These cottages and their gardens Mr. Gardner knows how to present for us with a delicate touch that few other artists in black and white can ever hope to imitate. Lovers of Nature who were fortunate enough to visit his little exhibition last summer at Great George Street, Westminster—the smallest among the pictureshows, but by no means the least—must have been surprised at the wealth and variety of artistic effect his delicate brush had managed to extract from so apparently limited a range of subjects. As a matter of fact, the range was not really limited at all, because Mr. Gardner has the rare power of selecting so many diverse typical themes or points of view, and treating every one with such perfect harmony through out that the spectator’s feeling on viewing each takes a distinctive tinge from the artist’s own individuality thrown diversely into every detail of them. The skies in particular were in this respect admirable. It was not merely that each was a sky in itself, a beautiful atmosphere in the abstract, an element in the picture; but that each was so admirably selected for its particular purpose, so thoroughly in time with the key-note of the sketch to which it formed a sympathetic and harmonious background. This lyric effect in art, if I may be allowed the metaphor, this rounding off of the picture with its appropriate setting is one of the more poetical elements of landscape. Mere handicraft can never attain that skill; no technique can teach it; it is innate in the eye and soul of the true artist. . . .

These sketches of Surrey farms are most emphatically painter’s pictures. Mr. Gardner stands confessedly at the head of the woodengraving craft in England at least, if not in the world, and he has introduced into his special art a spirit of sympathetic treatment and full realization of textures and values which hitherto had hardly so much as been dreamt of in that intractable material. He has made his blocks of boxwood positively plastic. One might have suspected beforehand, therefore, that his black-and-White drawings would be success as an engravar on wood has no doubt somewhat modified Mr. Gardner’s methods. But it hasn't destroyed either his breadth or his spontaneity. It has left him still, when he paints, essentially a painter. The trees in these drawings, I fancy, more particularly bring out the artist's feeling for the minuter points of natural form and beauty. They are all of them just the thing they pretend to be. The power of represent ing trees, shrubs, and plants in art, in fact, with grace and ease, as well as with perfect fidelity to the underlying truths of Nature, is a rare and very precious quality.— Grant Allen

Surrey Farmhouses

1title1 1title1

Other Works


Allen, Grant. “Surrey Farmhouses.” Illustrated by W. Biscombe Gardner. The English Illustrated Magazine. 6 (1888-1889): 155-71. Hathi Trust version of a copy in the Pennsylvania State University Library. Web. 6 March 2021

Baliss, Wyke. “The Waning of the Year.” Magazine of Art. 5 (1882): 10-14. Internet Archive version of a copy in the University of Toronto Library. Web. 8 September 2013.

Last modified 4 October 2013