James Abbott McNeil Whistler Bibi Lalouette 1859
This extensive survey of British Etching, drawn from the Gallery’s collection, begins with James Abbott McNeill Whistler and the Etching Revival of the second half of the 19th century. The exhibition traces the development of the art to the present day, focusing on groups of works by significant artists such as James Tissot, Walter Sickert, Augustus John, Frank Auerbach and Lucian Freud.
In his day Whistler’s reputation as a printmaker was second only to that of Rembrandt. He was one of the leaders of the British Etching Revival, which extolled the expressive potential of the pure etched line and the importance of the original print as opposed to the reproduction. Interest in etchings soared: a new breed of professional publishers and dealers sprang up, as did a flourishing industry of specialist journals and collectors’ guides.
Following World War II, etching was superseded by other print techniques. During the 1960s and 1970s it suffered from the popularity of screenprinting, but significant printmakers such as David Hockney stayed loyal to the medium. More recently, etching has become the favoured graphic medium of artists such as Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff and Lucian Freud.