Distinguished Images Prints and the Visual Economy in Nineteenth-Century France Stephen Bann

Publication date:
15 May 2013
Yale University Press
276 pages: 254 x 190mm
10 color + 95 b-w illus.
Sales territories:


This multifaceted book reviews the vast range of types of printmaking that flourished in France during the 19th century. Studies of this period’s printmaking tend to be confined to histories of individual processes, such as lithography or steel engraving. This study surveys the field as a whole and discusses the relationships between the various media in the context of an overall “visual economy.”

Lithography, etching, and engraving are all examined through new research on noteworthy artists of the period, including Hyacinthe Aubry-Lecomte, Léopold Flameng, Ferdinand Gaillard, Aimé de Lemud, Nadar, and Charles Waltner. Rather than simply tracing the rise of Modernism in the 19th century, Distinguished Images reconstitutes the period’s cultural milieu through a series of case studies written with an eye to overarching forces at play. The result is the most original analysis of printmaking to appear in many years—a striking new account of a system in which printmaking, printmakers, and art critics played heretofore unrecognized or misunderstood roles.

Stephen Bann is emeritus professor and senior research fellow, Bristol University, United Kingdom.

'A truly great read for anyone interested in how popular imagery has been disseminated into the public consciousness.'—Art & Antiques

'This is. . .an invigorating book, intelligently and attractively realised by the Yale editorial team. It is in every sense a work of distinction, enabling us to see the particular strengths and challenges of printmaking more clearly, touching on everything from the minute cuts and hatchings to the widest cultural ambitions.'—Tom Stammers, Apollo


‘Throughout his career, Stephen Bann has presented perhaps the greatest challenge to traditional historical interpretations of printmaking in nineteenth-century France. His thorough and innovative analysis of prints has complicated and revised the earlier assumption that the medium moved from being chiefly a means of reproduction of images which became obsolescent after the invention of photography, but finally triumphed as an original medium.’—Britany Salsbury, Burlington Magazine

“Offers an extraordinary portrait of printmaking as it evolved over the century.”—Marc Gotlieb, Print Quarterly June 2017