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Darwin Correspondence Project

1.10 Rajon etching, variant state

Paul Adolphe Rajon’s etching from the oil portrait of Darwin by Ouless exists in more than one state. The most striking variant is this rugged image, preserved in an impression in the Wellcome collection. It is heavily worked with bold strokes, giving an effect that is reminiscent of the rough impasto in some of Rembrandt’s late oil paintings, and certainly emulates the freedom of style in Rembrandt’s own etchings. Henry Beraldi in Les Graveurs du XIXe Siècle made no reference to this state of the Darwin print, but it amply bears out his general observation that Rajon was able, even in reproductive images, to introduce a new freshness and daring originality into French printmaking.  

A dealer or collector has made a pencil note at the bottom of the sheet, ‘1st état (très rare) P. Rajon’. However, it seems much more likely that this image, which lacks the remarque marginal sketches associated with early proof impressions of the Darwin portrait, is in fact a late state of the print. There is an etched signature below the image – ‘Rajon aq fort’ – but no evidence of the date or the circumstances in which it was produced. Curiously, it appears to be this design which reappeared in an ornate wood-engraved frame with an attribution to George Frederic Watts. It was also adapted as the frontispiece to an American edition of Origin of Species, published by Hurst in New York in 1899.  

  • physical location Wellcome Library 

  • accession or collection number 562360i 

  • copyright holder Wellcome Library 

  • originator of image Paul Adolphe Rajon 

  • date of creation undated (c.1877?) 

  • medium and material etching 

  • references and bibliography Henri Beraldi, Les Graveurs du XIXe Siècle: Guide de l’Amateur d’Estampes Modernes (Paris: Librairie L. Conquet, 1891), vol. XI, pp. 151f., 165. Wellcome Collection catalogue details, at https://wellcomecollection.org /works, accessed January 2020. 


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