Lubin House hosts NYC exhibition of Whistler etchings
Lubin House hosts NYC exhibition of Whistler etchingsOctober 08, 2003David L. Princedlprince@syr.edu
Twenty-six of James McNeill Whistler’s prints make up the exhibit “Water and Light: James McNeill Whistler’s Etchings of Venice and Amsterdam,” on display through Nov. 14 at the Joseph I. Lubin House’s Louise and Bernard Palitz Gallery in New York. The show, which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the artist’s death, showcases the early impressions of several of the artist’s most important etchings. The exhibition hours are Monday-Friday, noon-5 p.m., and Saturday by appointment. The show is free and open to the public.
Whistler (1834-1903) was a major figure in renewing popular interest in intaglio printmaking in Europe during the mid-19th century. His Venice work and his later series of Amsterdam prints illustrate two of the artist’s favorite subjects: water and the believable portrayal of artificial and natural light. The two cities are famous for their canals and Venice was especially well known for its ever-changing light and atmosphere. Included in his Venice work are several of his now famous “Nocturnes,” images that, through his careful inking and printing, meld water and sky, and light and dark, capturing the unique atmosphere of the floating city.
Whistler visited Holland often during his lifetime, especially Amsterdam. His etchings made there are some of the most avant-garde work of the 19th century, pushing the medium to its technical limit with a delicacy that is not seen in the etchings of his contemporaries. The Amsterdam etchings were Whistler’s last major contribution to the history of etching. In them, he synthesized the documentary quality of his early work with the artistic style of his Venice etchings.
There is no small amount of irony in the fact that Whistler, who is now considered among the best printmakers of the 19th century, had such an inconsistent reputation over much of his lifetime. The Venice prints were seen by the majority of critics as oriented too heavily toward “aesthetic” printing, thereby emphasizing the printing process instead of the delineation of the plate. One acerbic writer called the Venice prints, “another crop of Mr. Whistler’s little jokes.” Whistler saw the Amsterdam etchings as among his best works, observing that they combined the elaboration of the early prints with the Impressionism of the Venice images.
For more information about the exhibit, call 212.826.0320.