Friday, December 1, 2017

Whistler and the American Etching Revival

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Kansas City, MO

December 1 2017 - May 29 2018 

“In an exhibition of etchings, the etchings are the last things people come to see,” joked James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), America’s premier etcher.

In truth, the etchings that Whistler himself created were incredibly popular. They awed the public, critics and fellow artists alike. Whistler’s talents earned him a reputation for being among the most influential and internationally respected modern etchers. The prowess and technical innovations he brought to the medium sparked a renewed interest in this centuries-old printmaking method.

Although Whistler’s etchings exist in multiples, each impression he created was a unique work of art. This helped etching achieve recognition as an artist’s medium, elevating it beyond commercial craft. Following Whistler’s lead, other American artists experimented with etching as a serious art form. Joseph Pennell, Whistler’s biographer and an acclaimed etcher, summarized the power and essence of the medium: “A great etching by a great etcher is a great work of art . . . on a small piece of paper, expressed with the fewest vital indispensable lines of the most personal character.”

This installation of American etchings celebrates Whistler’s achievements. It also showcases the wide-ranging possibilities of etching during the American Etching Revival of the late-19th and early-20th centuries and beyond.

Black Lion Wharf by James Abbott McNeill Whistler
James Abbott McNeill Whistler, American (1834-1903). Black Lion Wharf, 1859. Etching on paper, Overall: 5 15/16 x 8 13/16 inches. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 33-284.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American, 1834-1903). Rotherhithe, 1860. Etching, Overall: 10 13/16 x 7 3/4 inches. Purchase: William Rockhill Nelson Trust, 33-290.

Doug Osa:

My etching, "11th and Mulberry", will be included in the upcoming show Fine Lines: Whistler and the American Etching Revival on view at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO:

Also See

James McNeill Whistler,The Japanese Dress, 1890s, pencil, black chalk and pastel on brown paper, mounted on board, Bequest of George W. Davison (B.A. Wesleyan 1892), 1952.D1.10;

J. Alden Weir (1852-1919), The Haystacks, etching and drypoint, some pen and blue ink, working proof, Gift of George W. Davison (B.A. Wesleyan 1892), 1947.D1.249;

Whistler & Company: The Etching Revival

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (America, 1834 — 1903), Billingsgate, 1859, etching, 5 15/16 x 8 7/8 inches, Museum Purchase, 2003.5.1C

In an open doorway of a shop sits an old woman in right profile, hands in lap, and head bent forward in sleep. On the shelves above and beyond her are various odds and ends.

James Abbott McNeill Whistler (American,1834 – 1903) La Vieille aux Loques (The Old Rag Woman), 1858, etching and drypoint, state: iv/iv, Gift, Kathryn M. Klingeman, 2006.4.1.

The Forge (1861)
by James Abbott McNeill Whistler Reading Public Museum