Jean-Charles François (born in Nancy on May 4, 1717, died in Paris on March 22, 1769), was a French engraver and printer, inventor of a way of reproducing the drawings called “pencil way” which combines the use of A soft varnish, a roulette wheel and an instrument composed of fine needles, and engraving processes foreshadowing aquatint.
He was among the first to introduce engravings representing crayon and chalk drawings, and was pensioned by Louis XV, who employed him extensively. His most noted works represent that king and his queen, Pierre Bayle, Erasmus, John Locke, and Nicolas Malebranche.
François was a pupil of the painter Claude Charles in Nancy, but he learned the copperworking largely autodidactically. As a 16-year-old he received a large order to engrave tableware, for which he went to Dijon. Subsequently, he lived in Lyon, where he spent seven years and began the first attempts of his new procedure “to imitate the grainy lines of chalk or red pencil drawings by etching puncturing work”.
In 1733, he was found in Dijon, as engraver of coats of arms, then from 1740 to 1748, in Lyon under the aegis of the publisher Robert-Menge Pariset.
In 1740 he published the Principes de dessein faciles, in which he introduced this technique. In Paris, he continued his experiments, and in 1757 the first attempts were made to imitate chalk and monographs in the engraving, the so-called Crayonmanians.
Jean-Charles François settles in Paris about this date and publishes in 1757 The love of design, or course of design in the taste of the pencil. Having obtained the title of “Engraver of the Designs of the King’s Cabinet”, as well as a pension, Jean-Charles François collaborated in the editions of the lives of illustrious philosophers of the mathematician Alexandre Savérien. In particular, he is responsible for the recreation of a portrait of the mathematician François Viète from drawings by Jean Rabel.
He gave six sheets of this technique to the Académie Royale, which gave him a royal pension of 600 livres. In 1758 he received the title of a engraveur des dessein du Cabinet du Roi.
Through this process, François is of particular importance for French graphics. “His merit is to have made the puncturing technique of copper engraving more practical and artistically easier to use by combining it with the etching technique”.
This process was later improved by Gilles Demarteau and Louis-Marin Bonnet.
In addition to numerous individual sheets, François has also created the engravings for a number of tables, among others. For Emmanuel Hérés Recueil Des Plans Elevations … Chateaux Jardins, Et Dependances Que Le Roy De Pologne occupe en Lorraine … and the work Antiques du Cabinet de Mr. Adam.
Married to Marie-Catherine Frédou, sister of Jean-Martial Frédou (1710-1795), painter and pastel artist at Versailles, of whom he engraved a number of works in pencil way.
He worked with his rival and successor Gilles Demarteau and had as pupil Louis-Marin Bonnet. We owe him the engraving in the taste of the pencil.
With Robert-Menge Pariset: Principles of design easy and in the taste of pencil; New Book of Principles of Purpose, 1740.
With Emmanuel Héré: Collection of plans, elevations and cuts both geometric and in perspective of castles, gardens, and dependencies: which the King of Poland occupies in Lorraine, including the buildings he has erected, as well as the considerable changes, Decorations, and other enrichments, which he had caused to be made to those who were already built, and all directed and dedicated to his majesty by M. Here, his first architect. 1753. Including: Plans and elevations of the Royal Place of Nancy and of the other edifices which surround it, built by the orders of the King of Poland, Duke of Lorraine. See here.
With Joseph Gilliers: engravings of the French Cannaméliste [archive], Nancy, Cusson, 1751 and Nancy, J.-B.-H. Leclerc, 1768.
Spectacles of the virtues, arts, and historical sciences, poetics, and allegorical representations in the palaces of the gods, in Francois, ordinary engraver of his majesty, 1756.
With Alexandre Savérien: History of Moralists and Legislators, 1761.
With Alexandre Savérien: modern philosophers with their engraved portrait … (1760, reed 1769-1773)