The subject of the ovals presents a nostalgic picture of rural life in early nineteenth century. The foreground of each picture is dominated by the subject matter of the title, the background is uncluttered, with just sufficient detail to complete the picture. The ovals are well produced, brilliant in color and have become collectors’ items.
The ovals are a set of thirty-two prints, each measuring 6 1/2″ x 5″ and are printed in the center of a mount 10″ x 8″. Each picture is surrounded by an embossed rim, and the title and serial number of the print are embossed in a small panel in the bottom right-hand corner of the mount.
List of Ovals
There are 32 ovals. First I list them alphabetically, and then by order according to an early LeBlond prints researcher. Click on the titles to see the print and get more information.
Alphabetical List of LeBlond Ovals
Crossing the Brook
Learning to Ride
‘Please Remember the Grotto’
The 5th of November
The Bird’s Nest
The Blackberry Gatherers
The Cherry Seller
The Dancing Dogs
The Fisherman’s Hut
The Image Boy
The Leisure Hour
The Mill Stream – Towing the Prize
The Pet Rabbits
The Soldier’s Return
The Sailor’s Departure
The Village Spring
The Wedding Day
The Young Angler
Waiting at the Ferry
List of LeBlond Ovals from C.T. Courtney Lewis’ Book
86. The Image Boy. Le Blond, No. 49.
87. ‘Please Remember the Grotto.’ Le Blond, No. 50.
88. Good News. Le Blond, No. 72.
89. The Burning-glass. Le Blond, No. 73.
90. Blowing Bubbles. Le Blond, No. 74.
91. The Pet Rabbits. Le Blond, No. 75.
92. The Blackberry Gatherers. Le Blond, No. 76.
93. The Soldier’s Return. Le Blond, No. 77.
94. The Sailor’s Departure. Le Blond, No. 78.
95. The Gleaners. Le Blond, No. 79.
96. The Mill Stream – Towing the Prize. Le Blond, No. 80.
97. The Cherry Seller. Le Blond, No. 81.
98. The Pedler. Le Blond, No. 82.
99. The Showman. Le Blond, No. 83.
100. The Young Angler. Le Blond, No. 84.
101. May Day. Le Blond, No. 85.
102. The 5th of November. Le Blond, No. 86.
103. Crossing the Brook. Le Blond, No. 87.
104. The Village Spring. Le Blond, No. 88.
105. Snowballing. Le Blond, No. 89.
106. The Fisherman’s Hut. Le Blond, No. 90.
107. Waiting at the Ferry. Le Blond, No. 91.
108. The Swing. Le Blond, No. 92.
109. The Bird’s Nest. Le Blond, No. 93.
110. Grandfather’s Pipe. Le Blond, No. 99.
111. Grandmother’s Snuff-box. Le Blond, No. 100.
112. Sunday Morning. Le Blond, No. 101.
113. The Wedding Day. Le Blond, No. 102.
114. The Dancing Dogs. Le Blond, No. 103.
115. Learning to Ride. Le Blond, No. 104.
116. Moonlight. Le Blond, No. 111.
117. The Leisure Hour. Le Blond, No. 112.
Read the chapter on ovals from The LeBlond Book by C.T. Courtney Lewis:
In the charming set of thirty-two pictures, all alike in size and manner of production, and from their uniformity of shape generally known as the ‘Ovals,’ Le Blond has left behind him, for our enjoyment, that which alone will probably mark him out for popular appreciation more than any other of the licensees. In this series he is at his best, and shows now no mere servile imitation of his instructor’s ways, but independence and originality in several respects, as well as admirable technical skill. For the latter, there may be good reasons, which we will give later on; and as to the former, to mention only one particular, it will be observed how completely he has broken away from the Baxter tradition as regards the mounting; for whilst the patentee always made his prints adhere to the mount, the licensee has actually printed his on the mounts themselves. Embossing was much used about this period for ornamental purposes. Except at times for his seal, Baxter never employed it: on the contrary, as will be noticed, Le Blond not only often availed himself of it for describing his subject and adding the number of his print, but also for the rim or border round the picture, which will be found, in the case of these ‘ovals,’ in two patterns. Although Le Blond has ‘signed’—and we use the term in the same send here as we do in the ‘Picture Printer,’ and as it is not generally understood—everyone of these prints, unfortunately, he has not added anywhere any dates, nor given the name of any painters from whose pictures they may have been taken; and in these respects we regret his departure from the Baxter method, for he thereby leaves us on both points in a state of uncertainty of knowledge.
