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Sunday 27 September 2020

Charles Keene’s etching, “Lady Reading a Book”, 1860

Charles Keene (aka Charles Samuel Keene) (1823–1891)

“Lady Reading a Book” (aka “Lady in 1860 Reading a Book"; “Girl with a Book” [Lumsden title]), 1860, from the 1903 edition of 21 of Keene’s etchings printed in an edition of 150 copies before the plates were cancelled and illustrated in E.S Lumsden's (1962) "The Art of Etching” (New York, Dover, p. 270; illus. p. 271). This is one of Keene’s most famous etchings and Lumsden (1962) proposes that the “rich blacks, the luminosity and the poise of the delicate head are beyond praise” (ibid).

The British Museum offers the following information about the 1903 edition:

“Twenty-one Etchings by Charles S. Keene. Printed by F. Goulding. Introduction and Notes by M. H. Spielmann" (London, The Astolat Press) 1903; a portfolio of 21 individually mounted prints depicting various figurative and landscape subjects, including Mrs Heseltine knitting, a woman reading, Mme. Zambaco drawing, a man playing the cello, an old man by a stove, men and women in historical costume, and other character studies, views of buildings, interiors, and scenes on canals and coasts. With letterpress titlepage, introduction and notes on the etchings in four separate fascicles. Held in a blue paper wrapper kept within original red cloth portfolio” (

Etching with pale plate tone on fine Japanese paper attached to a support sheet (as published).

Size: (sheet) 20.2 x 16.2 cm; (plate) 15.9 x 12.7 cm.

Signed on plate with ligature monogram at lower left: “CK”.

Inscribed on plate at left with the etched biting times for the printing plate: “1st Bite 20 M[ins]/ 2nd [bite] 15”. Interestingly, based on the biting times for the plate, Lumsden (1962) proposes that Keene’s “acid cannot have been as strong as half-and-half nitric” (ibid).

Pennell & Chesson 9 (Joseph Pennell & Wilfrid Hugh Chesson 1897, “The work of Charles Keene; with an introduction & comments on the drawings illustrating the artist's methods”, New York, R.H. Russell, p. 271, cat. no. 9; see this publication online at

For those interested in the splendid gown worn by the young lady portrayed and the identity of the sitter, Pennell & Chesson (1897) offer the following description:

“Wears crinoline and Montero hat with two white feathers and a chignon. … Mrs. A.J. Hipkins was told it was a portrait of the artist's sister” (p. 271).

Condition: richly linked, strong impression with margins and attached to a support sheet (as published?) along the upper edge. The sheet is in near pristine condition with no tears, holes, folds, losses, abrasions, stains, foxing or signs of handling.

I am selling this famous etching possibly created after being spurred on by the artist’s friendship with James Whistler, for the total cost of AU$364 (currently US$256/EUR219.98/GBP200.87 at the time of this listing) including Express Mail (EMS) postage and handling to anywhere in the world, but not (of course) any import duties/taxes imposed by some countries.

If you are interested in purchasing this rare etching by one of the major 19th century graphic artists known for his illustrations in Punch magazine, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy.

This print has been sold

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