The muddy Doves type

The murky story of the Doves Press, a tale of bitterness and vengeance.


First page of the five volume Doves Press Bible

It’s exactly 100 years since an elderly man carried out a drawn out act of conspicuous vengeance against his one-time business partner. Over the six months from August 1916, Thomas Cobden-Sanderson, at dusk and in the dark, threw more than a tonne of metal type pieces into the Thames, just to stop it ever getting into the hands of the man who designed it, Emery Walker.

Embittered by an acrimonious dispute over ownership of the Doves typeface, which had been created by Walker at Cobden-Sanderson’s behest, and even though after the partnership dissolved in 1909 Cobden-Sanderson gained usage rights to the typeface for the duration of his lifetime, upon his death in 1922 it was revealed that the typeface had been ‘bequeathed to the Thames’.

The Doves Press had been established in 1900 by Cobden-Sanderson, then aged 59, and Emery Walker, ten years his junior. After a first career as a barrister, Cobden-Sanderson became a bookbinder at the urging of his friends William and Jane Morris.  Emery Walker, an engraver and printer, and collector of medieval books, was also a friend of the Morrises.  William Morris, of course, is well known as the father of the Arts and Crafts Movement, a term in fact created by Emery Walker when, together with Morris, he set up the first Arts & Crafts Exhibition Society.  Morris also started his own private press, The Kelmscott Press in 1891 for which he also created his own typefaces, Golden, Troy and Kelmscott.

The private press movement began in the late nineteenth century in response to the increasingly mechanised methods of book production wrought by the industrial revolution.  Traditional skills and jobs were being lost: punch cutters, typecasters, typesetters, printers, papermakers, bookbinders. Private press owners set about reviving the craft of making books using high quality ingredients: hand made paper, high quality ink, vellum bindings with gold tooling, and often designing their own typefaces. The Doves Press was a major contributor to the private press movement of the twentieth century.

Cobden-Sanderson wanted to create the highly desirable ‘book beautiful’, an ideal based on the medieval and pre-printing press era illuminated manuscripts.  The thing that sets Doves Press books apart from other private press offerings of the Arts and Crafts Movement is that there are very few, if any, illustrations within its pages, relying instead on the beauty of the typography and clarity of the printed page.

In 2013, East London graphic designer, Robert Green, engaged the Port of London Authority’s divers to search the murky river bed around the Hammersmith Bridge for the tiny pieces of type that Cobden-Sanderson had flung there.  After years of research and attempts to recreate Doves type for use in this digital age, Green knew he needed to try and find at least a piece of the original.  He found over 150 pieces.


Robert Green’s digital Doves Press typeface. Photo:

The fight over the Doves“, The Economist, December 21, 2013
William Morris and the Private Press,
“The ‘Other Man’ Behind the Private Press Movement”, BookTryst Blog
Doves Type,
Further reading:
BBC Radio 4 audio documentary, “An Obsessive Type: the Tale of the Doves Typeface.”



Luminous: Australian Watercolours 1900-2000

Hello art lovers!

Let me introduce you to a couple of Australian artists I knew nothing about a fortnight ago. That was when one of my art teachers, Tim Jones, took a group of us along to NGV Fed Square’s Luminous: Australian Watercolours 1900-2000 exhibition.

Australian modernist artist Frank Hinder (1906-1992) was born in and studied art in Sydney before going abroad to Chicago, New York and New Mexico during the 1920s and 1930s. Hinder was one of the first to exhibit abstract works in Australia.

Ludwig Hirschfeld Mack trained under Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee at the Bauhaus, Germany’s avant-garde school of architecture and design in the 1920s. Having fled Germany in 1936 for England, Hirschfeld Mack was deported on board the Dunera in 1940 to Australia and interned as an ‘enemy alien’. After his release in 1942, he was appointed art master at Geelong Grammar, a position he held till his retirement in 1956.

I find both their works very dynamic, lots of movement; there’s a rolling gentleness in them. The first two works below, Frank Hinder’s Banksia (1938) and Hirschfeld Mack’s Story of a Shell (1940) have inspired the third image which is my painting in homage, Banksia in gouache.

Thanks to Cathy Leahy and Petra Kayser of NGV for the exhibition book.

Sarah Gabriel

Sarah Gabriel’s light and colourful drawings, and watercolour and ink paintings are very eye catching.  The fine detail and deft touch, along with the pop of colour, are almost ethereal, and definitely an inspiration for me.

She draws inspiration from nature, and living in the beautiful countryside around Kyneton in central Victoria, her drawings really do “capture the ‘energy’ and ‘spirit’ of her environment”.

Her work can be found online and at her gallery in Kyneton. Sarah prints and hand colours limited edition drypoint etchings. She also runs small group workshops in drawing and printmaking which I hope to get to one day.

