Nineteenth-Century Paris

During the nineteenth century etching was revitalized, once again stressing its originality and immediacy as an art form. Rembrandt cast an imposing shadow over this development. However, the retrospective tendency of the etching revival was inflected by newly romantic conceptions of nature and the self. In 1862, the poet and critic Charles Baudelaire declared etching to be "a genre so would be difficult for the artist not to describe on the plate his most intimate personality." Meanwhile, the invention of lithography and photography, alongside various industrial and scientific advances, renewed the printmakers' longstanding infatuation with technical process. A culture now more attuned to technology affected them in contradictory ways. The advantages offered by new means of mass reproduction were seen by many artists as a threat to their individuality. Therefore printmakers began to experiment in ways that subverted the uniformity characteristic of the medium.



Through a complex sequence of copies, tracings, and reversals, Degas generated at least three compositions on the basis of the two figures in the images above. Each print went through several states. Degas seems to have considered every phase important in itself and probably exhibited the prints as discrete works of art as well as progress proofs.


The Unfinished Print-Introduction Etchings as Drawings Rembrandt French Rococo Etched Proofs Piranesi and the Invented Fragment 19th Century Paris Modernity Glossary Image Index
Piranesi and the Invented Fragment

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