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Remnants and Revivals: Architectural Etchings by Charles Meryon and John Taylor Arms

This exhibition brings together the work of Charles Meryon and John Taylor Arms, printmakers who revered the art and architecture of medieval Europe.

Meryon (French, 1821–1868), a champion of the Etching Revival in France, became renowned for Etchings of Paris (Eaux-fortes sur Paris), 1850–54, a series depicting the city’s medieval center during a period of grand-scale urban renovation. Meryon’s views of the Ile de la Cité and bridges stretching across the Seine often include fantastical and macabre details: gargoyles perched on Notre Dame, flocks of menacing birds, and historic monuments looming over minutely drawn figures, alive and dead. Meryon made prints in multiple states, meticulously altering their composition and tone—a practice that continued even after his mental decline began.

In the early 20th century, John Taylor Arms (American, 1887–1953) praised Meryon's series—his own etching The Thinker (Le Penseur) reinterprets Meryon's iconic grotesque subject. Trained as an architect, Arms found artistic inspiration in Europe’s diverse and regionally distinctive architectural styles, especially its enduring Gothic structures. In the United States, the Gothic Revival skyscrapers of New York City fascinated him. This exhibition presents Arms’s views of Paris, Venice, Stockholm, and New York–including the recent VMFA acquisition An American Cathedral (The Woolworth Building)–all of which he rendered with laborious precision.

Remnants and Revivals celebrates the technical prowess of these leading etchers whose varied lines capture the glory of the Gothic and its architectural nuances. This exhibition is largely drawn from the Frank Raysor Collection, a generous, ongoing promised gift to the museum.


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