I started getting really depressed today for some reason. Actually, I know better— there is no reason. It’s just my chemistry. I wrote a thousand depressing personal things in my head while reading the first part of The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston (great book, BTW). Eventually, they quieted down and I was able to enjoy the . . . not really a novel— not really non-fiction . . .book. I should say more about it later. But for now, there’s another thought to put down.
I had no idea that engraving (real burin-type engraving) was flourishing in France in Blake’s day. This information comes from the Bann article I mentioned yesterday. I tracked it down after class tonight and read it over a steak and a margarita. Besides debunking a lot of myths of photo history perpetuated by people including Walter Benjamin, it opened my eyes to just how different the situation was for engravers on the continent vs. England. You see, true engraving never really flourished in England— almost everyone used a hybrid acid-etch/burin type of etching. Blake used this process through most of his career, excepting the Book of Job illustrations done on his deathbed. I hadn’t thought about that shift until Viscomi’s lecture. The situation for true engraving in England was, if you’ll excuse the pun, grave.
There are tons of things to write out regarding the article. I need to look at a few more of the contemporary photo-histories to see if the misinformation is as prevalent as I think it is— it seems as if the world is long overdue for a more accurate appraisal of the stature and market of photography in the early days. The connection between photography and the other graphic arts is much closer than most people imply. Bann confirmed my suspicion that book illustration was much more connected with woodcuts than steel or copperplate engraving in the beginning, and that really explains why it took so long for photography to be a serious force in illustration (50 years!). Early photographers really did not conceive their work in those terms— the market was quite a different one altogether.
So much to read and write . . . so little time. Perhaps all the work will eventually kick this chemical ennui’s ass.