Up to the 18th century, English artists had made no contribution to the general development of art. England had only offered employment for masters who came from abroad such as Hans Holbein and Anthony van Dyck, as well as for other, less known artists.
The 18th century saw the emergence of the English national school of art. A particularly prominent position in it was occupied by painters. William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, and others created works whose fame at home was accompanied by recognition abroad.
William Hogarth (16971764) can be considered the founder of English printmaking. In his satiric series, he combined etching and copper engraving to lash at vice of his contemporaries.
Reproductive copper engraving was extensively used in introducing the public to the works of both native and Italian masters. Noteworthy in this respect were the images by Robert Strange (17211792). William Woollett (17351785) became famous as an engraver of landscapes.
The most popular printmaking technique in England was mezzotint. It was suitable for copying the English painters' picturesque works with their gentle transitions of colouring. The most widely recognized masters of mezzotint were James McArdell (1728?1765) and Richard Earlom (17431822). Besides them, there were many good masters whose main activity was the copying of portraits. In the field of mediating multi-figured works in mezzotint, Valentine Green (17391813) was the most skilful master.
The engravers had much work to do in England, since there emerged publishers such as John Boydell (17191804) who were interested in ordering and selling prints.
The graphic arts collection in Tartu University Library includes more than 200 examples of English printmaking.
| images |