This exhibition was on display at the Museum in 2019.
Sir Frank Short
Born in Stourbridge on 19 June 1857, Frank Short studied at Stourbridge College of Art and began his early career as a civil engineer based in the Midlands. In 1881, at the age of 24, Short moved to London where he began working with Baldwin Latham in connection with the Parliamentary Inquiry into the pollution of the river Thames. In 1883 he was elected an Associate Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
In 1883 at the age of 26, having studied at the Stourbridge School of Art, Short joined the South Kensington School of Art. He developed a network of other artists receiving praise and advice from the influential artist and art critic, John Ruskin. Short studied the works of JMW Turner and created a series of etchings and mezzotints from Turner’s Liber Studiorum. Short had a keen interest in watercolours and studied at the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours. The skill of Short as a water colour painter also made him a sympathetic engraver of the landscapes by artists such as David Cox.
As Head of the Engraving School at the Royal College of Art, South Kensington from 1892-1920 and the inaugural Professor of Engraving from 1920 to 1924, Short had enormous influence on younger painter-etchers and engravers and was said to be an outstanding and inspiring teacher. Frank Short received, amongst other distinctions, the gold medal for engraving at the Paris International Exhibition, 1889, and another gold medal for mezzotint (Rappel) 1900.
In 1906, Short was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy and in 1911 he was elected a full Royal Academician, and also received a knighthood. Short was Treasurer of the Royal Academy from 1919 to 1932.
Short’s work as a water colourist was recognised in 1917 when he was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours.
The artist wrote several influential books on original printmaking: "On the Making of Etchings" was first published in 1888 and republished in 1911, 1912, 1951. The book is still in print today.
Sir Frank Short died on 22 April 1945, aged 88.
A blue plaque marks Short's former home at 56 Brook Green, Hammersmith, London where he lived from 1898 to 1927.
Etching is a printmaking technique that uses chemical action to produce incised lines in a metal printing plate which then hold the applied ink and form the image. The plate, traditionally copper but now usually zinc, is prepared with an acid-resistant ground. Lines are drawn through the ground, exposing the metal. The plate is then immersed in acid and the exposed metal is ‘bitten’, producing incised lines. Stronger acid and longer exposure produce more deeply bitten lines. The resist is removed and ink applied to the sunken lines, but wiped from the surface. The plate is then placed against paper and passed through a printing press with great pressure to transfer the ink from the recessed lines. Sometimes ink may be left on the plate surface to provide a background tone.
Mezzotint is an engraving technique developed in the 17th century which allows for the creation of prints with soft gradations of tone and rich and velvet black. The process involves indenting the metal printing plate by rocking a toothed metal tool across the surface. Each pit holds ink, and if printed at this stage the image would be solid black. However the printmaker creates dark and light tones by gradually rubbing down or burnishing the rough surface to various degrees of smoothness to reduce the ink-holding capacity of areas of the plate.