Expatriate American artist, James Abbot McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) played an essential role in the etching revival of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The exhibition Whistler & Company includes nearly a dozen works by Whistler accompanied by more than 50 etchings by some of his most accomplished American and European contemporaries. Whistler’s gritty images of the River Thames, views of Venice, and Parisian scenes revived, at least in part, the art of etching in the 19th century. Works from Whistler’s ‘Thames Set’ and ‘French Set’ are featured in the exhibition. Other artists who participated in the etching revival include Francis Seymour Haden, James McBey, Edwin Edwards, David Young Cameron, Muirhead Bone, Mortimer Menpes, Charles Meryon, Maxime Lalanne, Joseph Pennell, and Frank Duveneck, among others.
The etching revival of the second half of the 19th century took hold in France, England and the United States. Artists set out to reestablish etching—the art of incising lines with an etching needle into a thin copper plate which was then inked and pressed into paper with the help of a printing press to create impressions—as an art form that could stand on its own. Inspired by Rembrandt, and the old masters, practitioners created remarkable original and expressive compositions that gained popularity with refined collectors and the broader public.
Whistler & Company: The Etching Revival is organized by the Reading Public Museum, Reading, Pennsylvania