Whistler: The Gentle Art of Making Etchings (4 stars)

Whistler: The Gentle Art of Making Etchings


‘That in Art, it is criminal to go beyond the means used in its exercise,’ wrote James McNeill Whistler in his book The Gentle Art of Making Enemies. Referring to the size of the copper plate used in relation to the fine pointed needle to execute an etching, the statement reflects the outspoken personality and meticulous industry of this master printmaker.

On display are sections of the artist’s time spent in Venice: the everyday street life of London’s East End and Paris’ Latin Quarter; his time in Amsterdam; displays of his etching tools and actual cancelled plates; his techniques explained; and a background on dealers, collectors and his chosen titles. A particularly exquisite drypoint is ‘Weary’ – an image of Whistler’s mistress, Joanna Hifferman. In the middle of the room hangs a printed canvas with a photo of the old Master in his studio, suggesting a ghostly presence. All that is missing here is the distinctive smell of a printmaking studio – hot bitumen, acid and fresh ink.

This beautifully executed and informative exhibition showcases about 50 impressions: ‘That the space to be covered should always be in proper relation to the means used for covering it.’ Whistler would have approved.

Hunterian Art Gallery, Glasgow, until Sat 30 May

Whistler: The Gentle Art of Making Etchings

  • 4 stars

Highly engaging, illuminating exhibition of Whistler's beautiful, influential etchings, which also includes the artist's working tools, copper plates, and rare archive material.

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