Le Chant du cygne
Die Gazette des Beaux-Arts und die französische Reproduktionsgraphik in der zweiten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts
In his 1881 article about the Salon des Beaux-Arts, the critic Jules Buisson distinguished between the prints by the great engravers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, which he referred to as “Chant du Triomphe”, and those of the late nineteenth century, which he characterized as “Chant du Cygne”. The latter term, the French for “swan song”, alludes unambiguously to the fact that printed reproductions of artworks – a genre by all means perceived as artistic – would soon be made obsolete by photographic methods.
This study of French reproduction prints is based on the Gazette des Beaux-Arts, an art magazine founded in 1859 and one of the most important of its kind in the nineteenth century. Reproduction prints were published in it until 1927, and original works of printmaking until 1933; printmaking was also the subject of numerous articles. The latter were concerned primarily with the expectations placed on printed reproductions, the assessment of individual prints and graphic artists, and – in view of the new photographic means of reproduction – the question of whether the “mere” reproduction of paintings and sculptures in the printmaking medium was to be considered an art form in its own right, and if so why.
Of the approximately 1,450 plates published in the Gazette until 1900, 64 reproduction prints were selected. The examination of these and other examples shows that, over the course of the good fifty years marking the transition from the manual to the photographic reproduction of art, there were two fundamental tendencies in the stylistic development. Initially the printmakers took as their orientation engraved reproductions of previous centuries as well as the painter-etcher medium, which underwent a revival in the 1840s. Later many of them developed a reproduction style clearly influenced by photography.
Juliane Betz studierte Kunstgeschichte, Italianistik, Erziehungswissenschaften und Historische Anthropologie in Freiburg im Br. und in Reggio Calabria. 2013 folgte die Promotion an der Universität Heidelberg. Derzeit ist sie wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin an der Staatlichen Kunsthalle Karlsruhe. Ihr Forschungsinteresse gilt der Druckgraphik, der französischen Kunst des späten 19. Jahrhunderts und der Wiederholung in der Kunst.