Nathaniel Sparks, 1880-1956
Date of Birth: 18 June 1880
Place of Birth: Barton Hill, Bristol
Place of Death: Somerton, Somerset
Nathaniel Sparks was a printer and etcher.
Nathaniel Sparks won a scholarship at the age of ten to the Bristol College of Art and Science under the guidance of R Bush, ARE (Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers). In 1900, a second scholarship brought him to the RCA (Royal College of Art) in London where Frank Short, President of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, was Head of the Engraving School.
Sparks's choice of subject ranged from townscapes, landscape and architectural scenes to figure studies. Works include several views of Bristol and its surrounding areas, a series of Edinburgh and Glasgow landmarks, and a large proportion of London scenes. Whilst still studying in the capital he was commissioned by the Whistler to print his Mr Whistler's Etchings of Venice, 1880 (the first 'Venice Set') (K. 183-189, 191-195). ec0005, and was also involved with the art-dealing Dowdeswell family in the framing of the artist's pastels.
In 1905 he received a Diploma in Decorative Painting from the RA and was made an ARE. The following year saw the first of several annual exhibits at both the RA and the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers & Engravers), and two of his prints were acquired by Queen Mary: The Shadow and the Shade and, in 1915, Westminster Abbey seen through the Fountain. In 1909, he was elected a Fellow of the RSPE and won a Gold Medal for 'Outstanding Artwork'.
The outbreak of the First World War 1915 effectively halted his artistic career, as he was enlisted to work in the munitions factories engraving the fine calibration required for accurate machining. After the war ended, the rise of photography led to a decline in the demand for etching. Sparks continued to make prints and watercolours, but the revival of the medium had now come to an end. In 1940 his printing press was blown up by a German bomb. He retired to the West Country.
Bénézit E., Dictionnaire des Peintres Sculpteurs Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; The Nathaniel Sparks Gallery: http://www.natsparks.co.uk/home.htm (accessed 26.07.05); http://wwar.com/masters/s/sparks-nathaniel.html (accessed 2005); http://www.natsparks.co.uk/home.htm (accessed 2005).