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William Strang

William Strang (February 3, 1859 - 1921), English painter and engraver, was born at Dunbarton[?], N.B., Scotland, the son of Peter Strang, builder.

He was educated at the Dumbarton Academy, and worked for fifteen months in the counting-house of a firm of shipbuilders. He went to London in 1875 when he was sixteen, and studied his art under Alphonse Legros at the Slade School for six years. Strang became assistant master in the etching class, and himself followed this art with great success. He was one of the original members of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers, and exhibited at their first exhibition in 1881. Some of his early plates were published in the Portfolio and other art magazines.

He worked in many manners, etching, dry point, mezzotint, sand-ground mezzotint, and burin engraving. Lithography and wood-cutting were also used by him to reproduce his abundant imaginings. He cut a large wood engraving of a man ploughing, that has been published by the Art for Schools Association. A privately produced catalogue of his engraved work containg more than three hundred items. Amongst his earlier works "Tinkers," "St Jerome," "A Woman washing her Feet," an "Old Book-stall with a man lighting his pipe from a flare," and "The head of a Peasant Woman," on a sand-ground mezzotint, may be remembered. Later plates such as "Hunger," "The Bachelor's End" and "The Salvation Army" cannot be forgotten.

Some of his best etchings have been in series; one of the earliest, illustrating William Nicholson[?]'s ballad of "Aken Drum," is remarkable for delicate and clear workmanship in the shadow tones, showing great skill and power over his materials, and for strong drawing. Another good series was the "Pilgrim's Progress," revealing austere sympathy with Bunyan's teaching. Coleridge's "Ancient Mariner" and Strang's own "Allegory of Death" and the "Plowman's Wife," have served him with suitable imaginative subjects. Some of Rudyard Kipling's stories have been illustrated by him, too, and Strang's portrait of Kipling has been one of his most successful portrait plates. Other good etched portraits are of Mr Ernest Sichel, fine as a Vandyck, and of Mr JB Clark, with whom Strang collaborated in illustrating Baron Munchausen and Sinbad the Sailor and Ali Baba, published in 1895 and 1896.

Thomas Hardy, Henry Newbolt and many other distinguished men also sat to him. Proofs from these plates have been much valued; in fact, Strang's portrait etchings have inaugurated a new form of reproductive portraiture. A portrait which is a work of art and can be reproduced a number of times without losing any of its art qualities is one ideal way of recording appearances, as such prints can be treasured by many owners. Strang produced a number of good paintings, portraits, nude figures in landscapes, and groups of peasant families, which have been exhibited in the Royal Academy, the International Society, and several German exhibitions. He painted a decorative series of scenes from the story of Adam and Eve for the library of Mr Hodson of Wolverhampton; they were exhibited at the Whitechapel exhibition in 1910. Some of his drawings from the nude model in silver point and red and black chalk are very beautiful as well as powerful and true.

He also painted a number of landscapes, mostly of a small size. In later years he developed a style of drawing in red and black chalk, with the whites and high lights rubbed out, on paper stained with water colour. His method gives qualities of delicate modelling and refined form and gradations akin to the drawings of Holbein. He drew portraits in this manner of many members of the Order of Merit for the royal library at Windsor Castle.

In 1902 Strang retired from the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers, as a protest against the inclusion in its exhibitions of etched or engraved reproductions of pictures. His work was subsequently seen principally in the exhibitions of the Society of Twelve, of the International Society, to which body he was elected in 1905, and of the Royal Academy. Strang was elected an associate engraver of the Royal Academy when that degree was wisely revived in 1906.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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