Expanding Narratives: Theme and Variations—The Multiple Sorceries of Félix Buhot

April 24 to July 22, 2018

Félix Buhot, A Landing in England, 1879, Etching, drypoint, aquatint, and stipple engraving, state 4 of 5, proof impression (1 of 20). Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Purchase, The Paul and Miriam Kirkley Fund for Acquisitions, 2010.115.

While we think of etching as a linear, black and white medium, in the most skilled hands this printmaking technique can produce atmospheric tones and surface effects worthy of a painting.

In the late nineteenth century, French printmaker Félix Buhot effected a kind of sorcery on his etching plates, making each impression into a unique work of art simply by varying the inking technique and the inks and papers used. With his evocative, atmospheric scenes of stormy piers and urban streetscapes, he dissolved classic distinctions between figure and ground in ways that challenge the limits of the etching medium.

This display—joining examples from the Hearn Family Trust and Charles Hack with Smart works—allows the visitor to gain a glimpse of Buhot’s extraordinary, evolving artistic process over multiple states and variations of the same print.


Expanding Narratives

Theme and Variations is presented as part of Expanding Narratives: The Figure and the Ground, a collections and exhibitions project that uses the formal dichotomy of the figure and the ground to explore ideas of visual representation and the museum space.


Top: Félix Buhot, A Winter Morning Beside the Hotel-Dieu (Une Matinée d'Hiver au Quai de L'Hotel-Dieu) (detail), 1876, Etching and drypoint on laid paper, state v/xv. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago,Gift of Brenda F. and Joseph V. Smith, 2003.26. 

Above: Félix Buhot, A Landing in England, 1879, Etching, drypoint, aquatint, and stipple engraving, state 4 of 5, proof impression (1 of 20). Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Purchase, The Paul and Miriam Kirkley Fund for Acquisitions, 2010.115.