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19th Century European Prints

19th Century Europe was marked by rapid development of printmaking technology. Lithography was quickly assimilated for both commercial and artistic purposes, as illustrations could be quickly reproduced for journals and newspapers. The technology also promoted an increase in advertising, as brilliantly colored posters could be easily mass-produced.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is one artist that exploited this technology for commercial means, creating advertisements on commission as well as using printmaking for personal artistic exploration. A highly detailed form of woodcut, often referred to as a wood engraving, was popular among early 19th century printmakers for their use in book illustration.

Intaglio methods such as etching became popular in the mid-19th century when Barbizon school artists revived the practice for the purpose of creating landscapes. In the 1860s, artists such as Edouard Manet and Edgar Degas experimented with the technique, further feeding the market for fine illustrations.

As technique and technology improved, artists increasingly used printmaking to respond to the political, cultural, and industrial changes of the age, as art was becoming a voice for all.

Quick Facts

  • In the 19th century, printmaking and other artistic methods of the era show artists throwing off the yoke of church and state to express their reaction to the times
  • A clear example of this prevailing attitude in art is Francisco Goya’s etching series, "Los Caprichos," which in subject condemns the actions of the church and government, is also an inventive use of the etching technique
  • European printmaking aesthetic was strongly influenced by Japanese ukiyo-e prints after trade opened between Asia and Europe in the mid 19th century. Impressionist artists were particularly influenced by the clean composition and subject matter, incorporating these ideas into their own prints and paintings

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