Robert Pollard and his son, James, worked together for a long time and earned a good, well-deserved reputation as artists, engravers and editors of refined prints. Robert grew up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne where as a boy he was a good friend to Thomas Bewick, a famous wood engraver.
Around 1816 James paid much attention to etching and aquatint, the most fashionable method of printing outdoor subjects, with which he represented fishing scenes. Like his father 35 years before, James also accepted external commissions.
Then something happened that changed Pollard’s life in an irreversible way. At the beginning of 1821, Edward Orme, the king’s print seller, who had seen James’s works, asked him to paint a wooden sign for a tavern on the Norwich Road, depicting a post carriage with horses and passengers. Once James had finished it, Orme displayed it in his shop window in Bond Street. The pedestrians loved it.
The Austrian ambassador wanted to buy it immediately and they had to persuade him to accept a second version that James rapidly made for him on canvas. Soon other orders followed and one of his main horseback riding works was shown at the Royal Academy.
After 1823 the Pollards didn’t produce any fishing prints till the early 1800, and they were all James’s work. It was about in 1830 when he was already 39, that he got back to the representation of fly fishing scenes.
Pollard is said to have been “probably at the peak of joy when he fished.” His fly fishing images have a very personal and intimate style, as if they had a special meaning to him.
It is a pity that most of them were not reproduced as prints. The few prints of fishing scenes made by James Pollard have not been definitely catalogued, though many of them can be collected here and there.
There are many reasons why James’s production of prints with fishing scenes is a bit confusing: the use of the same title for different images, the absence of publication dates, the name of the engraver which is not mentioned, the new editions with all data concerning the publication removed from the printing plan and, lastly, pirated new editions made by other engravers. These problems seldom appear together and the rarity of Pollard’s prints with fishing scenes doesn’t make the matter clearer.
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