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Innovation and tradition in the reproduction of Spanish art: Stirling, Utterson, and an album in the British Museum

By H. Macartney


When William Stirling's book, the Annals of the Artists of Spain was published in 1848, its supplementary volume of Talbotype illustrations made it the first photographically illustrated art book, and heralded the use of the new medium of photography as the essential tool of the nascent discipline of art history. Only fifty copies of the Talbotypes volume were produced as presentation copies. Nevertheless, collectors with a special interest in the new process of reproduction occasionally succeeded in acquiring some of the individual unbound Talbotypes. Some of these rare and fragile images made their way into an album belonging to the bibliophile Edward Vernon Utterson, which is now in the British Museum. Like Stirling, Utterson produced a number of facsimiles of early printed books. Both men valued the quality and skills associated with the traditional arts of the book but at the same time, they were fascinated by new techniques of reproduction which they saw as a way of preserving and widening appreciation of the book arts. The Talbotypes, however, had many shortcomings as reproductions of Spanish art, and Utterson, an accomplished watercolourist, instead filled most of the rest of the album with his own copies after Spanish art. But though he reverted to an older method of reproduction, the astonishingly bold style he adopted anticipates aspects of the reworking of Spanish Golden-Age art by modern artists

Publisher: Maney Publishing
Year: 2010
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Provided by: Enlighten
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