The Ebb Tide, or, Brightling Sea


James McBey (1883-1959), The Ebb Tide, or, Brightling Sea, etching, 1922-3, signed in ink bottom right margin and numbered in ink bottom left margin (IV/L) [also signed, dated and titled in the plate]. Reference: Hardie and Carter 216. From the British Edition (as numbered in Roman Numerals from I to L); the total edition was 76. In very good condition (some glue on verso, small loss lower margin edge far from image, on old laid paper with a Four Balls watermark, with margins, 8 3/8 x 13 3/4, the sheet 10 1/2 x 16 1/2 inches.  Archivally matted, with acid free window mat, non-attached mylar hinging.

Provenance: The Montclair (New Jersey) Museum, with their catalogue numbering verso.

A fine impression, printed on a tan paper in black ink, with a light veil of plate tone overall, slightly accentuated in the watery area towards the bottom.

The print portrays daybreak on Brightlingsea Creek. In the morning mist the Thames barges appear on the left, and the oyster boats moving toward the sea at the right.

Although this is a Thames print, it presages in mood and composition the Venice prints McBey created a few years later.

Hardie wrote that “there is a brilliant outflash, a lighthouse radiance about The Ebb Tide. The Ebb Tide, a peaceful rendering of light and air and boats on an oily sea, possesses as its secret what the early Christian described to the Roman magistrate as the secret of his faith – it has the “mysterium simplicitatis”. It has, at any rate, the appearance of it and yet to those of us who are interested in technical matters, it is intriguing to note how cunningly all the lines across the boats and their sails radiate from where the unseen sun is rising in the mist. And I gladly follow Mr. Malcolm Salaman, who, speaking of The Ebb Tide in “Fine Prints of the Year”, puts it to the test of those four qualities which Sir Charles Holmes says all fine pictures must possess: “Unity, Vitality, Infinity, Repose – is any of these lacking?”