Out of Whistlerís Window: The Etched Work of James McNeill Whistler & Sir Francis Seymour Haden

An exhibition at the West Bend Museum of Art
January 4 Ė February 19, 2006


After Rembrandt van Rijnís (1606-1669) stunning etchings in the middle decades of the 17th century, the medium went into a relative decline, being perceived as inferior to painting. In the mid 19th century, it was an American living in London and Paris, James McNeill Whistler, who brought this delicate and detailed medium to the fore once more particularly with his Twelve Etchings from Nature of 1858. Whistler, together with his brother-in-law and surgeon Sir Francis Seymour Haden, approached the etching process differently but their work is superbly complementary.
Whistler sought to convey mood by immersing us into the scene through close proximity to the subject; Hadenís work tends to impose both a physical and psychological distance. Both often worked from prepared plates on the spot, thus giving a medium known for its studio production a tremendous sense of spontaneity.
Despite their shared allegiance to the etching medium (Whistler was also a masterful painter) the personalities of Whistler and Haden were quite different to the extent that a public brawl in Paris ended their friendship. Nevertheless, both remained committed to etching with Haden founding and later becoming president of the Society of Painter-Etchers and Whistler receiving a commission for twelve etchings of Venice from the Fine Art Society of London. The work of both men was significantly responsible for a flourishing interest and revival in the medium in subsequent years.
Twenty prints by each artist are included in this exhibition, giving visitors the wonderful opportunity to contrast and compare the individual styles of each artist, but also to appreciate the expressive qualities of an underappreciated medium. This exhibition was organized by the Syracuse University Art Collection.




Related Website: www.wbartmuseum.com/exhibitions.htm