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Whistler & Company: The Etching Revival

This exhibition 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 are among works 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.

Although best known for innovative paintings such as Arrangements in Gray and Black No. 1 (popularly known as “Whistler’s Mother”), Whistler was a talented printmaker. The exhibition Whistler & Company examines the artist’s influential role in the etching revival of the 19th and early 20th centuries. This revival 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.

The legacy of expatriate American artist, James Abbott McNeill Whistler (Lowell, Massachusetts 1834-1903 London) was far-reaching, and his sphere of influence included early 20th-century East Tennessee. The Nicholson Art League, for instance, Knoxville’s leading art group of the period, dedicated its entire December 1, 1911 program to Whistler. Led by noted impressionist Catherine Wiley, the gathering featured presentations including “Whistler’s Influence on American Art,” and Whistler, His Life and Work.”

All of the works in in the exhibition are drawn from the Reading Public Museum’s permanent collection of works on paper, which numbers more than 10,000. Whistler & Company: The Etching Revival is organized by the Reading Public Museum, Reading, Pennsylvania.
Relevant research areas: 19th Century, Etching

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