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Abraham Bosse
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One of the leading French printmakers of the 17th century, Abraham Bosse was also a writer whose treatise on printmaking would be translated into several languages. The son of a tailor, Bosse was probably born in 1604, although the age given on his death certificate indicates he was born in 1602. Bosse practiced the religion of his Calvinist parents, which made him something of an outsider in Catholic France. He became an apprentice of Melchior Tavernier (ca. 1564-1641), a Flemish engraver and publisher working in Paris, in 1620. The apprenticeship certificate recited that he was 16. Bosse’s first dated prints were published by Tavernier in 1622. Bosse became friends with the printmaker Jacques Callot (1592-1635) while Callot was in Paris in 1629, and learned Callot’s technique of using a hard ground on etching plates. Bosse apparently returned to Tours more than once, but then married Catherine Sarrabat in 1632 and lived in Paris. Bosse was a prolific printmaker by the 1630s; he would create some 1,500 prints and illustrations for perhaps 120 books. Bosse’s prints covered a wide range of subject matters, from religious works to historical topics, genre scenes and allegories. One consistent theme, however, was that the people depicted in his prints were all dressed in fashionable clothing of his day, with the result that they provide a pictorial history of the upper class French of the 17th century. While Bosse was also a painter, few of those works are known. His friendship with the mathematician Gérard Desargues (1591-1661) led Bosse to write and illustrate three books on perspective published in 1643 and 1648, applying Desargues’s theories of geometry to art. In 1645 Bosse published his important treatise on etching and engraving in 1645, which would continue to receive new editions until 1758. In 1648 Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) and other artists founded the Académie Royale de peinture et de sculpture (Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture) to provide academic training in art. Bosse was invited to give lectures on geometric perspective, and in 1651 was made an honorary member (since the Académie did not accept printmakers as full members). His insistence on application of his theories to painting led to disputes with Le Brun and others, culminating in Bosse’s expulsion from the Académie in 1661. He attempted to set up a school for instruction in art according to his theories but it was suppressed in 1662. Bosse turned his energies to writing and publishing books, including works on architecture and art theory, making few prints. He wrote seventeen books during his lifetime. He died on February 14, 1676 in Paris. (TNB 5/2013) Selected bibliography: Goldstein, Carl. Print Culture in Early Modern France: Abraham Bosse and the Purposes of Print. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012. McTighe, Shella. “Abraham Bosse and the Lanaguage of Artisans: Genre and Perspective in the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture, 1648-1670.” Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 21, No. 1 (1998), pp. 3-26. Smith College Museum of Art. Abraham Bosse. Exhibition catalog. Northampton: 1956.