For further information click here.

bird-b.jpgst2 flower-3-panels-yellow-72dpi sarah-gabriel-blackbird sarah-gabriel-our-colourful-world

LAURISTON PRESS GALLERY IS OPEN Friday – Sunday 10-5pm 54221710 

or by appointment outside these hours 0423-630-783

©2013 Sarah Gabriel. All Rights Reserved SARAH GABRIEL ARTIST 

Email Sarah at

2014 Archibald Prize winner – Fiona Lowry

Congratulations to this year’s winner of the prestigious Archibald Prize for portraiture, Fiona Lowry with her skilful, delicate and evocative painting of Penelope Seidler. I’m looking forward to seeing it up close and personal when it comes to the Mornington Peninsula Regional Art Gallery in Victoria.

Fiona Lowry, artist Penelope Seidler, title

Fiona Lowry, artist
Penelope Seidler, title

More info:


The Art Gallery of NSW Archibald Prize

I love the Archies. Can’t wait to see who is the winner this year when it is announced tomorrow!

I’ve been going to see the finalists every year for about 7 years now, and sporadically on and off before that. Running since 1921, this annual prize is awarded for portraiture ‘preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia’.

The variety of mediums, sizes, styles and quality always astounds me just as surely as the winner is always a stand out, awe inspring winner. 

Below are the last few years’ winners. 

2013 Del Kathryn Barton, artist Hugo, title Portrait of the actor, Hugo Weaving

Del Kathryn Barton, artist
Hugo, title
Portrait of the actor, Hugo Weaving

2012 Tim Storrier, artist The histrionic wayfarer (after Bosch), title

Tim Storrier, artist
The histrionic wayfarer (after Bosch), title

2011 Ben Quilty, artist Margaret Olley, title 170cm x 150cm

Ben Quilty, artist
Margaret Olley, title
170cm x 150cm

2010 Sam Leach, artist Tim Minchin, title

Sam Leach, artist
Tim Minchin, title

2009 Guy Maestri, artist Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, title

Guy Maestri, artist
Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, title

2008 Kathryn Del Barton, artist You are what is most beautiful about me, a self portrait with Kell and Arella, title

Kathryn Del Barton, artist
You are what is most beautiful about me, a self portrait with Kell and Arella, title

Kathryn Del Barton’s and Ben Quilty’s paintings in particular are spectacular. Large, textured and colourful, they grab your eye the minute you walk into the room. Viewing this very popular exhibition is somewhat tricky as the crowds can detract from an immersive viewing experience. Somehow, though, whenever I am in front of a real work of genius, the rest of the room fades away. 

William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1825-1905

The following is an excerpt from the excellent biography by Damien Bartoli taken from the wonderful site of the Art Renewal Centre. I encourage you to spend time browsing their immense collection. 

“William Bouguereau is unquestionably one of history’s greatest artistic geniuses. Yet in the past century, his reputation and unparalleled accomplishments have undergone a libelous, dishonest, relentless and systematic assault of immense proportions. His name was stricken from most history texts and when included it was only to blindly, degrade and disparage him and his work. Yet, as we shall see, it was he who single handedly opened the French academies to women, and it was he who was arguably the greatest painter of the human figure in all of art history. His figures come to life like no previous artist has ever before or ever since achieved. He wasn’t just the best ever at painting human anatomy, more importantly he captured the tender and subtlest nuances of personality and mood. Bouguereau caught the very souls and spirits of his subjects much like Rembrandt. Rembrandt is said to have captured the soul of age. Bouguereau captured the soul of youth.” Damien Bartoli

Bouguereau’s paintings of children are delightful and capture the charm and beauty of youth.

All images courtesy of the Art Renewal Center.



Bouguereau’s mythology and religious paintings, and nudes are absolutely exquisite.




And finally, the one I am most enamoured with is Alma Parens (The Motherland), painted in 1883. This is a representation of France and her colonial offspring. I love the impassive, patient and stoic face of the mother figure as she is clambered on and clamoured after by her children. 


These are but a few of the many fine artworks by William Bouguereau. For further information, many more images (hi res as well) please go to the Art Renewal Center.





Alfredo Gomez

I’ve just discovered a ‘new’ artist! Well, new to me that is. Get a look at this beautiful, vibrant still life.


Alfredo Gomez was born in 1964 in Guadalajara, Mexico and currently resides in California. He began painting at an early age and enjoyed his first public exhibition at age 20. Gomez is an artist dedicated to the traditional principles of art. He is self-taught and continues to study the Old Masters as well as the techniques by contemporaries. His favorite subjects are landscape and still-life, especially fruit. No matter his subject, Gomez captures it with warm, luminous realism. Alfredo’s paintings are full of passion and invite the viewer to pause and savor the beauty.

You can learn more at