Cover of Susanne Anderson-Riedel: Creativity and Reproduction

Susanne Anderson-Riedel Creativity and Reproduction

Nineteenth Century Engraving and the Academy

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The study investigates the engravers' rise within the French academic system and demonstrates their success in transforming a reproductive medium into a creative and original art genre. In the nineteenth century, graphic artists developed an artistic language that was independent and on par with the original model that they reproduced.The Academie royale de peinture et de sculpture welcomed graphic artists into its ranks in 1655. As talented reproductive artists were able to disseminate works of art produced at the Academy, engravers rose to occupy administrative positions at the compagnie in the eighteenth century. Their success notwithstanding, graphic artists remained unable to overcome the perception of being reproductive artisans rather than creative and original fine artists. The proof of their predicament was the continuous refusal of advanced artistic training for graphic artists within the French academic system.The Section de Gravure at the Institut de France, established in 1803, was the first academic institution that distinguished between imitative and creative artistic execution in the reproductive graphic arts. Through patronage, the supervision of competitions, and the administration of the Prix de Rome program for graphic artists, the Engraving Department established specific guidelines for artistic reproduction and encouraged the formulation of an independent, artistic language in the reproductive arts. Finally, it defined the characteristics of fine engraving as a creative art medium.The Prix de Rome for engraving was crucial in consolidating the new understanding of engraving as an original art form. The engravers' participation in the Grand Prix competition transformed their artisanal training practice in the master's workshop into an artistic and academic education of graphic artists in the engraving ateliers. Furthermore, their sojourn at the French Academy in Rome encouraged the collegial collaboration between painters, sculptors, and engravers, leading engravers to develop a free and graphic interpretation of their model. The reproductive engraver was now able to rival painters and sculptors and, consequently, he emerged as a creative and original artist.

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