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Daring Technique: Goya and the Art of Etching

Considered one of the most important Spanish artists, Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), was not only a master painter, but also brought scenes to life through printmaking. His innovative techniques set him apart from his contemporaries and inspired generations of artists that followed.

The exhibition, Daring Technique: Goya and the Art of Etching, on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum from April 20 through September 9, 2018, showcases prints that compare his style with other artists’ etchings and highlight his mastery, including a rare and complete first edition set of Goya’s drama-filled print series La Tauromaquia.

Following in the footsteps of masters such as Dürer and Rembrandt, Goya emphasized printmaking throughout his career, viewing it as of equal importance to his paintings. Daring Technique highlights Goya’s creative use of the etching process with a variety of prints.

“It’s exciting to present such a highlight of the Museum’s print collection to visitors and show how Goya used the process of etching in a way that was entirely experimental and new at the time,” said Britany Salsbury, curator of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s exhibition, presently at the Cleveland Museum of Art. “I hope visitors come away with a better understanding of some of the reasons why etching appealed so strongly to Goya, and the potential it offered to both him and his contemporaries for a new and expressive style of printmaking.”

A recently acquired early etching by Goya after Diego Velázquez is also on display during the exhibition, as well as etchings by Goya’s contemporaries, including Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Angelica Kauffman and Canaletto. Additional works on paper by Manet, Picasso and Dalí further contextualize the artist’s prints in the history of etching.

While the exhibition includes a number of works, the centerpiece is the complete series La Tauromaquia, 33 prints exploring the history of bullfighting in Spain as a national pastime and a symbol of national identity.

A highlight of the Museum’s print collection, these etchings were printed during Goya’s lifetime and purchased by the Museum in 1983. The prints can only be displayed publicly for limited periods of time—and in limited light—due to the sensitive nature of works on paper, making this the only opportunity visitors will see them on view for many years.

Much like drawing, etching provided 18th and 19th-century European artists the flexibility to explore new approaches and techniques. Displays and educational material in the exhibit explain how prints are made through etching, aquatint and other printmaking processes.

The Friedlander family is the presenting sponsor of this exhibition in memory of their mother, Jean Friedlander. For more than 55 years, Mrs. Friedlander was an active volunteer with the Museum. She co-chaired Museum’s first endowment campaign and played a major part in fundraising for all three buildings within the current Museum campus. She was an avid print collector, making this exhibition a perfect fit for her interests.

Curator: Britany Salsbury, Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings, Milwaukee Art Museum, presently Associate Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Relevant research areas: North America, 19th Century, Etching

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