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"With a French Accent: American Lithography before 1860" opens at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College
Alphonse Léon Noël after William Sydney Mount (1807-1868). The Power of Music! New York: Goupil, Vibert & Co., [1848]. Gift of Jay T. Last.

WELLESLEY, MASS.- The Davis Museum at Wellesley College opens With a French Accent: American Lithography before 1860, an exhibition exploring the French roots of American lithography, on Wednesday, March 14. Featuring some fifty French and American prints from the collection of the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, the exhibition will be on view through June 3, 2012 in the Morelle Lasky Levine '56 Works on Paper Gallery. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

In the early days after its invention in 1798, one of the main appeals of lithography (a printing technique based on the repulsion between grease and water), was that is was ideal for artistic renderings. Not only was it a medium that was relatively easy for artists to use, but also the range of tones and facility of line allowed for the close copying of paintings and drawings by skilled lithographic artists. The French were particularly adept and interested in the art form and many fine examples of French art appeared as lithographs in the first decades of the nineteenth century, a time during which French culture was emulated widely in America and prints “in the French Style” were very popular.

With a French Accent - the exhibition, an accompanying publication, and a symposium held on March 31 - will uncover several themes: the importance of French technology, the circulation and reproduction of French imagery, the stylistic contributions of French lithographic artists, and the reproduction of American genre paintings by French publishers for distribution in Europe and the United States.

With a French Accent highlights:

• Among the works on display will be John Rubens Smith’s portrait of his wife printed in 1821 by the first American lithography firm, Barnet & Doolittle. The two partners, William Armand Barnet and Isaac Doolitle, studied lithography in Paris before establishing their company in New York.

• Piercing the Ears, a charming lithograph published in New York in 1825 by the French-born Anthony Imbert (a pioneering figure in the introduction of lithography in America), who reproduced a print by Léopold Boilly from his series, Les Grimaces, that had been published in Paris from 1823-1828. The Philadelphia firm Cephas G. Childs and Henry Inman also reproduced popular French prints.

• A dozen prints by New Yorkers Bailly and Ward, who imported large numbers of French lithographs, and French print publishers Turgis and Goupil, who distributed their prints through their shops in New York.

• Several French lithographic artists settled in New York, Philadelphia and Boston bringing new styles of drawing on stone to the American public. For example, Francis D’Avignon was particularly adept at drawing portraits after photographs; Charles Crehan’s portrait of Jenny Lind is freely drawn with carefully delineated facial features; and Leopold Grozelier's poignant "The Sailors Farewell," printed in Boston in 1856 after a daguerrotype by Loyal Moss Ives.

• William Schaus, Goupil and Company, and Michael Knoedler all published prints lithographed in Paris after American genre and history paintings by artists such as William Sidney Mount, Lily Martin Spencer, Junius Brutus Stearns, F. O. C. Darley, George Caleb Bingham, and Richard Caton Woodville.

With a French Accent is curated by Georgia Brady Barnhill ’66, Director of the Center for Historic American Visual Culture, and Lauren B. Hewes, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, both of the American Antiquarian Society, based on research supported by funds from The Florence Gould Foundation of New York.

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