Bartolozzi was elected a founder member of the Royal Academy in 1768. However, despite being one of Europe’s finest printmakers, he was elected as a painter rather than an engraver. After Bartolozzi’s election, the Academy in fact refused to allow engravers to become full members for eighty years.
The Academicians argued that the work of printmakers was merely mechanical copying. Engravers rejected this argument, and most of them boycotted the Academy. Significantly, the tool that Bartolozzi wields in his right hand is not a paintbrush but the engraver’s tool, known as a burin; to the left is the painting he is working from.