Exhibition Catalogues

Colorful Impressions: The Printmaking Revolution in Eighteenth-Century France

Margaret Morgan Grasselli
With essays by Ivan E. Phillips, Kristel Smentek, and Judith C. Walsh

One of the most glorious and creative periods in the history of color printmaking occurred in 18th-century France. Newly invented engraving and etching techniques were combined with new ways of printing a single image from multiple plates, allowing printmakers to replicate a broad palette of colors using variants of only four: blue, red, yellow, and black. Preceding today’s four-color printing technique, these innovations (spanning just a few decades) made it possible to produce thousands of color images so accurately that they were often called “printed paintings” and “engraved drawings.”

The names of the masters who pioneered these techniques—Janinet, Descourtis, and Bonnet, to name but three—are largely familiar to scholars and collectors, but the artists whose compositions they copied include some of the greatest talents of the period—Watteau, Boucher, Fragonard, and Boilly, among others. These exquisitely crafted prints capture the spirit of the times—the reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI and the French Revolution—in a unique and highly memorable way.

An indispensable addition to existing literature on the topic, this informative publication for the exhibition organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., and presented at the Yale University Art Gallery in 2008, is not only one of the very few books available in English on the subject, but it also reproduces for the first time all the featured prints in full color. Authors examine the history, marketing, and collecting of these prints, as well as the tools, techniques, and papers used in making them.

200 pages / 9 x 10 1/2 inches / 152 color and 66 black-and-white illustrations / Copublished by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., and Lund Humphries / 2008
  • Paperback with flaps ISBN 978-0-89468-309-1
    Item# 117
    Price $50; Members $40

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