Themes and Variations: Topics from Print Council of America --- Gilbert Stuart, the Print Trade, and the Genesis of Art as Intellectual Property in the United States
Why were paintings not protected by American copyright law until 1870 while “historical prints,”
(1802), “any print or engraving,” (1831) and photographs and their negatives (1865) benefited from copyright protection? At a time when many a printmaker’s accomplishment was measured in relation to the design of printed images that copied or translated another work of art, nineteenth-century American copyright statutes seemingly presented a conundrum: protecting the copy while leaving the original open to reproduction, appropriation, plagiarism, or any other form of pirating. Starting with Gilbert Stuart’s legal and public battle to control copying, and the circulation of his portraits of George Washington, this lecture explores the roots of an early nineteenth-century understanding of art as intangible property.
Marie-Stéphanie Delamaire, Associate Curator of Fine Arts, Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library