Baxter, by the year 1854, had published those excellent prints ‘So Nice,’ ‘Me warm now,’ ‘Morning Call,’ ‘Copper, your Honour,’ ‘So Tired,’ ‘News from Home,’ and others, which we think became at once, as they deserved to be, very popular. They were of uniform size, and were all, most likely, with variations, from pictures, but were not as a rule admitted to be copied from any artist’s work; and were added to in later years by ‘Short Change,’ ‘Stolen Pleasures,’ ‘So Nasty,’ ‘Infantine Jealousy,’ ‘ News from Australia,’ ‘Christmas Time,’ ‘See-saw,’ and others, and the whole together make a most excellent series; and we think it is very likely they furnished Le Blond with the idea for the ‘ovals’ on something of the same lines. As to the dates of production, we should say that, like the Baxter series we have mentioned, they were published fitfully, and began about 1854 on the expiry of the patent; were renewed about the time of peace after the Crimean War in 1855 with the print of ‘Good News’; continued for a few years; that then there was something of a hiatus during the 1862 Exhibition, and were not ended until about 1867. There is little to guide us to this conclusion beyond surmise; but we notice, in the first place, nowhere is the word ‘licensees’ employed as it is with so large a proportion of the small landscapes, the small figure and fancy subjects, and the Regal series; we imagine the omission was not accidental, and seems to indicate that the process was not then a protected one; and this would bring us to 1854. Again, although two or three prints were produced before, yet the great majority of the series was produced after, the publication of the prints of the ‘Crystal Palace, Sydenha,’ which building not being opened until 1854 the representation could hardly be produced before, or much before that event; and further, we suspect that the ‘Departure of the Sailor’ and the ‘Return of the Soldier’ appeared about the time of the return of the troops from the Crimean War in 1855, and, finally, eight of them at least were published after the print of the Exhibition of 1862, which would be probably in the same year, and also after that of the large ‘Windsor Castle,’ which did not appear until 1865, so that some thirteen years elapsed before the series was complete. As to the designs, it is worthy of observation that, although in the list of Le Blond’s oil prints, set out in Chapter IV, Part I, and which list (from Le Blond No. 49) is taken from his own list, as issued by him in 1868, and re-published in the ‘Bazaar’ in 1898, it will be seen that there are artists’ names given by him for several of his other prints; in the case of the ‘ovals,’ not one has any painter’s name appended. This would give some colour to the belief that they were all original designs: as one would hardly expect that he would adopt the work of others—especially of contemporaries—without at least giving to them some recognition of their share in the creation. But yet, inasmuch as there was not then any copyright in a painting, and other printers—including Baxter—did not hesitate to appropriate designs without any acknowledgement of the source of their inspiration, it is just possible Le Blond may have done the same. But they are certainly not all, if any of them, original designs; for we are able to give in our catalogue, in some cases, the name of the artist from whose painting these prints were taken; and we shall be grateful to any reader who can give us others, for we feel convinced it will be found that they are all taken from pictures. Copyright in works of art was established in 1862, and all those prints to which he has stated the artist’s name were produced in or after that year; but that, we may observe, would not prevent pictures from old masters or other long-defunct artists from being copied.
