2008 | 33 | 177-218
Article title

ENGRAVING ACTIVITY OF JEAN-PIERRE NORBLIN IN THE BACKGROUND OF THE 18TH-CENTURY REMBRANDTING GRAPHICS (Tworczosc rytownicza Jana Piotra Norblina na tle XVIII-wiecznej grafiki rembrandtyzujacej)

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The article analyses the prints of Jean-Pierre Norblin de la Gourdaine (1745-1830) in the context of the 18th-century graphic Rembrandtism. The previous studies paid attention only to their associations with the works of Rembrandt, ignoring the relations with the contemporary creativity of European engravers, mainly French and German ones. The engravings by Rembrandt were thoroughly analysed in the 18th-century France and the conclusions were published in numerous theoretical texts. Edme F. Gersaint published in 1751 the first catalogue devoted solely to Rembrandt's prints. Then Claude-Henri Watelet in his 'Rymbranesques' (1787) analysed the graphic technique and determined that Rembrandt used etching combined with a drypoint and burin. Despite these observations and professed fascination with the results achieved by the Dutch master, French graphic artists hardly ever used these combined techniques in their works - instead they stuck to etching. In addition, they imitated the compositions of Rembrandt's paintings and prints, and unusual compositions in his style were scant. In this approach there is evident an impact of interpretative graphics which dominated in France at that time and imitated the works of great masters. It was characterised by technical mastery while forsaking artistic experiments. The situation of German graphic art was different, though. There were fewer theoretical texts published than in France, and interpretative graphics was less dominant. The tradition of 'peintres-graveurs' was cherished since many artists used an etching needle eagerly. Many etchings were modelled of the works by Rembrandt but more individual compositions in his style were also quite numerous. German graphic art was characterized by frequent use of a drypoint, often combined with etching. The 'peintres-graveurs' experimented on various stages of plate preparation as well as during the printing process. In the background of the French School the graphic activity of Norblin, who all his youth spent in Paris where he obtained his artistic education, is exceptional. He was, as a matter of fact, an author of several engravings modelled on existing painting and graphic compositions, but a majority of his oeuvre consists of original works referring in a creative way to the tradition of Rembrandt. They reveal, among other things, deep metamorphoses of iconographic means which allowed him to conceal the affinity between his own works and Rembrandt's models (as, for example, an engraving 'Ecce Homo') or depict the historical scenes which had not been portrayed in visual arts yet ('Presentation of the Crown to Premislas'). His creative experiments were not limited to the iconography itself, but encompassed also the technical process of engraving. Norblin was willing to combine etching with a drypoint, and he also used the techniques giving the effects similar to aquatint. In important stage in his creative process was also printing and retouching of the prints. A significant role played by experiment and attempts at rivalry with Rembrandt were the features Norblin shared with German 'peintres-graveurs' whose works he saw in Paris and on his way back to Poland. Like them, he also created paintings and drawings in the style of Rembrandt. There is no doubt that German art was for Norblin an important source of inspiration.
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  • Pawel Ignaczak, Biblioteka Polska w Paryzu (Bibliotheque Polonaise de Paris), 6 Quai d'Orleans, 75004 Paris, France
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