French Original Engravings from Manet to the Present Time

French Original Engravings from Manet to the Present Time

French Original Engravings from Manet to the Present Time

French Original Engravings from Manet to the Present Time

Excerpt

Our subject is so vast that certain limits must be imposed from the outstart. The word "engraving" we shall take in its widest significance -- that is to say to cover engravings on wood, copper and stone -- and we shall begin by excluding all engravings which are reproductions of other artists' subjects, however great their interest may be. Our study is confined to French engravers, and by French we mean those who have worked mainly in France, such as Jongkind, Mary Cassatt, or Picasso. Others like Seymour Haden, Whistler and Ensor we shall consider as belonging to their country of origin, though we are fully aware that such discrimination must in many cases be arbitrary. Moreover, it is not Manet himself whom we shall take as our starting-point, but that great movement for the revival of the original print which came to a head in France towards 1862.

After that golden age of lithography which saw the masterpieces of Géricault, Delacroix and Barye, and the charming prints of Charlet, Decamps, Isabey, and Gavarni, the practice of stone engraving was practically abandoned in the middle of the XIXth century with the solitary exception of one great master, Honoré Daumier. Etching, too, fell into abeyance. Only a few impressions were made of Chasseriau Othello (1884). Daubigny and Charles Jacques alone squandered their talent on little pictures in which refined sentiment was combined with minuteness of execution.

A forerunner of Millet and Legros, Charles Jacques sensed the majesty of rustic types and works. In the skies and country landscapes of Daubigny flickered the lights which heralded the coming of Impressionism. Corot had as yet presented his friends with only one or two samples of his burin, all of them of little importance. Millet, on the other hand, had already engraved several big plates; against the background of an immense landscape, cut with the sharp, striking lines of his impulsive and passionate design, a number of admirable silhouettes are portrayed tilling the soil with priestly solemnity. Paris was the subject which for twenty years had been monopolising the work of Charles Méryon, but the persecution mania to which he eventually succumbed was already showing itself in his exaggerated treatment of the incoherent types which now appeared on his otherwise perfect prints. There were several others who had practised engraving in their spare moments, notably that charming coxcomb Adolphe Hervier. All these endeavours, however, were generally regarded with indifference. Wood-cutting alone, saved by the skill of the interpreters of Gustave Doré, enjoyed some credit with the public.

It was at this point that a kind of conspiracy, hitherto without parallel, was . . .

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