinary roundness which Mr. Strang has been able to give the head. It is impossible to study the portrait without feeling that one can easily put one’s hand around to the back and touch the other cheek. As far as technical details are concerned, the effect is all produced with pencil and crayon on colored paper; the crayon colors being confined to red, dark brown, and white. The type is characteristic of the sturdy English boy of the “Public Schools.”Mr. Strang was born in 1859 at Dumbarton. His boyhood was spent at Clydeside, where his ambition was divided between a desire to become a sailor and an artist. His father placed him in the office of a Glasgow shipbuilder, who was something of an amateur painter. Here he was set to copying an etching and his drawing so pleased his master that he urged Strang’s father to fit him for an artist’s career. At the age of 16, he was sent to London to the Slade School where he worked under Alphonse Legros. In 1906 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy for his work as an etcher and at that time it was discovered that “Although he had only once exhibited an etching at Burlington house, twenty years before his election, he had been three times represented there by oil painting.”Referenced Work of Art
  1. Portrait Drawing, by William Strang
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Source: Margaret T. Jackson, "A Portrait by Strang," <i>The Minneapolis Institute of Arts Bulletin</i> 3, no. 12 (December, 1914): 148-149.
Rights: ©MIA
Added to Site: March 10, 2009