Nineteenth Century French Studies 31.3&4 (2003) 350-351
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Bann, Stephen. Parallel Lines. Printmakers, Painters and Photographers in Nineteenth-Century France. New Haven: Yale UP, 2001. Pp. ix + 254. ISBN 0-300-08932-5
The art historian Stephen Bann has produced several studies of significance to interdisciplinary scholars of nineteenth-century France, including The Clothing of Clio and Romanticism and the Rise of History. In 1997 he built on the work of Norman Ziff and published a fabulous study of the neglected painter Paul Delaroche, a study that was sooned joined by the catalog for a museum exhibit on the painter, Paul Delaroche: Un peintre dans l'histoire. Bann's superb understanding of the importance of Delaroche ("the most extensively reproduced artist of his age") in nineteenth-century visual culture serves as springboard here for a lively and lavishly illustrated analysis of the confluence of three arts: printmaking (especially fine reproductive engraving), painting, and photography. Delaroche is the key to much of this, as it was his semi-circular mural in the prize room of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts of Paris - known as the Hémicycle and finished in 1841 - that was the subject of one of the most celebrated engravings of the nineteenth century, done in three parts by Louis Henriquel-Dupont and exhibited (engravings had exhibition as well as commercial value) in 1853. This engraving established Henriquel-Dupont as a master and even rivaled or surpassed the Hémicycle painting itself, in the opinion of critics such as Philippe Burty and Charles Blanc. The Henriquel reproduction was joined by a painting répétition done by Delaroche's student Béranger and retouched by the master, as well as an albumen photographic print produced by the British pho-tographer Robert Bingham, who worked in France. Thus, the history of Delaroche's mural enticingly displays the "parallelism" of the three arts that Bann wishes to uncover.
But the Delaroche mural is mainly the subject of the last of five chapters. The first, "In the Age of Reproduction," informs the reader that although several decades of scholarship have read the interplay between painting and photography in the nineteenth century as the critical site of anxieties concerning originality and re-production, the traditional art of printmaking continued to evolve over the course of the century and informed the painting-photography debate by complicating the relationship between original and copy: "It remains the case that the quarter-century which saw the initiation and development of the 'mechanical' reproductive process launched by Niépce and Daguerre also witnessed a wholesale revival of the art of reproductive engraving. . . to give this phenomenon its due weight, I would argue, is also to get closer to defining the multiple roles assumed by photography in the burgeoning visual culture of the mid-century" (17). Thus, the print can help enlighten [End Page 350] us concerning the photograph. This chapter takes up Walter Benjamin's understanding of the nature of the copy (as either student replica, master répétition, or third party copy) and infuses it with the multiple and intertwined variations that come to light when printmaking is considered: the student replica that is retouched by the master, engraved, the engraving photographed, and this photo sold by a third party, etc.
Chapter 2 focuses on the revealing theme of the battle in painting and printmaking, especially in the early part of the century. Here Bann relates the history of the painter Horace Vernet, whose maternal grandfather was an engraver, whose son-in-law was Paul Delaroche, and who was himself drawn to the lithograph and the daguerreotype. The battle paintings of Vernet and others provided, Bann asserts, a "nationalist iconography" that lent itself quite naturally to lithography, a reproductive technique that in its spontaneity and subjective nature allied it with the Romantic period and opposed it to the traditional burin engraving, which could take years to complete. Nicolas-Toussaint Charlet is presented here as a master of lithography; Bervic and Alexandre Tardieu as purveyors of the more "academically respectable" burin engraving. The Chapter...