Category: Art History

‘Seymour-ish’ – Images from the scrapbook.

A few years ago I purchased a dilapidated sketchbook from Jermy and Westerman bookshop in Nottingham.

It formed the basis of a PhD application in May of this year to Central Saint Martins to be supervised by Professor Roger Sabin the comics expert.

At that point life got in the way and without divulging the exact reasons although the application was successful and was to be self financed I was unable to take up this October.

I deferred the offer until October 2018 and will see how things pan out this year.  I have been officially told twice that I am too old to receive AHRC funding for PhD at 59 yet ironically will still be eligible to take out a loan which says it all about our screwed up education system…..money talks.

Inside the remains of the scrapbook which I cautiously dated as circa 1823 were a range of print techniques and subjects.

Some of the most interesting are shown below and fall into the caricature definition and in three cases show remarkable similarity to some of Seymour’s work. The three images in particular I examining as possibly Seymour’s are below. The third is a definite Pickwickian contender…

To that end I sharing these images with Stephen Jarvis’s Death and Mr. Pickwick page on facebook to see if the author and his connections can give any authority to my suspicions although caricaturists did work in a variety of styles and it possible that this another artist copying Seymour’s sketches.

Finally there a unknown book image and a Hood image from the scrapbook.



My life in a scrapbook: Future Plans

About three years ago whilst researching a paper on Dickens and Seymour (the first illustrator of Pickwick Papers). I found and purchased a slightly wrecked Victorian Scrapbook of the 1830s from the Jermy and Westerman bookshop on Mansfield Road. It seemed to fit into the timescale of the paper (1836) and I was fascinated by the way hand drawn, theatre figures, cartoons and topographical lithographs existed side by side in the artefact. I didn’t really think much more of it and archived it in my studio.

Yesterday I had a really interesting chat with a potential PhD supervisor in London and I took parts of the scrapbook with me.  It looks like I may finally have found an institution and supervisors who understand what I have been doing all these years. I am very hopeful that finally I shall be re-entering academia on equal terms and to do work I really want to do. The irony for me that it in London after I seem to have traveled full circle from Hornsey College of Art all those years ago!

I will be posting material relevant to the proposal and hopefully PhD once commenced here in the future.

For now here some random Ebay images of for sale scrapbooks showing how fertile an area this is and hopefully one that will produce genuine ‘new knowledge’ to boot.

My Secret Comic Past


My reading of comics started in early 1960s. My country Grandfather was not schooled and therefore had problems reading. He used to get copies of Victor magazine from the farm he worked for and I used to read them too….so started a lifelong love of war stories and films and football (both covered in The Victor).

I then progressed to Commando Magazines which I consumed avidly.

Finally my mother in an attempt to ‘educate me’ started buying me ‘Tell Me Why’ weekly which I loved. In fact most of my art historical knowledge started in there…I remember learning about Vincent Van Gogh and Picasso there!





I now find out that some serious comic artists were involved in all this ‘kids stuff’..


Alf Tupper was drawn by Peter Sutherland:


His creation has his own website: http://www.toughofthetrack.net/index2.htm

And Tell Me Why employed the Italian artist


I quote:

Some of the content of Tell Me Why was presented in picture strip form, and illustrated by some artists that readers would be familiar with. One such talent was Italian artist Ruggero Giovannini, known for his work in the early 1960s on Olac the Gladiator for Tiger comic.

Fascinating to find this out nearly 50 years later!

Johnny Newcome Part 2.

The same sequence I had earlier discovered via Saville’s excellent caricature website has been discovered by Doug Wheeler at Superitch too. Here he concentrates on the racist message being conveyed but again it the sequential panelling I focussed on.

Original article here: http://superitch.com/?p=43407

I have changed contrast on images in an attempt to clarify the text. I also have larger jpeg versions now so can work out the narrative.

The narrative is sequential in that Johnny takes part in a logical progression of activities culminating in his marriage to the plantation owner’s beautiful daughter after a variety of idle and lascivious ‘adventures’. There are no linking actions in a filmic sense but then as this 1812 the whole idea of photography and cinema did not exist the nearest would have been sequences in magic lanterns which tended to be (like Hogarth) separate entities.

