Printing Colour 1700–1830: Discoveries, Rediscoveries and Innovations

28 June 2017 | The Hague

An interdisciplinary conference on the materials, techniques, and uses of colour printing in the West. Following the publication of Printing Colour 1400-1700, the first handbook of early modern colour printmaking before 1700 (by Ad Stijnman and Elizabeth Savage), this conference will be the first interdisciplinary assessment of Western colour printmaking in the ‘long eighteenth century’, 1700–1830. The two-day conference at Senate House (10-11 April 2018) will be followed by object sessions in London institutions including the British Library, British Museum, Senate House Library, V&A and Wellcome Collection (12 April 2018). 

Keynote speaker: Dr Margaret Morgan Grasselli (National Gallery of Art, Washington)
Convenors: Dr Elizabeth Savage (University of London) & Dr Ad Stijnman (Leiden University)

Abstracts for papers or posters are encouraged from historians of all kinds of printed materials (including historians of art, books, botany, design, fashion, meteorology, music and science), conservators, curators, rare book librarians, practising printers and printmakers, and historians of collecting. Registration fee will be waived for speakers and poster presenters, transport and accommodation also offered to speakers. Please submit abstracts by 1 October 2017, see form.

Eighteenth-century discoveries in archives, libraries and museums are revealing that bright inks were not extraordinary. Artistic and commercial possibilities were transformed between rapid technical advances around 1700 (when Johannes Teyler and Jacob Christoff Le Blon invented new colour printing techniques) and 1830 (when the Industrial Revolution mechanised printing and chromolithography was patented). These innovations added commercial value and didactic meaning to material including advertising, books, brocade paper, cartography, decorative art, fashion, fine art, illustrations, medicine, trade cards, scientific imagery, texts, textiles and wallpaper.

The saturation of some markets with colour may have contributed to the conclusion that only black-and-white was suitable for fine books and artistic prints. As a result, this printed colour has been traditionally recorded only for well-known ‘rarities’. The rest remains largely invisible to scholarship. Thus, some producers are known as elite ‘artists’ in one field but prolific ‘mere illustrators’ in another, and antecedents of celebrated ‘experiments’ and ‘inventions’ are rarely acknowledged. When these artworks, books, domestic objects and ephemera are considered together, alongside the materials and techniques that enabled their production, the implications overturn assumptions from the historical humanities to conservation science. A new, interdisciplinary approach is now required.

Following Printing Colour 1400-1700, this conference will be the first interdisciplinary assessment of Western colour printmaking in the long eighteenth century, 1700–1830. It is intended to lead to the publication of the first handbook colour printmaking in the late hand-press period, creating a new, interdisciplinary paradigm for the history of printed material. 

 This conference is sponsored by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation.