Copper into Gold:
Prints by John Raphael Smith (1752-1812)

Ellen Gates D'Oench

Publicaton Date
May 1999
Standard Number
Yale University Press
320 pages

A highly important figure in the late eighteenth-century British art world, John Raphael Smith was the most robust and prolific printmaker of his time. Smith not only produced nearly 400 prints—about 130 of his own design and the others by such noted British artists as Joshua Reynolds, George Romney, and Joseph Wright of Derby—he was also appointed "Mezzotinto Engraver" to the Prince of Wales and became an impresario of the print-publishing trade. This book is the first full-length study for nearly a hundred years of Smith’s remarkable career in printmaking. Ellen D’Oench investigates how Smith conducted his engraving and publishing business and what his prints, drawings, and paintings reveal about the culture and morality of the society that viewed them. She includes a chronological catalogue raisonné with newly discovered works, an inventory of his firm’s publications, and a catalogue of prints reproduced from his own original work.

Along with full biographical information on Smith and his activities as an artist and publisher, D’Oench pays close attention to the contemporary art market, its operation, and the placement of Smith’s products within it. She details Smith’s fascination with female genre subjects and his use of printed images to both exploit and critique his culture’s manners and morals. Historians of paintings and prints, social and cultural historians, and scholars of women’s history will all find in this book an array of delightful illustrations and interesting material.