For a book which was first published in 1934, this has stood the test of time remarkably well. In fact it has not, so far as I can tell, been out of print in nearly 80 years. Back at that time, colour printing didn’t have the subtlety it does now. Screens were coarse and making the separations was a skilled, manual process. It was expensive, which is why books from that era have few colour plates, carefully rationed throughout.
It is all the more remarkable, therefore, that this one could not unfairly be described as “full colour throughout”. The only black and white illustrations are the sketches and line drawings and there are even some rudimentary step-by-steps, the first time these ever appeared as far as I know.
So, so much for the history: is the book any good? Well, it doesn’t have the integrated colour that we’re used to today. The illustrations and text have the feel of being separate entities. I’ve written elsewhere about how, when illustrations were at a premium, authors had the be able to describe, rather than show, the physical process of painting, and that’s pretty much what’s happening here; we haven’t got to the extended caption yet.
In many ways, this is the ideal way of presenting an art book. The extended text tells you a great deal more and doesn’t leave you sometimes wishing you didn’t have to work it out for yourself. At the same time, there are enough illustrations (and the colour is really remarkably good) to complement it nicely and not to leaving you shouting, “But I just want to see it”.
Put simply, if you want to paint seascapes in oils, there’s plenty to discover here.