Original versus reproduction
Champions of etching praised the immediacy with which artists could sketch their most intimate thoughts on the etching plate.
Burty promoted the etching as a ‘drawing in several impressions’. As far as its supporters were concerned, this made the technique more artistic than other forms of printing.
The revival was not only a plea for etching as an autonomous art form, therefore, but also a reaction against the popularity of graphic reproduction and photography aimed at the mass market.
The artistic potential of the etching made it a perfect technique for painters who also wanted to make prints, the peintres-graveurs.
They frequently referred to Rembrandt, who had achieved brilliant effects by printing his own etchings and trying different types of paper.
The fabrication process — la cuisine — was an essential part of the etching revival: experimentation was actually more important in the 1870s than the result.
Gabriel P. Weisberg, The Etching Renaissance in France: 1850-1880, Salt Lake City, 1971.
Elizabeth Helsinger et al., The ‘Writing’ of Modern Life: The Etching Revival in France, Britain, and the U.S., 1850-1940, Chicago, 2008.
Britany Salsbury, ‘The Etching Revival in Nineteenth-Century France’, www.metmuseum.org (accessed september 2014).