What significant here is the panels being displayed as a sequence in one frame. This something I will look at in more detail  in the paper. If one compares to popular broadside imagery and text then it is a step forward. It is also close to Hone and Cruikshank’s ‘The Queen’s Matrimonial Ladder’ toy of 1819 for a full pamphlet of 1820 (Source: p.70 James, L. (1976) English Popular Literature 1819-1851. (see below) for more detail see The Print Shop Window Archive including original photos of Hone’s ‘toy’.
here : http://printshopwindow.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/george-cruikshank-william-hone-queens.html


JohnnyNewcome1812WilliamElmesPlate1small JohnnyNewcome1812WilliamElmesPlate2small



Searching for the sequential…..

One of the things that fascinating me at this point is where and when the notion of a ‘comic strip’. i.e. a discernible sequential narrative arose. Reading classic comic histories there are a lot of different opinions but none seem to go back beyond Punch and as in Roger Sabin,  Scott McCloud and the more recent book by Jared Gardner there different views depending on position i.e. USA,  Europe etc.

There also the arguments over when the ‘central CONTINUING character’ present’ a quote from Roger Sabin.

He cites Ally Sloper 1884 however I have already found some work by both Seymour (The Heiress 1830) and William Elmes (published 1812) that seem to challenge these dates and notions.

The Elmes pictured below has a identifiable protagonist even if the material is highly racist in ‘The Adventures of Johnny Newcome’. There are also several freestanding ‘panels’ attributed to him that may or may not have been cut from a larger canvas or may have been intended like Rakes Progress to be ‘one-offs’ in sequence. I am still looking for the answers to that.


LARGEELMES Source: http://www.art.co.uk/products/p22111912598-sa-i7618904/william-elmes-the-adventures-of-johnny-newcome-published-1812.htm?

McCloud states on page 17 of ‘Understanding Comics’ (1993) an otherwise excellent drawn examination of the field that Topffer ..

‘featured the first interdependent combination of words and pictures seen in Europe’.

I would say that wrong in light of image above although exactly what he means by interdependent could be argued if the commentary is verbalised speech as opposed to ‘titling’. Again an area to be further explored.

Our ever valid and controversial wikipedia commentator states…in line with most commentaries that Topffer should be considered the originator but as in the illustration below I see no difference between this and Elmes….

Was it possible that continental practitioners were influenced by post Hogarth sequences is part of my investigation. I have also found some curious confluences between French and British images…..

The Swiss teacher, author and caricature artist Rodolphe Töpffer (Geneva, 1799–1846) is considered the father of the modern comic strips. His illustrated stories such as Histoire de M. Vieux Bois (1827), first published in the USA in 1842 as The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck or Histoire de Monsieur Jabot (1831), inspired subsequent generations of German and American comic artists. In 1865, the Germanpainter, author and caricaturist Wilhelm Busch created the strip Max and Moritz, about two trouble-making boys, which had a direct influence on the American comic strip. Max and Moritz was a series of severely moralistic tales in the vein of German children’s stories such as Struwwelpeter (“Shockheaded Peter”); in one, the boys, after perpetrating some mischief, are tossed into a sack of grain, run through a mill and consumed by a flock of geese. Max and Moritz provided an inspiration for German immigrant Rudolph Dirks, who created the Katzenjammer Kids in 1897. Familiar comic-strip iconography such as stars for pain, sawing logs for snoring, speech balloons, and thought balloons originated in Dirks’ strip.[5]

Source: Wikipedia Accessed 25.02.2014 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comic_strip



Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Toepffer_Cryptogame_13.png

Literature search



here it is ..at least so far…all the material I have been collecting over the last six months in analogue format 🙂


Collected Dickens


This is the prompt for the whole Robert Seymour paper. Purchased in my hometown of Didcot many years ago from a second-hand shop it is a complete Caxton edition of Dickens novels,.

It is from this that I took the idea of looking more closely at the Dickens illustrators in relation to sequential narrative.




