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Francesco Bartolozzi

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Francesco Bartolozzi

Italian, (1727–1815)
The engraver and painter Francesco Bartolozzi was a Founder Member of the Royal Academy who served as engraver to the King of England for almost 40 years. He engraved works by several of his fellow Royal Academicians, including Angelica Kauffman, Benjamin West and Joshua Reynolds. Bartolozzi was born in 1727 and trained in his native Florence before moving to Venice. There, he spent six years working for the engraver and printseller Josef Wagner before setting up his own workshop. The prospect of better commissions tempted Bartolozzi to Rome in 1762, where he quickly gained a reputation as a masterful engraver. In 1763 a set of Bartolozzi’s etchings after Old Master drawings was published, raising his profile across Europe. The same year he met Richard Dalton, King George III’s Librarian, who had been sent to Italy to seek out suitable acquisitions for the King’s collections. Dalton persuaded Bartolozzi to travel to England in 1764 with the promise of an appointment as engraver to the King. Bartolozzi stayed for the next 38 years.

He made prints of many of the Old Master drawings in the Royal Collection, including works by Guercino, Holbein and Michelangelo. Between 1765 and 1768 Bartolozzi exhibited with the Society of Artists, before seceding to the newly-established Royal Academy in 1768. The new Academy’s laws specifically excluded engravers from membership, but Bartolozzi was held in sufficiently high regard to be considered above this rule and was made an Academician in the category of Painter. Bartolozzi is best known as the leading exponent of the “stipple” technique he developed in the 1770s, which created images through delicate networks of dots rather than lines (as in etching or line-engraving). Bartolozzi enhanced the decorative effect of his work by favouring a range of red, orange and brown inks, rather than the more common black. Bartolozzi’s studio expanded rapidly to cater to the demand for this new technique, resulting in a distinctive “school of Bartolozzi” in the late 18th century.

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