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SPARKS, Nathaniel (1880-1957)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1744 RE SPARKS
Held at: Bankside Gallery
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Full title: SPARKS, Nathaniel (1880-1957)
Date(s): 1916-1923
Level of description: subfonds
Extent: 1 file
Name of creator(s): Sparks | Nathaniel | 1880-1957 | engraver


Administrative/Biographical history:

Nathaniel Sparks was born on 18 Jun 1880 in Bristol, the second son of Nathaniel Sparks Snr, a violin restorer. He was educated privately until the age of 10 when won a scholarship to The Bristol College of Art and Science, where he came under the tutelage of R Bush, ARE. Another scholarship brought him, aged 20, to the Royal College of Art (RCA), London, where Frank Short, President of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (RE), was Head of the Engraving School.

Whilst studying he was commissioned by J McN Whistler to pull (print) his `Venice Set' and in 1905 he received a Diploma in Decorative Painting from the Royal Academy and was made an Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers (ARE).
1906 saw the first of a long line of annual exhibits at both the Royal Academy (RA) and the RE. In 1909, he was elected a Fellow of the RE and won a Gold Medal for Outstanding Artwork.

During the World War 1, he was employed making gauges for the munitions factories, engraving the fine calibration required for accurate machining. Following the end of the War, the rise of photography led to a decline in the demand for the engravers' skills. Sparks continued to produce prints and watercolours, but faded into old age and obscurity. His printing press was blown up by a German bomb in 1940.
He died in Somerton, Somerset in 29 August 1957.

Malcolm Osborne was born at Frome, Somerset, 1 August 1880, the fourth son of Alfred Osborne, Schoolmaster. He was educated at the Merchant Venturers' Technical College, Bristol, and the Royal Coll. of Art, South Kensington, 1901-1906, where he studied etching and engraving under Sir Frank Short, RA, PRE. Osborne served in Artists' Rifles and 60th Division in France, Salonika and Palestine during World War 1, and was later Professor of Engraving at the Royal College of Art, ARA 1918. He held the position of President Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, from 1938-1962, and was awarded CBE 1948; RA 1926; PPRE, ARCA.
In 1927, he married Amy Margaret Stableford. He died on 22 September 1963. Publications: Etched Plates.

Alfred Bentley was born in 1879, the youngest son of Capt. W. E. Bentley, FRGS. He was educated at the Royal College of Art, South Kensington, London, where he studied etching and engraving under Sir Frank Short. He also became a lifelong friend of his fellow classmate, Malcolm Osborne (1880-1963), with whom he went on etching tours in France, frequently working together and sharing the same studio.
In April 1915, he joined the Artists' Rifles, April 1915, was gazetted to Norfolk Regiment and served in France (MC). Bentley was elected an Associate of the Royal Engravers in 1908 and became a full member in 1913. He was awarded and ARCA London.
Bentley was a recognised artist, exhibiting his etchings and drypoint engravings at both the Royal Academy, London, and the Royal Scottish Academy, as well as in all the principal galleries in England and abroad. Morlaix, Brittany was Bentley's last work of art. It was commissioned by the Print Collector's Club in 1923. This drypoint engraving was also selected for the publication, Fine Prints of the Year, 1923.
He died on 18 February 1923 of complications due to World War 1 related wounds.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Nathaniel Sparks including letters to Sparks from Alfred Bentley, artist and drypoint engraver, 1916-1917, with 2 photographs; and letters and photographs from Malcolm Osborne, 1916-1925.

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.

Collection of Sparks' prints held by the Guildhall Library, London.

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Nathaniel Sparks, memoirs of Thomas Hardy's cousin, the engraver, Celia Barclay, Cock Inn Publishing, Greenwich, 1994

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Who's Who 1897-1996 CD-ROM (A & C Black); Nathanial Sparks Gallery online (; and Compiled by Alison Field as part of the London Signpost Survey Project.

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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