Illustration and Narrative Construction Conference: Paris 2014



Illustration and Narrative Construction
Illustration by James Abbott Pasquier for the September 1872 issue of Thomas Hardy’s A Pair of Blue Eyes in Tinsley’s Magazine.
(Image scanned by Philip V. Allingham)


International conference
Université Paris-Diderot, 28 et 29 March 2014
Call for Papers
            At a time of growing academic interest for the adaptation of fictional narratives across a range of different contemporary media (film, TV series, comic books, graphic novels), we would like to engage with illustration as the earliest form of visual adaptation of novelistic works.
            The general aim of this conference is to explore illustration in its specifically narrative dimension. The notion of narrative construction provides an interesting paradigm to analyse the relationship between text and image within illustrated works of fiction. Though each illustration may be said to have a narrative potential of its own which is revealed by the eye perusing it, it is the sequential dimension of narrative which will be our particular focus here.
The object of the conference is to examine how a series of images accompanying a narrative does not simply illustrate separate moments singled out from the text but forms a visual narrative through its dynamic relationship with the text. We shall thus study the different processes at stake and the ways in which images, in their three-fold articulation to the work as a whole—namely to the passage which they illustrate, to what precedes and follows in the narrative, and to the sequence of interlinked images—suggest a reading of a text and open up one of its narrative possibilities.
            The conference will focus on European novels from the early modern period to the present.
            Possible topics include:
–        The different illustrated editions of a text, targeting various readerships (bibliophiles, young people, etc.) and the type of visual narrative constructed to address each reading public
–        Diachronic analyses of the illustrated versions of a single text and of the transformations of narrative over time
–        Illustration as counterpoint to the text, constructing a parallel narrative, sometimes even contradicting the text
–        Serialized novels and the specific narrative dynamic put into play by serialization
–     The special cases of graphic novels and comic books adapted from works of fiction and the redefinition of the narrative dynamic brought about by these media

‘The Dying Clown’ paper accepted for Paris March 2014

Robert Seymour and the strange case of the Pickwick Papers as a precursor of the ‘Narrative sequential image’ in the Victorian Illustrated Press and beyond.

Proposal for Paris conference on narrative and image. march 2014. Accepted.

The Dying Clown: by Shaun Belcher

Alexander Mann full paper

Alexander Mann’s ‘Gnats’: Sequential narratives in art before film 1850-1895. by Shaun Belcher

Alexander Mann’s Gnats – Proposal

All my abstracts and papers in the ART RESEARCH: Film, illustration and transmedia category can be found here on ScribD.



Beyond Film Proposal by Shaun Belcher

Alexander Mann the paper weight list

I have been collecting relevant books for theme ( early cinema/photography and etching in Thames valley 1850-1910) for a few years. Now I have to digest as much as I can before July 🙂


Alexander Mann Paper: Film-Philosophy Conference Amsterdam July 2013

I sent a submission to a Film Philosophy conference in Amsterdam and have been accepted so have three months to write paper detailed below. This will pull together all the research done as first year of M.A. which was put on hold whilst rejigged M.A. to be fine art and cartoon based (this blog).

The previous research is specifically archived here http://www.shaunbelcher.com/rpt and merges into ongoing fine art’Projects’ here http://www.shaunbelcher.com/fineart/

The proposal which has been accepted is as follows:

mann1 mann2

Alexander Mann’s ‘Gnats’: Early film and photography in rural England as traced through an artist’s sequential narrative and sketchbooks.
Alexander Mann (1853-1908) landscape and genre painter was an early adopter,  post impressionism, of photography and his sequential narrative in etchings ‘Gnats and other hindrances to the landscape artist’ of 1884 reveals not only an awareness of photography but hints at a wider filmic narrative.
It is the purpose of this paper to explore this folio work of Alexander Mann alongside his sketchbooks and relate this to the wider discourse around early cinematic and photographic technology, artistic modernism, artistic communities and the railway. This will draw on Benjamin, Kirby, Solnit and Schivelbusch in attempting to uncover information from a neglected area of art history i.e. Artistic Modernism in the Thames Valley (England) and the spread of ‘new’ imaging technology from 1850-1914 through artists to the local community.
The paper will attempt to reveal a correlation between ‘experimentation’ with ‘new’ technology in post-impressionism in the English provinces with present day advances in pervasive mobile and digital imaging and its equivalent widening of participation in the processes of image creation.

Keywords: Early photography and cinema, sequential narrative, mobile technology, imaging, landscape and genre painting, etching, provincial modernism.




This blog picks up from July 2013 when I delivered my first paper on illustration and film at the film-philosophy conference Amsterdam.

This could be seen as the beginning of my ‘art-historical’ research for want of a better word.


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