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Seeing in Black-and-White: Incidents in Print Culture
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-07, 20:52 authored by Meaghan ClarkeMeaghan Clarke
In the late nineteenth century, debates around mechanization and printmaking raised questions about artistic authority and professional status for the expanding press. In 1877, the art critic John Ruskin accused Whistler of ‘flinging a pot of paint in the face of the public’ with his Nocturne in Black and Gold, and Whistler sued Ruskin for libel. Less than two decades after the Whistler v. Ruskin case, two further libelous attacks appeared in the press which appeared to have equally serious implications for artists’ careers. In the first, the artist Joseph Pennell penned an attack on the Royal Academician, Herbert Herkomer. In the second, Joseph Pennell was the target of an attack by the artist Walter Sickert. These two disputes centred on printmaking techniques and reproduction. Moreover, the press played a fundamental role in offering a public space for both textual and visual elements of the debate. Journals became the platform for the articulation of contemporary concerns about mechanical reproduction and the status of etching and lithography as fine arts.
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