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Materials Lab Workshop: Drawn to Art Reproduction

Left (drawing): Claude Monet, French, Two Men Fishing, 1883. Black crayon and scratchwork on paper coated with gesso and incised with fine vertical lines for reproduction by “gillotage.” Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Meta and Paul J. Sachs, 1965.312; right (print): Claude Monet, French, Two Men Fishing, 1883. Gillotage. Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Drawing Department Fund for Special Acquisitions, 1968.48.


Harvard Art Museums
32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA

For 19th-century artists, the evolution of reproductive technologies was never far from their minds, or hands, when making illustrations for the mass press. For much of the century, artists relied on professional wood engravers to translate their working drawings into the network of discrete black marks required for the printing of images on a typographic press. After the advent of photography in 1839, the industry experienced a flourishing of technological and material workarounds to this reliance on the reproductive engraver. The ability to produce printing plates from a photographic negative introduced new challenges, such as how to create halftones mechanically rather than manually. Among the methods used to produce these images was a specially textured “Gillot paper” that allowed artists to produce sketches automatically broken down into the graphic vocabulary of the relief print, without the need for an intermediary hand.

In this workshop, participants will explore drawing practices developed during this transformative period. We will focus especially on the technical and material challenges that artists faced as they tried to meet the demands of the mass-market press while maintaining their own aspirations for aesthetic and technical innovation. Sarah Mirseyedi, a Ph.D. candidate in the history of art and architecture at Harvard and a graduate student intern in the Materials Lab, will guide workshop participants in the Art Study Center as they look closely at drawings made explicitly for the mass press. Works by Edouard Manet and Claude Monet are among those included. Back in the Materials Lab, attendees will have the chance to experiment with materials and methods associated with these objects to create mock drawings for a 19th-century publication.

The workshop will take place in the Materials Lab, Lower Level.

$15 materials fee. Registration is required and space is limited. Materials fee must be paid to confirm registration. Please email, stop by the museums’ admissions desk, or call 617-495-1440 to register. Minimum age of 14; no previous experience is required.