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On reproductions

  • Trevor Fawcett (a1)


A reproduction gives a very imperfect account of a work of art. The distortions of a photograph, while less obvious than those of an engraving, are still serious. According to some authorities the dangers of using reproductive photographs include the spoiling of the aesthetic eye and the too easy assumption that a copy can stand in for the original. While reproductions are indispensable they need to be employed critically: for example a good black-and-white photograph may sometimes be preferable to the meretricious colour slide.



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(1) Pointon, Marcia. History of art: a student’s handbook. London: Allen and Unwin, 1980, p. 25.
(2) Neoclassical line reproduction is defended however by Lloyd, C.H. in the Bodleian Library exhibition catalogue Art and its Images. Oxford, 1975. pp.1316. See also Gage, JohnPrinting coloured picturesArt History, vol. 4, no. 4, December 1981, pp. 4704.
(3) Marshall, F.A.S. Photography: the importance of its applications in preserving pictorial records… London, 1855. p. 15.
(4) For Alinari and other firms see the catalogue of the exhibition at the Forte di Belvedere Gli Alinari, fotografi a Firenze, 1852-1920. Florence, 1977. For the firm of Braun see Freund, Gisèle Photographie et Société. Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1974. pp. 923.
(5) Conway, W.M. The Domain of art. London: J. Murray, 1901. pp. 1312.
(6) Secrest, M. Being Bernard Berenson. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1980. pp. 1278.
Samuels, E. Bernard Berenson: the making of a connoisseur. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1979. p. 173.
(7) Cited in Buddemeier, H. Panorama, Diorama, Photographic Munich: W. Fink, 1970. p. 335.
(8) For Wölfflin, and for much additional material relevant to this discussion, see Freitag, Wolfgang M.Early uses of photography in the history of artArt Journal, vol. 39, no. 2, Winter 1979, pp. 11723. See also Tietze-Conrat, E.Über die Reproduktionen plastischer WerkeKunstgesch. Jb.der K.K. Zentral-Komm. Beibl. zum Bd. 1, 1907, p. 35. More recently Pope-Hennessy, John has contended that ‘if sculptures are looked at as though they were in two dimensions, the results will almost inescapably be wrong’ and that on the basis of photographs scholars often misdated sculptures by a whole century The study and criticism of Italian sculpture Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1981. p. 29.
(9) Waetzoldt, W. Deutsche Kunsthistoriker, 2.Aufl. repr.Berlin, 1965. vol. 2, pp. 233, 2645.
(10) Benjamin’s, WalterKleine Geschichte der Photographie’ (English trans, in Artforum, vol. 15, no. 6, Feb. 1977, pp. 4651) was first published in 1931, five years before his better-known text The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, in Illuminations. London: Fontana/Collins, 1973.
(11) Wind, E. Art and anarchy. London: Faber and Faber, 1963. p. 76.
(12) Berenson, B. Aesthetics and history in the visual arts. New York, 1948. pp. 2034.
(13) Wind, E. op.cit. pp. 1656.
(14) Ivins, W.M. A note on engraved reproductions of works of art, in Studies in art and literature for Belle da Costa Greene, ed. Miner, D.. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1954. pp. 1936.
(15) Tietze, H. Die Methode der Kunstgeschichte. Leipzig, 1913. p. 252.
(16) Berenson, B. Aesthetics..., op.cit., pp. 2034.
(17) The adverse view is taken by Gilson, E. in his Painting and reality. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, repr.1968. pp. 6473. The UNESCO catalogues of colour reproductions are evidence of the opposite preference, for the mass dissemination of art.
(18) Malraux, A. Museum without walls. London: Seeker and Warburg, 1967. pp. 111, 1349 and passim.
(19) Berger, J. Ways of seeing. London: B.B.C., 1972. passim.
(20) See Gertrud Bing’s introduction to vol. 1 of Saxl, F. Lectures. London: Warburg Institute, 1957.
(21) For Arnheim’s remark see Salmagundi, nos. 50-1, Fall-Winter 1980-l, p.269.
(22) Freitag, Wolfgang M. op.cit., p. 123.
(23) Sontag, Susan. On photography. London: A. Lane, 1978. p. 3.

On reproductions

  • Trevor Fawcett (a1)


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