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Who is W H Mote?

Updated: 4/28/2022
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12y ago

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Very little is known about him, not even when and where he was born and died. He was an engraver mostly active between 1830 and 1850. Yet, he was still alive in 1866 as there is trace of his signing a petition about Artistic Copyright in the Journal of the Society of Arts, dated February 2d, 1866.

He engraved portraits, religious engravings (illustration in a Bible), engravings copied from paintings...

I suspect he was an American, but have no proof of it.

He was English. The art circle waas very small back in the day. Frank Stone did artwork for Charles Dickens and has famous works in his own right. W.H.Mote was THE go-to guy for engravings. I doscovered this while reading many books about the time period and acquiring provenance on older paintings.

I'm currently creating a Wikipedia page, because I cannot believe these responses. William Henry Mote (WH Mote, sometimes WT Mote) was extremely well known. He jumped to fame at the age of 16, with an engraving (overseen by the Heaths). He has a engraved portrait in the National Portrait museum, done when he was only 17 years old! He was also a member of the Royal Acadamy, and was commissioned by King George IV to do a steel etching for the Greenwich hospital. This was completed the year after King George IV died, and thus went a little bit unnoticed other then a small ceramony. He often etched royality, and important figures, although, there is mention of a landscape in one of the art publications, as well as one publication mentioning that he submitted a painting. He was born 1803, died 1871, buried

July 19, 1871 in the prestigious Highgate Cemetery of Saint James, Swains Lane, Saint Pancras.

He was closely tied to the Heaths for the entire career, although he worked with alot of publishers. The Heath's included his etchings often in their publications.

He was elected into the Royal Acadamy, of age of 28, etc. He also was known to work with alot of female artists, and publishers, etc, which was a bit unheard of at the time. There are no rumors of scandals, and he stayed married to the same women his entire life (what we might call boring, a guy who does the same thing for 50 years, and stays married to the same women, etc). His sons never really left his house, although, Edward Mote was also listed as a portrait engraver almost until 1900 in the London business directories. Mote was a WORKAHOLIC. He has 65 etches in one museum, and 12 in a Shakespeare museum, and 20 in the National Maritime museum. Unfortunatly for his son, they hay-day of steel etchings ended before his fathers death, and it was replaced with photos.

WH Mote is not given much credit, and even in one museum, then have his works listed under three names....they don't know to coalesce them.. Now we have TV's and cameras, we don't understand the popularity of these old engravers.

While one book describes the steel etching process as very difficult, clearly Mote makes it look easy, and often perhaps a bit too realistic to be called art. Critics of the day looked at his work, and critized the original artist, and didnt notice the flaws until Mote etched the paintings in B&W (lol). Some of the later work might have a bit more artistic flare, and a focus to the etching.

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When he was really young, King George IV made a bit of a wild remark, "That artists should sign their work so that the public can tell good art from bad". (There is an essay there, but anyway).... As a result, after that point, most etchings were signed on the right, and the original artist (or an gun-for-hire-artist)'s name would appear on the left.

It was not unheard of for an engraver to hire an artist, and then he would engrave the art work after the artist completed it. This is how books were made.

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Without a computer search, I cannot immagine the nightmare of following this guy. His family has a propensity to name their first son, William Henry and the second son, Edward, and they lived down the street from the lawyer-cousins (William and Edward). This is likely largly why not much is known, we are now only reciently able to seporate all the William Henry Mote's. (During some years, there were four William's Mote's living on the same street all approximatly the same age.).

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While his plates and others brought 4,200 at auction in 1833 (adjusted for inflation, this is 370,000 in 2010, however, I could not sell six engravings for $20 on eBay).

I think, this is because his engravings are photo like, and while photo-like, lack any artist expression (other then large doe eyes for the women). Today, we'd just take a picture. While there were many engravers in London in the mid-1800's, this guy rose to the top.

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It's amazing, that this guy has at least 101 engravings in Museum's (of other people), and a ton on wikipedia, but we still do not respect him....

oh...His works are being reprinted in books, and being resold today. They colorized the plates, and these "fakes" have resurfaced on eBay...(they are fakes because they were not pressed onto the paper, and etching does not scan correctly and can be wavy.).

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12y ago
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