The New York Times has posted a lovely analysis of my favorite woodblock print by Hokusai, “Ejiri in Suruga Province” (circa 1830, from his “Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji” series), in which a sudden blast of wind is the invisible subject of the piece. Nature and landscape and social class and quotidian humor, all meeting together in a pivotal moment of art history where Dutch imports influenced the Edo-era artists whose own innovative works quickly influenced the French.
As an art person I’ve enjoyed a good amount of time around lithography and other drawing media, and now I’m engaged to a children’s book illustrator who largely works in watercolor, so I’ve spent a fair amount of time at art supply shops buying paper. One thing has bugged me for years about our fine rag paper purchases, though: what’s up with the “BFK” in “Rives Arches BFK”? I’ve asked professors, professional printers, other artists, and even the Internet, with no great leads, but I finally coaxed the answer out of Google today. From The Albumen & Salted Paper Book: The history and practice of photographic printing, 1840-1895:
It is no wonder that only two paper mills in the world managed to consistently produce a paper of the necessary quality, and these two mills were able to maintain their monopoly from the 1860’s until approximately World War I. They were the above-mentioned Blanchet Frères et Klébler Co. in Rives, France (hence their product was known as the “Rives” paper) and Steinbach and Company, located in Malmedy, Belgium (at that time part of Germany). Steinbach paper was known outside Germany as “Saxe” paper.
The product that established their paper monopoly (duopoly?) — the exploding new field of photography! More to the point, 3D stereography, the Victorian postcard origin of a Tumblr meme:
In the late 1850’s and especially after 1860, two new factors in photographic technology and practice generated a great demand for albumen paper. The first of these was the stereograph; its ability to transport the viewer to distant scenes with the illusion of three-dimensional reality depended largely on the smooth surface and fine detail of albumen paper. Stereo views were extremely popular, and created a corresponding demand for albumen paper. Nearly all stereo views before 1890 were made on albumen paper.
I’d been wondering what those thinly-etched or embossed porcelain “hidden images” found on antique plates and teacups were called: lithophanes. Artists would carve molds for them using warm wax over a glass plate, with a mirror to reflect light from a window underneath so they could get a preview of their work. A translucent bas relief, with the subtle grisaille quality of a lithograph.
William Hogarth’s final engraving, a self-satirical illustration of the end of time, parodizing the bathetic imagery in his contemporaries’ works. I admire a guy who can go out on a bit of pessimist humor. (see also this explication of the print)