With a French Accent goes to Bordeaux, France!

This fall, the American Antiquarian Society, with the generous support of the Terra Foundation, is sending an important exhibition of American lithographs to the Musée Goupil in Bordeaux, France.  The exhibition, À la mode francaise: La lithographie aux États-Unis 1820 to 1860, will be opening on September 6 and closing on November 10, 2013. The exhibition is made up of over fifty objects selected from the Society’s outstanding collection of lithographs from the pre-Civil War era. The prints of American presidents, French leaders, genre scenes, and landscapes all 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

Cover of the French edition of the catalog

Boston, New York, and Philadelphia by firms such as Pendleton’s Lithography and George Endicott who each purchased French presses and hired trained Parisian pressmen to improve their products.  Examples of well-known prints published in France after American artists are also featured, including the Power of Music after the American William Sydney Mount and Cornered after Richard Caton Woodville (see above).  These images were published and printed by the French firm Goupil & Co. for distribution in the United States and Europe.

The AAS exhibition was first displayed in 2012 during the Society’s bicentennial year at the Davis Art Center at Wellesley College and was well-received by visitors and the press (http://pastispresent.org/2012/news/with-a-french-accent/).  This second venue will feature a slightly expanded exhibition and will be accompanied by a French-language edition of the original catalog.  The Musée Goupil will also be installing a historic lithographic press in the galleries along with an example of a lithographic printing stone used by the Goupil firm.

Work on the Bordeaux exhibition has been underway at AAS for several months. All the prints were examined by our conservators, matted and framed and packaged for transportation by air to France.  Labels were translated into French for a new audience.  The French-language catalog was edited and designed and arrived from the printer in early July. Emails have been flying between Worcester and the mayor’s office in Bordeaux (the Musée Goupil is overseen by the municipal government there).  Posters (such as the one seen at the right) and invitations have been prepared by our French counterparts and the logistics of moving and installing the printing press into the gallery are all worked out.  The Musée Goupil opened in 1991 following two generous donations to the city of nearly a quarter of a million prints and artifacts relating to the French publishing house of Goupil & Co., which was founded in Paris in 1850 and had offices around the world (including one in New York, which was featured in a cartoon in the January 19, 1861 issue of Harper’s Weekly).  The museum preserves and displays Goupil lithographs, photogravures, copper plates, lithographic stones, and presses and also holds important archival papers relating to the firm’s various business ventures.

“At Goupil’s Window” from Harper’s Weekly, January 19, 1861

To round out the activities, in October the Society’s Center for Historic American Visual Culture (CHAViC) will be hosting a conference in Bordeaux focusing on the exhibition.  The conference is also generously supported by the Terra Foundation.  American and French scholars and AAS staff and members will gather on Friday, October 11th to hear papers on a variety of topics, including French printers who migrated to the United States, the circulation of French prints in the American market, and depictions of Lafayette and Napoleon by American publishers.  Stay tuned for more details on the conference as the date approaches.

Published by

Lauren Hewes

Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society

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