“The Artful Disposition of Shades"
In the century and a half before the advent of photomechanical reproductions in the mid-1800s, mezzotints were the favored medium for publicizing English paintings. Compared to traditional printmaking techniques, such as engraving and etching, the new tonal method was praised by contemporaries for its ability to represent the painterly qualities of light and shadow. Although generations of artist had used prints to heighten awareness of their designs, the establishment of regular public exhibitions in London in the second half of the eighteenth century significantly increased the demand for inexpensive and widely available editions of fashionable pictures. Many painters embraced the picturesque appearance of mezzotints, including Reynolds, Turner, and Constable.