17.10.2020 by Charles Burns
I’ve arranged six more studio days for December 2020.
Each is named after a historical artist. These are a few silhouettists whose names begin begin with the letter ‘B’. You can book sittings here and read about the artists below.
Mary Barrett Studio Day
Sittings from 6pm to midnight
G. Batenham Studio Day
Sittings from 3pm to 9pm UK time
C. Beach Studio Day
Sittings from noon – 6pm UK time
Baj.B Studio Day
Sittings from noon to 6pm UK time
Lajos Bálint Studio Day
Sittings from 9am to 3pm UK time
C.L. Barber Studio Day
Sittings from 3pm to 9pm UK time
Here are the artists I’ named my studio days after this monh.
Just to avoid any confusion, this does not mean I’ll be cutting silhouettes in the style of these artists! I’ll cut your silhouettes in my own style, of which there are many examples all over this website.
However, if you’d like me to cut your portraits in the manner of any artist please ask. I always love a challenge!
Bay B is one of my favourite silhouettists. I’ve learned a lot from looking at the best of their silhouettes (I’ve no idea whether Baj was male or female, so will use the non-gendered third person). They was meticulous about labelling their silhouettes.
The silhouettes I’ve collected come with a bewildering variety of stamps and printed labels, most of which identify the artist as either “Baj. B”, “Bay B.”or simply “Baj”. I’ve no idea what the second “B” stands for, but they used the name in Baj Italy and Bay in France.
The little I know about the artist comes from looking at the silhouettes. These tell me that Baj was probably Italian and spent a number of years in the early 1920s cutting silhouettes on the fashionable Lido Beach in Venice. The earliest Baj silhouettes I’ve seen date from 1907 and were cut at an exhibition in Bordeaux, France. There are also a number of undated silhouettes which could have been cut anywhere in Europe around this time.
Baj silhouettes vary from mediocre to truly extraordinary. Many of them include delicate pencil shading at the back the collars. Although I’ve never seen an unlabelled Baj silhouette, I know this would be a sure way to attribute it if I did.
There’s a silhouette in my collection I call the “Peaky Blinders” cutting . It’s one of those few silhouettes I look at and immediately know I couldn’t do that. The small scale and intricate collar cutting would be beyond me at a live event.
This, of course, is the real reason I collect these unknown artists. Every so often, they teach me something new. Baj B is just such an artist.
In 2015 I came across a set of silhouettes cut in Budapest, one of which carries a stamp saying : “Bálint Lajos, B’pest, Csányi-u”. Google translates the name of the artist as Louis Valentine, while Csányi-u is the name of a street in Budapest.
This little snippet of information is all I can tell you about this unknown Budapest street artist. The silhouettes are undated, but look like they were cut in the 1900s or perhaps early 1920s.
The silhouettes came as a set and clearly show the same couple (or could it be a mother and son?) However, I’m guessing they were cut on different days as the woman is wearing a different hat in each.
One of the cards carries a printed “ghost” image of the other. This happens when silhouettes are kept pressed face-to-face in an envelope for many years. However, the “ghost” is back to front (it should be a mirror image, but is not). This tells me there is a copy of the double silhouette somewhere, mounted the other way around.
Like many artists of the day, Bálint was apparently in the habit of cutting duplicate copies of each silhouette, which he then mounted on different cards facing in opposite directions.
If you know anything more about this artist please to get in touch.
Charles Louis Barber seems to have cut freehand silhouettes al over England during the 1820s and early 30s. Coming originally from Margate he later moved to the West Country, living in various locations in Devon and Cornwall. An advertisement placed in aa 1822 Norwich newspaper indicates he was in the habit of travelling around the country.
The one silhouette I’ve seen, albeit in reproduction, looks rather good. It’s a single-line scissor cutting, indicating that it was cut fast. If cut freehand (which I assume it was) it was years ahead of its time.
This silhouette is reproduced by Sue McKecknie and seems to have come from one of the artist’s duplicate albums. The album was somehow acquired by a dealer in the US who broke it up and sold the silhouettes individually. He printed a label for them which claims that Barber cut his silhouettes freehand with scissors in just 10 seconds (a feat I cannot match).
I don’t think this silhouette, with its collar and bonnet ribbons, was cut anything like that fast, but it is an interesting silhouette.
In 1834 Barber ended up in prison for debt. This may explain why he had to sell off his duplicate albums, which cannot have been an easy decision.
If you possess a C.L. Barber silhouette in your family, whether an original or one of his repackaged duplicates, do get in touch as I’d love to see it.