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PARIS 1833 – SEVRES 1914

Félix Bracquemond is an integral figure in the history of the nineteenth century printmaking. Prior to his career, most etching was of a reproductive nature; the few printmakers working in a creative vein, such as Meryon, were isolated artistically in their endeavors. Bracquemond himself was trained in commercial lithography. When Guichard, a neighbor and friend, encouraged him to etch, Bracquemond had to turn to manuals and encyclopedia articles in order to learn the process involved. He promoted the medium through several groups such as the Société des Aquafortistes and the Société des Peintres Graveurs, and by convincing artists like Gavarni, Corot, Millet and Manet to etch. His numerous contacts within the art world made him an influential figure and helped the etching Renaissance of the 1860’s. Associated with many movements and a member of none, Bracquemond’s name can be connected with Impressionism, Realism and Japonism, the last of which he was instrumental in initiating.
Bracquemond’s own style reflected numerous influences. His formal arrangements and firm contour lines reflect a classical tradition absorbed from Guichard, while the atmospheric lighting found in prints like The Terrasse show his sympathy with the ideals of the Impressionists. Before his death, Bracquemond had created over 900 prints.

From: Merrill Chase Gallery: Rediscovered Printmakers of the 19th Century, Chicago. 1978.

Bracquemond was born in Paris in 1833, and at the age of 15 was apprenticed to a lithographer. Later he became a pupil of Guichard (a former student of Ingres) who taught him to paint, and encouraged him to learn etching. This Bracquemond did by using the Roret manual. He had such a talent for etching that by the time he was twenty he was already producing important prints which reveal him to be an absolute master of the technique. His interest in printmaking never waned. By the end of his life he had created over 900 prints and had been awarded several important prizes, the most noteworthy being Medal of Honor at the Salon of 1884 and a Grand Prize at the “Exposition Universellle” in 1900.
Bracquemond will be remembered and admired by connoisseurs for his best prints. He will be remembered also as a person primarily responsible for the revival of interest in the art of the “peintre-graveur” (the artist-printmaker) in the 19th century. For some time prior to Bracquemond’s work, etching had been relegated to use by craftsmen as a reproductive technique. With few exceptions, it was not used by artists as a creative medium. Bracquemond’s role was to master the technique, to make known its qualities, and to introduce it to his contemporaries as a means of making original prints. From his villa near St. Cloud, he encouraged artists (...Corot, Daubigny, Degas, Buhot) to use the medium, and spurred the interest of authors (Burty, Baudelaire, the Goncourt brothers) to support in their writings those societies founded for the purpose of making the public aware of this nearly forgotten art.

Kovler Gallery: Forgotten Printmakers of the 19th Century, Chicago, 1967.