Hamlet

Artist: Beggarstaff Sir William Nicholson - English (1872-1949) & James Pryde - Scottish (1866-1941)

Title: Hamlet

Plate: PL. 107

Description: Condition A.
Original lithograph from "Les Maitres de L'Affiche" series. 
Printed by Imprimerie Chaix, Paris, 1898. 
Presented in 16 x 20 in. acid free, archival museum mat, with framing labels. Ready to frame. Shipped boxed flat via Fedex. 
Certificate of Authenticity.

Maitre Sheet Size: 11 3/8 in x 15 3/4 in 29 cm x 40 cm

Price: $1250.00 Rare

"Pryde and Nicholson made an arresting design (now no longer extant) in which the pictorial motif was a profile view of Hamlet holding Yorick's skull…

Sir Laurence Olivier as Hamlet (1948)


The figure of the Prince of Denmark, a silhouette cut out of black paper, is composed of a flat, ungraduated black that contrasts with the pale tone of the lining of the robe and the bone white of the skull. The severity of the silhouette is heightened by the angularity of the outline, that of the feet and hair in particular showing the characteristic effects of scissors. Although the forms are simplified to a degree, some small-scale details (such as Hamlet's ring) are important components of the composition (their first poster)…

Edward Gordon Craig, British actor and director. Played Hamlet at the Olympic Theatre,1897


(The Actor) Edward Gordon Craig was to recall seeing the printing of the poster taking place… 'Nicholson printed the thing by hand, quite amazingly. He had a long table and on this he laid a great roll of brown paper, and unrolled it as he stencilled the life-size figure of Hamlet over and over again. It was quite an achievement, but just in Nicholson's line. Pryde was usually upstairs in bed. Mrs Nicholson was preparing a three cornered steak.' These were the circumstances in which the first product of the new partnership was created.


Edward Gordon Craig commissioned this advertising poster from Pryde and Nicholson. They signed it with a pseudonym. It is possible that they did not want their excursion into commercial art to prejudice their careers as painters in any way, but there is no concrete evidence that they wished to conceal their real identities, and they seem simply to have regarded a single pseudonym as a conveniently brief alternative to their own two names, and an appropriate symbol of the idea that their work was the product of equal endeavor.

When the anonymous reporter from The Idler asked the artists a year or two later how they came to choose the soubriquet “Beggarstaff,” Nicholson explained that “Pryde and I came across it one day in an old stable, on a sack of fodder. It is a good, hearty, old English name, and it appealed to us; so we adopted it immediately.”

Pryde’s later version of how the name was discovered varies slightly from Nicholson’s, (Pryde believed that it was he alone who had discovered the name and suggested its use), but his account is substantially the same.

Initially Pryde and Nicholson signed themselves J & W. Beggarstaff, and in due course this led a number of their admirers to refer to them as the Beggarstaff brothers. However, the artists themselves, although brothers-in-law, hardly ever employed this description, and Nicholson in particular protested against the use of the word brothers." (Beggarstaff Catalogue Raisonne)