Images, Copyright, and the Public Domain in the 19th Century - Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library


Why did copyright law protect engraved reproductions but not paintings or sculptures for most of the 19th century? As the industrial revolution made images more readily available than ever before, what rights belonged to their creators, purchasers, or publishers? Was it legal or culturally acceptable to reproduce or transform a picture into other forms? Did individuals have ownership in their own likeness? Was photography responsible for the elaboration of our modern legal framework for artistic authorship?

Join historians of material culture, art, law, and literature for a series of focused talks and debates about the relationship between copyright law and the cultural, economic, and technological factors that transformed the pictorial landscape of the 19th century. Copyright policies had, and continue to have, a profound impact on the creation and circulation of creative works. This Winterthur conference invites you to explore a formative moment in the history of law and the visual arts in America. Registration now open! To register, download the registration form. Download our conference brochure for more information.


In partnership with LARCA (Laboratoire de recherches sur les cultures anglophones) Université Paris Diderot and with the generous support of the Terra Foundation for American Art

Image at top: Painting of George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, Philadelphia, 1795–96. Gift of Henry Francis du Pont 1957.0857; Engraving after Gilbert Stuart. Museum purchase 1976.0047; Painting on glass, China, 1802–10. Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont 1960.0569.  

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