Copper into Gold

Prints by John Raphael Smith (1751-1812)

Ellen G. D´Oench

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A highly important figure in the late eighteenth-century British art world, John Raphael Smith was the most robust and prolific printmaker of his time. Smith not only produced nearly 400 prints—about 130 of his own design and the others by such noted British artists as Joshua Reynolds, George Romney, and Joseph Wright of Derby—he was also appointed "Mezzotinto Engraver" to the Prince of Wales and became an impresario of the print-publishing trade. This book is the first full-length study for nearly a hundred years of Smith’s remarkable career in printmaking. Ellen D’Oench investigates how Smith conducted his engraving and publishing business and what his prints, drawings, and paintings reveal about the culture and morality of the society that viewed them. She includes a chronological catalogue raisonné with newly discovered works, an inventory of his firm’s publications, and a catalogue of prints reproduced from his own original work.

Along with full biographical information on Smith and his activities as an artist and publisher, D’Oench pays close attention to the contemporary art market, its operation, and the placement of Smith’s products within it. She details Smith’s fascination with female genre subjects and his use of printed images to both exploit and critique his culture’s manners and morals. Historians of paintings and prints, social and cultural historians, and scholars of women’s history will all find in this book an array of delightful illustrations and interesting material.

Ellen D’Oench is Curator Emeritus of the Davison Art Center and Adjunct Professor of Art History, Emeritus, at Wesleyan University.

“D’Oench has done a great deal to help scholars of eighteenth-century printmaking understand the economic motivations of that world and one of its principal players. . . . A book that grateful scholars will value.”—Amelia F. Rauser, Albion




“D’Oench’s study will surely be the standard work on the life and art of Smith. . . . [D’Oench] has included a catalogue raisonne of Smith’s prints that includes a number of previously unknown prints as well as useful lists of prints after Smith and works he exhibited during his lifetime.”—Choice


“This biography, the first in 100 years, not only describes Smith’s work and contribution to English artistic history, but gives us a wonderful insight into the publishing and artistic worlds of the late eighteenth century.”—Contemporary Review


“The first in-depth examination of J. R. Smith since Julia into 1902 treatise, Copper Into Gold provides a more current, scholarly overview of Smith’s work and life, and is a benchmark by which all subsequent studies on the subject will be judged.”—Carol Wax, Journal of the Print World


“This is fascinating study, lively and thoroughly researched, inot the work and life of the brilliant mezzotint engraver, with important insights into the processes of his craft, his milieu and his publishing affairs.”—Jan Piggott, Book Collector


ISBN: 9780300076301
Publication Date: April 10, 1999
Co-publisher: Published for the Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art
320 pages, 7 1/2 x 10
170 b/w + 10 color illus.
The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art
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