1892 Wood Engraving (Photoxylograph) Bastien-Lapage Portrait Sarah XAS6

167858_XAS6_005

This is an original 1892 monocrhome wood engraved photograph (photoxylograph) of a painting, "Sarah Bernhardt."

CONDITION

This 119+ year old Item is rated Near Mint / Very Fine+. No creases. No natural defects. No surface rub. No tears. No water damage.

  • Product Type: Original Wood Engraving (Photoxylograph); Monochrome
  • Grade: Near Mint / Very Fine+
  • Dimensions: Approximately 5 x 7 inches; 13 x 18 cm
  • Authentication: Serial-Numbered Certificate of Authenticity w/ Full Provenance
  • Protection: Packaged in a custom archival sleeve with an acid-free black board (great for display, gift-giving, and preservation)

This piece was illustrated by Bastien-Lepage, Jules. Artist name printed on page - bottom center of image.

Bastien-Lepage, Jules

Jules Bastien-Lepage (1 November, 1848 Ð 10 December, 1884) was a nineteenth century French painter of the Naturalist movement, which was similar in many respects to the Realist movement.

Born in the village of Damvillers, Meuse in France, Bastien-Lepage exhibited an interest in art from an early age. His mother and father, who was an artist himself, purchased prints of paintings from which Jules would copy. His first formal art education came at Verdun, and in 1867 Bastien-Lepage was admitted into the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he became a pupil of Alexandre Cabanel. Though fairly reclusive, preferring to work alone and often outside of the École, Bastien-Lepage completed three years of study.

Following service in the French army during the Franco-Prussian War, Bastien-Lepage returned to France, painting tranquil, simple and common scenes in a distinctly naturalist and original tone, elevating the depiction of common life through the augmentation of the grand tradition of French painting. His dynamic compositions, unique pale palette and faithful handing of reality within his paintings garnered him wide acclaim, bringing him various awards and making him an accepted member of the Salon.

Bastien-Lepage died in France at the age of thirty-six, leaving a significant legacy. Émile Zola identified Bastien-Lepage as Òthe grandson of Courbet and Millet,Ó while Roger Fry (Essay in Aesthetics, 1920) later stated that the eventual acceptance of the Impressionists and subsequent artistic movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries first Òrequired the teaching of men like Bastien-Lepage, who cleverly compromised between the truth and an accepted convention of what things looked like, to bring the world gradually around to admitting truthsÓ so inherently apparent in the reality of nature and life.

Wood-Engraved Photographs, or Photoxylographs

Wood-engraved photographs, also known as photoxylographs, are a late-nineteenth century printing process. It is the result of a marriage of wood engraving, originally developed at the end of the eighteenth century by Thomas Bewick, whereby the wood block was cut not on the plank side with the grain, like woodcuts, but instead across the grain on the end-grain of very hard woods, and the burgeoning photographic processes of the mid-nineteenth century.

The process was an attempt to capture the new and uniquely authentic reality of photography. Though earnest experimentation began in the 1850s, the process of reproducing the gradual tonal ranges of photography, absent the interpretive hand of an artist on a printer's block, plate, or stone, was mechanically unachievable for decades. The seemingly simple task of converting a photograph to a reproducible medium is fraught with complication by the simple, immutable fact that printer's ink lacks tonal gradation; black is always black. Thus, the only contemporaneously suitable solution was to laboriously recreate by hand the appearance of a photograph through incredibly refined line engraving. This method is characteristic of various historic printing processes, all of which employed various methods of breaking an image into smaller particles to emulate tone. The unique attribute of wood-engraved photographs is that they employed the photographic process as the first step of their creation.

The process of creating a photoxlographs for publication, their main form of dissemination, was complex. First, a photograph was taken, likely using an early dry plate (gelatin process), creating a negative. The negative was then printed onto an end-grain wood block prepared with a light-sensitive coating. Once the photographic transfer was set, the engraver undertook the process of methodically engraving the block by hand with a burin, a traditional engraving tool, with the photograph acting as a guide. The finished block was then often locked-up in a chase with text and this composite was then used to create a thin metal replica called a stereotype, which was shaped to fit the printing cylinder of a rotary press. This process of conversion allowed the press to operate at high speed, and the metal stereotype allowed for the printing of larger editions than would be achievable with a wooden block alone.

The images created with this process are exceptional to behold; they exemplify both expert craftsmanship and amazing artistry. To be fully appreciated wood-engraved photographs are best viewed up-close and preferably under magnification; only then can one come to fully grasp the skill, attention, and vast amount of labor involved in their production. Sadly the process was short-lived as a production printing process for the publishing industry, being quickly rendered obsolete by the development of mechanical halftone processes at the turn of the twentieth century. Copyright Period Paper 2012.

Keywords specific to this image: Realist Art Movement, Naturalism, Naturalist Movement, Costume, Fashion

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