Out of the Shadows: Joshua Reynolds’ Celebrity Portraiture and the Market for Mezzotints in 18th-Century Britain

Jul. 2, 2011Sep. 27, 2011
Huntington Art Gallery, Works on Paper Room

One of the most innovative and popular mediums of the great age of 18th-century British art, mezzotint engraving altered the way images were produced and seen by an ever-growing and discerning audience. Building on the tradition of linear printmaking that began with Durer’s woodcuts in the 15th century, English engravers developed a new tonal technique that provided an unprecedented level of textural refinement and expressive detail through light and shadow, rivaling that of the monumental oil paintings of masters such as Joshua Reynolds, George Romney, and Thomas Gainsborough.

“Out of the Shadows: Joshua Reynolds’ Celebrity Portraiture and the Market for Mezzotints in 18th-century Britain” celebrates this rich period of mezzotint with 13 works from The Huntington’s collections. Highlighting the role of mezzotint in the development and dissemination of portraits after those of the most prolific portrait painter of the period, the exhibition includes works by engravers Valentine Green, James Watson, John Dixon, and John Jones, illustrating the popularity, breadth, and richness of mezzotint as a medium, as well as the development and transformation of artistic production and the role of the artist in 18th-century England.