From the Archives: Richard Samuel Chattock

Richard Samuel Chattock was a prolific painter and etcher of the Black Country.

Born in Solihull, where he lived and worked for the majority of his life, Chattock was a solicitor by profession but turned to art in the late 1850s.

He exhibited in London and at the RBSA between 1869 and 1891, becoming a member in 1876. Chattock also lived in London for a short period of time when he became a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers in 1881.

He often represented rural scenes and architectural subjects. He became well known for his depictions of industrial imagery of the Black Country and aimed to create an accurate depiction of this area. As described in the Art Journal:

‘He depended on careful and truthful execution for the interest given to his works, rather than in selection of his subjects; he eschews prettiness to get truthfulness, and he has reward.’

(Art Journal, 1868, p.218).

Richard Samuel Chattock, Blast Furnace, Cradley, 1872, etching, RBSA collection

This directness is presented most clearly in his etchings, such as Blast Furnace, Cradley (1872), which was included in the RBSA exhibition Baker to Bartlett: The Changing Face of RBSA Printmaking. 

This is an etching from his most famous series of the Black Country, showing the New British Iron Company Works at Cradley.

The medium produces a dark and overworked effect to express the harshness of industrial processes on the landscape, with the dense smoke pouring out of the furnace dominating the scene, along with the immense architecture of the iron works.

Although Chattock’s focus is often on the desolation of the Black Country, he also looks to what he calls ‘picturesqueness, if not beauty’ as an escape from destructive industrialisation.

Richard Samuel Chattock, Landscape with Sheep, undated, etching, RBSA collection

The rural and picturesque landscape of the English countryside is represented in the work Landscape with Sheep (undated), which is also part of the RBSA collection.

The use of detailed line shows Chattock’s attempt to record a last example of the countryside as it falls under threatened by the industrialisation seen in the Blast Furnace, Cradley.

Overall, Chattock was an accomplished printmaker. His work was unusual for the period as many of his etchings gave an unflinching representation of the darkness of the all-encompassing industrial landscape of the Black Country.

By Chloe Aspden, Undergraduate Archive Team Volunteer 2016

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