The Etching Revival
The etching revival was international in scope, beginning in France in the 1850s with the landscape artists working in the Barbizon forest, then spreading to England and the United States over the next two decades. As the painted sketch began to gain acceptance as a work of art in itself, not just a preparatory study, artists found that the etching needle offered the opportunity to create similarly informal yet expressive images.
In addition to emphasizing the creation of original images, instead of making prints after works in other media, the etching revival helped to raise the status of the art from one practiced by amateurs (Queen Victoria and Prince Albert dabbled in etching) to a pursuit of serious artists. Hence, the term "painter-etcheri" was popularized by supporters such as the French critic Charles Blanc; the American publisher S. R. Koehler, who published the work of the members of the New York Etching Club; and Sir Francis Seymour Haden, the brother-in-law of James McNeill Whistler. Although an amateur (he was a surgeon by profession), Haden was considered a serious artist and produced more than two hundred fifty etchings. He founded the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers in 1880 and, through his writings and his lecture tours of the United States, spurred the growth of training as well as exhibition venues for etching in this country and in England.
Whistler himself had a broad influence on the etchers of the time. Theodore Roussel emigrated from France to England in the 1870s and began etching with Whistler in the 1880s, while Mortimer Menpes learned to etch in Whistler's studio. The American artist Joseph Pennell first saw Whistler's etchings while still a student at the Pennsylvania Academy and later became a member of the older artist's intimate circle. Artists of following generations, such as Bertha Jacques, one of several American women who became successful etchers, would acknowledge Whistler's work as among their formative influences.
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