Joseph Williams

(also known as Joseph Hope-Williams)

Artist and Stage Designer

18 Lower Luton Rd, Wheathampstead, Herts,
AL4 8QZ, England
Tel: (+44) 01582 833992

Juvenile Drama
Penny Plain / Twopence Coloured
Tinsel Pictures

in the Victorian style

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Biography of Joseph

Penny Plain / Twopence Coloured
Mr. Joseph Williams, the very 'Last living creator' of this art form

(Mr. Joseph Williams did much of his work under the names of Mr Hope, Joseph Hope and Joseph Hope-Williams.)

Born on 29th September, 1937, Mr. Hope is probably the only artist alive who still produces these prints, to his own designs and in the traditional manner.  He is keeping alive an art form that began in 1812, had its heyday in the 1850's, and by the end of that century had all but died.  The last of the original publishers, Pollock and Webb (who, with a few exceptions were only reproducing older designs), died in the 1930's. With their death ended a long tradition of entertainment for young, and not so young, adults.  An art form that has fascinated many famous people, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Charlie Chaplin, The Sitwell family, etc.

The picture on the right shows Joseph about 1970.

Mr Hope's work covers the whole traditional spectrum of formats, from complete plays, to model theatres, from tinsel pictures to favourite fours.  Mr. Hope uses the original old techniques, which he learnt mainly from extensive research in London museums.  For example, Mr. Hope mixes, by hand, all his colours, he has the old recipes whose ingredients include beer, gum, etc.  This enables him to capture the brightness of colour that makes these prints so dramatic.


Penny plain / Twopence coloured

In 1951, on his 14th birthday, Mr. Hope received a Pollock (Alan Keen version) theatre & 3 modern colour lithographed plays.  An early fascination soon became an obsession.  On realising that the style went back around 150 years, he began drawing his own designs.  He taught himself the methods of cross hatching to represent different materials, i.e., 'lozenge' represents cloth, etc.  These follow movements, to determine a set of rudiments in Old English Drawing, as practised by Hogarth, etc.  Studying the figures on the old prints, he found certain likenesses, small feet, billowing locks of hair, the men muscular and determined, women with corkscrew ringlets, tiny waists, and swan like necks-feeble and frail.  So shortly after his early experiments, he decided to create his own world of Twopence Coloured.  He went to an old art dealer (Harry Dyer) in Great Yarmouth, who helped supply the copper plates, etc, and advised him on techniques.  Whilst waiting for the order to arrive he drew his first portrait-'Mr Cooke in The Waterman'.  So the drawing was transferred to the copper, the acid applied and he had his first plate.  Using initiative he managed to produce his first print by passing the plate and paper through his mothers 'Acme' wringer.  He soon discovered he could print on fabric as well, by tearing a piece from an old chair and passing that through the mangle too.  He now began to research the old colour techniques.  He later took his first design to London and sold it to the first dealer he came to, a bookseller in Cecil Court, for 30/-.  With this encouragement, he was set to continue.  His working life began when he applied for a job as usher at the Theatre Royal, Norwich.  Whilst there, an encounter with the show people who were putting on a pantomime led to him working as a scene painter for 20 years.  His career prematurely ended with ill health, and since then he has concentrated on the production of these prints, displaying his work in the occasional exhibition. This is the first time that anyone has attempted to catalogue and sell his work to the wider audience that it deserves.

Mr. Hope has a stock of over 100 plates. He prints on a small hand operated press in cramped conditions, just as many of the old publishers would have done.


Tinsel pictures

Mr. Hope started producing tinsel pictures in the 1960's. These pictures are produced using the larger dramatic portraits, the areas of the print are gradually cut away and replaced with printed cloth, for clothes; embossed foil, 'tinsel', for pistols, shields, buckles, etc.  And leather or lace, etc for various accessories.  These are his best sellers. He makes all his own dies to stamp out the foil ornaments for each portrait.  These are incredibly tiny detailed works, some items even have lettering.  On St. George's shield for example is 'A true Knight am I, Anger me & try' a phrase Mr. Hope found in an old manuscript in the British Museum.  The work is so intricate and time consuming, that it takes up to a fortnight to complete all the stages to produce each batch of tinsel pictures.  Many tinsel pieces are used on one print alone, but others such as buckles, cutlasses, etc, he has produced more than one, so a choice is possible.  The whole produces a very unusual 'collage' effect.  Nineteenth century originals in this form cost hundreds of pounds, and are very rare.  Most having been bought by American buyers.

Oil on glass

Mr. Hope is also probably the only Juvenile Drama artist to have ever worked in oil on glass, on the reverse. The late 18th & early 19th Century examples usually depict subjects like 'The Four Seasons', and he has his own versions of these prints.  Nelson was popular, but shipping scenes generally are rare.  He has developed his own techniques. When viewed from the front, the vision shows through the glass and layers of paint.  A true glass picture takes time to 'ripen', after about ten years, the paint 'eats' through the support and the real magic starts. The colours take on and acquire all the beauty of 15th & 16th Century originals.  Due to the fragile nature of these items, they are not offered here. These could be considered where the buyer is able to collect.


I hope that you find something of interest here, they are fascinating prints capturing all of the charm of the early originals, and being somewhat 'caricature' in their nature.  But at the same time Mr. Hope has uniquely produced modern subjects in the old style.  A most accomplished artist.


All pictures Joseph Williams 

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