39.2 cm x 31.5 cm (15 7/16 in. x 12 3/8 in.)
Jean-Jacques de Boissieu
(Lyon, 1736 - 1810, Lyon)
Medium and Support:
Etching, drypoint, engraving and roulette
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Jack S. Blanton Curatorial Endowment Fund, 2003
Known for his exquisite landscapes and genre scenes, Jean-Jacques de Boissieu also made a number of portraits. This late self-portrait shows his debt to the seventeenth-century Dutch masters, notably Rembrandt and Adriaen van Ostade. Posed casually in a compressed space, the instruments of his trade arrayed in the foreground, the artist appears with his elbow resting on a closed book as he holds up a copperplate with a portrait of his wife. In a later state, after her death, this portrait was replaced with a landscape.
In postrevolutionary France Boissieu was a paragon of the bourgeois amateur artist. By the time he made this self-portrait, he had established himself as one of the best reproductive printmakers in the country. Collectors prized his original etchings for their sensitive handling of light and their rich textures, as did the artists engaged in the Etching Revival in the mid-nineteenth century, such as Charles Meryon and Félix Braquemond. This is one of nine Boissieu prints in the museum’s collection, part of a distinguished group of etchings by late eighteenth-century amateurs, such as Jean-Pierre Norblin and Marcenay de Guy, who pursued pure, personal etching at a time when engraving and other complex reproductive techniques dominated.