James E. Jeffreys

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This creative and varied collection by the artist James E. Jeffreys is a rich dichotomy of images ranging from the highly mechanical and industrial, all the way to the rural, the illustrative and the whimsical. Executed over an extended time period - between 1869 and 1890 - they capture the meteoric expansion of visual knowledge available to Victorian audiences over the last quarter of the nineteenth-century.

Not much is known about Jeffreys, but it is certain that he was abreast in the visual culture that surrounded him. He may have lived in Stratford, near London, as there are multiple drawings of buildings in that area depicted in this collection. His drawings are indicative of an artist’s working educational practice, using popular prints and illustrations on one hand for detailed copy work, while on the other using rural and pastoral subjects for more creative expression with colour and freehand drawing.

Due to the wide range of subject matter, as well as their historical nature - his copies from the 1851 Great Exhibition, for example, are dated to the 1870s - it is likely Jeffreys was working from a family and public library. With an expert grasp on the graphite medium, and the occasional spirited dabble of watercolour; this collection is a fascinating insight into one man’s quest for an artistic education.