The ‘Writing’ of Modern Life: The Etching Revival in France, Britain, and the U.S., 1850-1940
November 18, 2008 – April 19, 2009
James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Black Lion Wharf, 1859, Etching and drypoint on laid paper. Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, Gift of Brenda F. and Joseph V. Smith, 2000.93.
This exhibition examines the intertwined arts of etching and writing, from the polemical beginnings of the Etching Revival in the 1850s to its twentieth-century afterlife.
During this period, etching was reinvented as an original art form that—like writing—was uniquely fitted to expressions of an artist’s individual personality and the experience of modernity.
Printmakers and critics redefined the medium, creating a new critical language that was entwined with literary discourse. They emphasized the signature qualities of the etched line, encouraging the idea that each print bore the touch of the artist, and rediscovered an expressive medium suitable for gritty modern subjects as well as classical pastoral themes.
Showcasing etchings by European and American artists like Haden, Meryon, and Whistler, the exhibition offers a new interdisciplinary perspective on the Etching Revival. The forty-five works on view are drawn in large part from a recent gift to the Smart Museum.