American Antiquarian Society Exhibits Lithography at Musée Goupil

(Worcester, MA) The American Antiquarian Society (AAS) is exhibiting over fifty lithographs from its extensive collection of antebellum prints at the Musée Goupil in Bordeaux, France. Opening on September 6 and running through November 10, 2013, the exhibition is entitled À la mode française: La Lithographie aux États-Unis 1820-1860 (With a French Accent: American Lithography 1820-1860), and is supported by a grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art. A 128-page color illustrated catalog accompanies the exhibition and is available in French and English language editions.

The exhibition includes prints of American presidents, French leaders, scenes of everyday life, and landscapes; all of which reflect the relationship between French and American printers and artists during the early days of lithography. Prints made by French artists who immigrated to the United States will hang with works printed in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia by American firms that purchased French presses and hired trained Parisian pressmen to improve their products. American versions of French prints and French versions of American art will be exhibited side by side. “The international connections reflected in this exhibition continue today between France and the United States as cultural exchanges of art and fashion persist between the two nations,” said Lauren Hewes, the Andrew W. Mellon curator of graphic arts at AAS.

In explaining the historical significance of lithography Hewes further explained, “It was a much faster and cheaper way to create and widely distribute images than engravings or etchings -- the other forms of print making available in the nineteenth century. After the advent of lithography there was an explosion of imagery and soon people in Europe and America were decorating their homes and workshops with colorful pictures of all sizes and subjects.”

Examples of well-known prints published in France after American artists are also featured in the exhibit at the Musée Goupil, including the Power of Music after William Sydney Mount and Politics in an Oyster House after Richard Caton Woodville. These iconographic images were published and printed by the French firm Goupil & Co. for distribution in the United States and Europe.

On October 11, a one-day conference, also supported by funding from the Terra Foundation, will be held at the Musée d’Aquitaine to highlight the exhibition. Among the presenters are scholars from Britain, France and the United States who will bring their unique perspectives as art historians or curators to an aspect of the French-American exchange in lithography. The program will include presentations on the challenges for those working in the new medium of lithography in achieving status as artists and the trials of a French artist becoming an American in the min-nineteenth century. Helena Wright, curator of graphic arts at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution, will wrap up the conference by focusing on a suite of lithographs published by Goupil and acquired by the Smithsonian during the nineteenth century.

The conference is hosted by the Center for Historic American Visual Culture (CHAViC).

“The struggles of today’s artists faced with new technologies and the need to earn respect as artists are not much different from those experienced by lithographers in the nineteenth century,” said, Nan Wolverton, CHAViC director. She further commented, “The conference papers will help highlight the important contribution of lithography in the history of art and commerce.”

American Antiquarian Society

The American Antiquarian Society (AAS) is both a learned society and a major independent research library.  The AAS library houses the largest and most accessible collection of books, pamphlets, broadsides, newspapers, periodicals, sheet music, and graphic arts material printed from the colonial period through 1876 in what is now the United States, Canada, and the West Indies.  The AAS collections also contain manuscripts and a substantial collection of secondary works, bibliographies, and other reference works related to all aspects of American history and culture before the twentieth century.  The library contains more than two-thirds of all known imprints created in America before1821, making it the single greatest repository of such materials in the world. Additionally, the Society’s holdings of American printed materials dating from 1821 through 1876 are among the strongest anywhere. 

As a learned society AAS, sponsors a broad range of programs for constituencies ranging from school children and their teachers through undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, creative and performing artists and writers, and the general public. In 2012, the Society celebrated its bicentennial as the first national American historical organization.

The AAS is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.  and on Wednesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is closed on all legal holidays. The library is open to all serious researchers, free of charge. Complimentary public tours are held Wednesdays at 3:00 P.M.    The Society is located on the web at www.americanantiquarian.org.

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