The predilection for story-telling and moralizing which was the dominating feature of much Victorian painting forged the link between the hitherto exclusive world of art and the general public. It was on this factor that the print industry flourished, and the link was effected through the production and distribution of reproductive engravings. For the first time art (in this sense) became available to every class of society, and as much a feature of home life as television is today.

Prints were cheap and large, they could be hung in heavy gilded frames to decorate a wall at a fraction of the price of a painting. There they mirrored all the familiar images of Victorian life and gave shape to the proper sentiments of Victorian domestic ideology. They inspired patriotism by depicting national heroes in their moments of glory, and frequent reassuring portraits of the Queen and her family. Prints also fulfilled one of the roles now assumed by the film, of illustrating novels which, whether by Goldsmith or Dickens, were becoming increasingly popular and more widely read. Prints were an invaluable aid to the evangelical movements. They were also a means of bringing history alive, and of enabling the public to become familiar with the likenesses of famous contemporary figures like Wellington, Peel, Palmerston, Disraeli and the dignitaries of the Church. — Hilary Beck, Victorian Engraving

The Etcher, an etching by William Strang R.A. (1859-1921)

Explanations of Engraving, Etching, Mezzotint, and Lithography

The Historical and Economic Contexts of the Graphic Arts



Beck, Hilary. Victorian Engravings. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1973.

Getscher, Robert H. The Stamp of Whistler. Exhibition catalogue. Oberlin, Ohio: Allen Memorial Art Museum, 1977.

Last modified 2 January 2021