It is no wonder these prints have become popular, whether it be for their brilliancy of colour and accurate register, or for the agreeable nature of the subjects given to us. All of them represent scenes of a bygone age: of the days when ‘Dancing Dogs,’ ‘Jacks-in-the-green,’ ‘Image Boys,’ ‘Itinerant Showman,’ ‘Oyster Grottoes,’ and other almost forgotten oddities, were common objects of the village streets. They all depict life as it was in the days of our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents in rural England: the homes, habitats, and habiliments of the people, their labours and pleasures. They present no futurist puzzles to work out, no crafty and subtle designs to put our brains upon the rack, no problem pictures to set you guessing what the weeping lady is saying to the moody gentleman in evening clothes, nor any single unpleasant thing: just simply the leafy lanes and the green trees that Le Blond loved so well; the village church, the fun and mischief of happy childhood, the faithful dog, the cottage homes, and village scenes of those days—good, peaceful, wholesome pictures we can hang on the walls of our houses with pleasure to old and young alike and offence to none, and yet each one tells a homely and interesting story. Burns gave poetically the rural pleasures and rural scenes of his native Scotland. Le Blond has done that for us pictorially in England. We think each was produced from a separate plate—as the print was impressed direct on the mount, it almost of necessity must have been—the name of the subject as well as the Le Blond number being always embossed in the right-hand bottom corner of the mount and never in any other way or position. There are many prints on the market which have neither the embossed rim nor the name of the subject, and which usually are uncut, and thus show the pinholes used for the blocks. These are not so much in favour; and although we quite sympathise with those who prefer complete prints, as Le Blond published them, in preference to unfinished specimens, yet, on the other hand, for those who desire to frame with an overmount, these answer the purpose, when genuine, as well, as in quality of printing they are quite as good; but we say ‘when genuine’ advisedly, for there are some quite modern reprints, and some of them are on mounts. Naturally, as the plates and blocks were impressed on the mounts in the manner we have before indicated, the border being embossed afterwards, the plates, unlike those of Baxter, would have no names of the subject or other marks on them underneath. It may not unreasonable be asked why these ‘ovals’ should be so exceptionally good. The answer is, there are several reasons for it. About the time of Le Blond’s death in 1894, which synchronised with the cessation of the business, his manager, Mr. Wright, whom Le Blond considered–and who doubtless was–a highly accomplished worker and artist, had been then (so Le Blond said) in his employ for upwards of forty years, and previously to his going there he had been for some years with George Baxter. It was common in those days for skilled workers to go to rival firms. The exact date that Mr. Wright entered or left Baxter’s service we cannot say for certainty; but we have it on the evidence of Mr. Wright himself that he printed, amongst others, Baxter’s prints of ‘Knibb,’ the second variety of ‘Williams and Moffat,’ ‘The Wesleyan Chapel, Popham’s Broadway,’ ‘ Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives,’ ‘Long Walk, Windsor,’ and ‘London from Greenwich Observatory’; and in writing to the ‘Bazaar’ in November 1897, Mr. Wright says he had a share in printing the small ‘Bride.’ Now all these prints were published in or between 1846 and 1849, so that it seems certain he went to Le Blond some time after this latter year. Now, as readers of the ‘Picture Printer’ know well, Mr. Wright had a very high opinion of George Baxter and his art, and we can quite imagine he would like to continue the patent process. And so with the coming of Mr. Wright to Le Blond about this time, and the expiry of the patent, a new era in the colour-printing department of his firm would arise. For Mr. Wright would bring with him not only zeal in a new position, but a much more full, accurate, and intimate acquaintance with the patentee’s methods, ideas, and ideals, as well as experience of the inks, paper, and metals employed, and how the colours were applied, than they could have obtained as licensees before then–more especially as we know Baxter’s reticence and rooted objection to imparting more information in these respects than he could help. And, furthermore, he would be able to employ his knowledge exactly as he pleased, as the law had now ceased to afford any protection to the patentee; and we believe that the beginning of these ‘ovals’ was Mr. Wright’s first great effort in Le Blond’s service. But not only this, but it was Mr. Gleader (or Gleadah), a gentleman of great talent and reputation as an aquatinter, and who had engraved many of Baxter’s plates, and who died in Le Blond’s service about 1874, who was employed–perhaps at the instigation of Mr. Wright–in a similar manner for the plates of the ‘ovals,’ and further assistance was given in the blocks by other competent hands. Here, then, was a powerful combination of circumstances, to which we may probably attribute the excellence of these productions. It must always be borne in mind that a very great deal of the merit of this kind of print lies in the knowledge of the workmen employed, especially as to the arrangement of the order of printing the colours on the work, and particularly so as to the inks used; for Le Blond, like Baxter–and here, once again, it may have originated at Le Blond’s on the initiative of Mr. Wright–always made his own inks. Some collectors prefer the prints bearing the signature of Le Blond only to those having the American one as well.
What personal share of the workmanship, if any, Le Blond had in these prints it is not only easy to say; but at least he was responsible for giving them to the public. He must have been a kindly, simple man, and, from such correspondence of his as we have read, we gather of such a nature was he. And we commend this, his finest series of prints, with the greatest confidence to all who recognise in him a kindred soul.