Alfred Concanen

Alfred Concanen
Alfred Concanen, Stannard & Son’s perspective view, of the immediate seat of war & recent battle fields, shewing all the fortifications and natural barriers of the districts lying between the Rhine and Meuse 1870. Courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library.

CONCANEN, Alfred (1835-1886) — London

Lithographer and lithographic artist, illustrator, mapmaker and publisher. Primarily known for his prolific output of music covers and posters, but also specialising in bird’s-eye view maps of battles and theatres of war. Drew, lithographed and published, as “Concanen & Lee” — with Thomas Wales LeeMilitary topographical view of the strongholds of Lombardy 1859; working with William Thomas Stannard, trading as “Stannard & Son”, he produced Stannard & Son’s perspective view of the seat of war [in Europe] 1870; Stannard & Son’s perspective view of the immediate seat of war [between France and Germany] & recent battle fields, shewing all the fortifications and natural barriers of the districts lying between the Rhine and Meuse 1870; Stannard & Son’s, perspective view of Paris and fifteen miles round, shewing all the fortifications and redoubts, together with the lines of defence 1870; Stannard & Son’s perspective view of the immediate seat of the war in France shewing the positions of the armies on the Loire 1870; Stannard & Son’s, perspective view of Ashantee & the whole of the Gold Coast, shewing Elmina, Accra & Cape Coast Castle, with proposed routes to Coomassie, the railways roads etc. 1873; Stannard & Son’s perspective view of European and Asiatic Turkey, Russia, Austria and Persia showing the whole of the seaboard, railways, rivers and probable points of attack 1877 (“Mr. Alfred Concanen has compiled the map in masterly manner from the latest official sources of information. A picturesque effect is given to the map by the panoramic view of the scenery and the fine varied colouring of land and water, the former being tinted green and greyish brown, while the latter is light blue in the expanses the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, and the Caspian” (Exmouth Journal, 26 May 1877); Stannard & Son’s perspective view of the seat of war, from Adrianople to Constantinople, Gallipoli, the Bosphorrus and the Dardanelles 1878; Stannard and Son’s perspective view of Afghanistan 1878; Stannard & Son’s perspective view of the seat of war in South Africa 1879; Stannard & Son’s perspective view of the seat of war in Egypt 1882. Stannard lodged a copyright claim for “Stannard & Son’s perspective views of Cyprus with the cities, roads, rivers, mines, mountains and ancient ruins to which is added a sketch view of the surrounding countries shewing their relative positions to the island we have acquired compiled from the latest authentic official sources under the direction of the publishers by Alfred Concanen” in 1878, the map not known. Concanen is also well known for his illustrations for James Greenwood’s “The wilds of London” 1874 and “Low-life deeps: an account of the strange fish to be found there” 1875, the dramatic folding frontispiece for Henry Sampson, “A history of advertising from the earliest times” 1874, and a variety of other work.

Alfred Concanen Merry Family
Alfred Concanen, We are a merry family! ca.1880. Sheet music cover for a song composed by William George Eaton, with lyrics by T. S. Lonsdale. © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Concanen was born in Nottingham, on the High Street, and baptised 18 May 1835 at St. Mary — the son of Edward Concanen (1804-1868), a Londoner, and his wife Mary Ann Burgess (1814-1884) from Devon, who had married at St. Mary Islington in London 30 Mar 1835. From Nottingham, the family then moved to Hereford, where Edward Concanen was a sub-editor on the Hereford Times, before moving on to Stourbridge in 1844 and then to London, where Edward Concanen was recorded as an artist in 1851 and more specifically as an “engineering artist” in 1861 (he illustrated “Gems of art from the Great Exhibition” in 1852, and also wrote the text of “Remembrances of the Great Exhibition” in the same year). Alfred Concanen was originally employed at the age of sixteen as a clerk to an attorney (probably his uncle, Alfred Cottrell Concanen (1804-1867), with whom he engaged in amateur dramatics at this time). By the late 1850s he had become an artist himself, working with Thomas Wales Lee as “Concanen & Lee”, and subsequently as “Concanen, Lee & Siebe”, with the addition of Henry Herapath Siebe (1832-1887). He married Mary Anne Tholen (b.1840), the daughter of a London cab-driver, originally from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where she had been born, on 8 Sep 1858. By 1861 the couple were living with two small children in Greek Street. The “Concanen, Lee & Siebe” partnership was formally dissolved 25 Feb 1865, with Lee leaving to work independently. Concanen himself resigned on 1 Dec 1866, leaving Siebe to continue with a new partner, William George Burnett. The Concanens were to have three more children by 1865, but then separated. In 1871 Alfred was lodging alone in Berwick Street, Soho, while three of the children were living with his widowed mother in Islington (one daughter had died, while another was a boarding-school in Kent). In 1874, Concanen had a further daughter with a young woman named Ellen or Eleanor, with whom he lived for the rest of his life — according to her grandson, this was the actress Nellie Herbert (1856?–1916), comedienne and vocalist, sister of the music-hall star Jenny Valmore: the daughter, Violet Eileen Concanen (1874-1959), also went on the stage, married the newspaper editor Edward Arthur de Marney (1873-1942), and was the mother of the film-stars Derrick and Terence de Marney. Having broken off the business partnerships with Lee and Siebe, Concanen subsequently worked with “Stannard & Dixon” (William Thomas Stannard & Francis Dixon) and from at least 1870 was the resident artist for the successor firm “Stannard & Son” — an article in The Stage (14 Dec 1883, p.17) describes a visit to the Stannard premises and gives an account of Concanen at work. He died at his home in Maida Vale 10 Dec 1886 — his wife Mary Anne then married the man she had been living with for a number of years eight days later. “A good story is told of Alfred Concanen, the well-known artist, who had been commissioned to execute some lithographic work for an illustrated paper. One morning a messenger was sent for the long-expected drawing. ‘Tell ’em I’m ill, and in bed’, said Con. Two days later the messenger returned, but the drawing was unfinished. ‘Say that I’m dead’, replied the dilatory artist. On the following day the messenger again appeared. ‘Mr. Concanen, the manager sends me to say that if you are dead you will at least send back the lithographic stone’. ‘The stone’, howled the incorrigible artist, ‘tell him it’s on my grave’” (Eastbourne Gazette, 13 April 1881). Concanen was the inspiration for Sacheverell Sitwell’s “Morning, Noon and Night in London” (1948), in which a stroll round the London of the 1860s is illustrated entirely from his work — “The most painstaking of the Pre-Raphaelites must fail beside Concanen!” claimed the author. Concanen’s eldest son, Hugh Tholen Concanen (1861-1917), also became a lithographic artist.

— 427½ Oxford Street (home) — 1851
56 Greek Street, Soho —1861
12 Frith Street, Soho — 1862-1869
— St. Mary’s Square, Lambeth (home) — 1863-1865
7 Poland Street, Oxford Street — 1870-1883
¬— 10 Bassein Park Road, Hammersmith (home) — 1881
— 40 Frithville Gardens, Shepherds Bush (home) — 1885

BBTI. BL (Evanion). BM. Census 1841-1881. COPAC. Engen (1985). Catherine Haill, “Victorian illustrated music sheets” 1981. Hake. Houfe. LG. NA. Ronald Pearsall, “Victorian sheet music covers” 1972. Doreen & Sidney Spellman, “Victorian music covers” 1969. V&A.

Alfred Concanen advertising
Alfred Concanen. Frontispiece Henry Sampson, “A history of advertising from the earliest times” 1874.

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