Drawing and Printmaking in Nineteenth-Century France

black drawing on beige sheet (made from gillotage) depicting busy Parisian cafe scene, circa 1898

The political, economic, and social changes of nineteenth-century France brought about an expanding middle class and, with it, a growing art market that favored the more easily circulated media of drawings and prints. Challenges to the authority of the Academy and to its hierarchies of genre and finish gave prints and drawings a more privileged place than before. Many of the drawings in this exhibition were finished works of art made for sale and exhibition. Drawing and printmaking, media that permitted on-the-spot sketching, were well suited to the Impressionists’ aims of spontaneity and immediacy and to the broader interest in depicting  “modern life.” At the same time, debates about photography as a fine art form gave rise to a heightened appreciation for works that preserved visible traces of the artist’s hand; writers and critics of the period described both drawings and prints as direct expressions of an artist’s temperament and as embodiments of his or her creativity and intellect.

Édouard Manet (1832–1883), At the Café, 1874 »

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