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SHORT, Sir Francis Job (1857-1945)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1744 RE SHORT
Held at: Bankside Gallery
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Full title: SHORT, Sir Francis Job (1857-1945)
Date(s): c1905-1924
Level of description: sub fonds
Extent: 3 boxes
Name of creator(s): Short | Sir | Francis Job (Frank) | 1857-1945 | etcher and engraver | Knight


Administrative/Biographical history:

: Frank Short was born on 19 June 1857, at Wollaston, Worcester, the only son of Job Till Short, engineer, and his wife, Emma Millward. Leaving school at the age of thirteen, Short trained as an engineer, and was an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers from 1883 until his resignation in 1904. For a short time he attended evening classes in the Stourbridge School of Art and then, after a period of engineering work in London, abandoned this profession and entered the National Art Training School (later the Royal College of Art), South Kensington, also attending a life class at the Westminster School of Art, under Frederick Brown.

While still a student at South Kensington in 1885 Short won high approval from John Ruskin for some of his mezzotints after Turner's `Liber Studiorum'. With Ruskin's encouragement he devoted much of his life to the reproduction of Turner's paintings, and mezzotinted forty plates of the `Liber', including thirty based on unpublished plates or unengraved drawings.

Short revived mezzotint and made it a new and living art in his translations not only of Turner, but of Reynolds, Constable, De Wint, Watts, and other painters. He showed new possibilities for the medium in using its qualities of tone and mass for his original landscapes, such as `The Lifting Cloud' (1901), and `When the Weary Moon was in the Wane' (1894). Entirely his own, too, was his work in aquatint, another method which he revived and developed. Using his engineering skills he made his own tools and invented new ones.

His early work as an etcher won praise from J A M Whistler who, from 1888 to 1900, frequently visited Short's studio for help with matters of technique or of printing. Short's etched work in bitten line, or dry-point, or soft-ground, was a direct interpretation of nature by means of straightforward, frequently outdoor, work upon the plate. Like Rembrandt and Whistler, he believed firmly in purity of line and clean printing, as may be seen in such plates as `Sleeping till the Flood' (1887), `Low Tide and the Evening Star and Rye's Long Pier Deserted' (1888), and `A Wintry Blast on the Stourbridge Canal' (1890).

Short's outstanding powers led to his appointment in 1891 as teacher of etching at South Kensington; he later became professor of engraving, and retired in 1924.

He was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI) in 1917, but although he was interested in painting, and produced scholarly and poetic water-colours throughout his life, his main work lay in etching and engraving. He had been elected a fellow of the (Royal) Society of Painter-Etchers in 1885, and he succeeded Sir F Seymour Haden as second president in 1910, retiring in 1938. He was elected A.R.A. in 1906, the R.A. (the first engraver to reach the higher rank) in 1911; and was treasurer of the Royal Academy from 1919 to 1932. He was awarded gold medals for engraving at Paris in 1889 and 1900; and was master of the Art-Workers' Guild in 1901. He was knighted in 1911.

Short married in 1889 Esther Rosamond Barker (died 1925), and had one son, who died on active service in 1916, and one daughter. He died at Ditchling, Sussex, 22 April 1945.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Sir Frank Short comprising notebooks c1905-1924; photographs; letters 1889-1924; drawings, and experimental work; monographs, 1912, 1920; copper plates, and account book of William Bernard Cooke (1778-1855, engraver) with J M W Turner, 1822-1825.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

By appointment, contact the Archivist of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, in the first instance, Bankside Gallery, 48 Hopton St, Blackfriars, London SE1 9JH.

Conditions governing reproduction:

At the discretion of the Archivist.

Finding aids:


Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated to the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Archives of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, held at Bankside Gallery.

Miscellaneous correspondence, 1906-1932, (Ref: DD/277, DD/280) held by Hammersmith and Fulham Archives and Local History Centre.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

The Etched and Engraved Work of Sir Frank Short, Martin Hardie, 3 vols, Print Collectors' Club, 1938-40.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Alison Field as part of the London Signpost Survey Project. Sources: Historical Manuscripts Commission's On-Line National Register of Archives; Dictionary of National Biography CD-ROM (Oxford University Press, 1995)

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
September 2003

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