Copper in the Arts

August 2017

Whistler and Contemporaries Featured in Reading Public Museum's Etching Revival Exhibition

Expatriate American artist, James Abbot McNeill Whistler is part of a group of printmaking pioneers on display at The Reading Public Museum through Sept 24.

news.jpgJames Abbott McNeill Whistler (America, 1834 — 1903), Billingsgate, 1859, etching, 5 15/16 x 8 7/8 inches, Museum Purchase, 2003.5.1C.

Photograph courtesy of The Reading Public Museum. 

Whistler is one of several artists featured who played a crucial role in the copper etching revival of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The exhibition includes more than sixty works, with nearly a dozen by Whistler, whose gritty images of the River Thames, views of Venice and Parisian scenes revived, at least in part, the art of copper etching in the 19th century.

The etching revival of the second half of the 19th century took hold in France, England and the United States. Artists set out to re-establish etching—the art of incising lines with an etching needle into a thin copper plate which was then dipped in an acid bath, 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.

“This group of innovative artists was committed to the medium of etching as means of expression on par with painting, but with the spontaneity and freedom of drawing,” notes show Curator Scott Schweigert. “They helped shape our modern notions about printmaking as an independent medium, and this exhibition sheds light on that aspect of their artistic production.”

Other British, French and American artists who participated in the etching revival will be featured in the exhibition including 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.


The Reading Public Museum, 500 Museum Rd, Reading, PA, (610) 371-5850

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