Tag Archives: printmaking

Books for Art Lovers

This is a print of a snow scene at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. People dressed in dark clothes carry umbrellas and shoulder against the wind.

Henri Rivière (French, 1864-1951) and Georges Auriol (French, 1863-1938). Thirty-Six Views of the Eiffel Tower. 1888-1902, published 1902. Bound volume of 36 color lithographs. Purchased as the gift of Louis Berman, Glyndon, Maryland, BMA 2001.290

The BMA recently received a grant of $25,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts toward a new exhibition on artists’ books scheduled for the spring of 2017.

Artists’ books, according to a common definition, are “works of art in the form of a book.” The simplicity and broadness of this description encompasses works that are as multifarious, complex, and expressive as art in any other medium.  By nature a collaborative project at the crossroads of bookmaking and art-making, the artist’s book brings artists together with writers, printers, and publishers in a melding of perspectives that can lead to exciting and unexpected outcomes.

The exhibition will feature a selection of approximately 120 artists’ books and related prints by Jasper Johns, Barbara Kruger, Pablo Picasso, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and many others from the BMA’s superlative collection of late 19th-century, modern, and contemporary art.  It will be the capstone of a two-part, collaborative project between the BMA and the Program in Museums and Society at Johns Hopkins University that is funded in part by a grant to JHU from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  This spring, Rena M. Hoisington, BMA Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs, taught the course “Paper Museums: Exhibiting Artists’ Books at The Baltimore Museum of Art” for 11 undergraduates from JHU, Loyola University Maryland, and the Maryland Institute College of Art.  The students met weekly in the BMA’s Samuel H. Kress Foundation Study Room of Prints, Drawings & Photographs, where they had the opportunity to work directly with the artists’ books.  In addition to writing label texts and blog posts for these books, the students helped to determine the checklist and thematic organization of the exhibition.  More than half the works they chose have never been exhibited before at the BMA.

With checklist in hand, Hoisington and her BMA colleagues can now move forward with more detailed planning of the exhibition itself.  The generous funding from NEA and Mellon will help to defray the costs of the installation, digitization, and programming—all three of which are essential to creating a visually stimulating exhibition that will provide access to these rarely seen works while educating audiences about this important artistic medium.

One of the earliest books that will be included in this exhibition is Henri Rivière’s 1902 publication Thirty-Six Views of the Eiffel Tower, which was inspired by a series of color woodcuts entitled Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji by the 19th-century Japanese printmaker Katsushika Hokusai.  With this elegant publication, Rivière sought to equate the importance of the Eiffel Tower, a marvel of modern French industrial design completed in 1889, with the spiritual significance of Japan’s Mount Fuji.  Rivière’s inventive compositions not only document the construction of the tower—based in part on photographs he took from within the heights of the structure itself—but also reveal its impact on the cityscape of Paris.  In the same way that Hokusai had presented Mount Fuji, each page shows the Eiffel Tower from a different vantage point, in varying weather conditions and times of year.

A landscape with leaves in the foreground and clouds and the top of the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Henri Rivière (French, 1864-1951) and Georges Auriol (French, 1863-1938). Thirty-Six Views of the Eiffel Tower
1888-1902, published 1902. Bound volume of 36 color lithographs. Purchased as the gift of Louis Berman, Glyndon, Maryland, BMA 2001.290

This is a print of men working on the Eiffel Tower, perched precariously on wooden planks.

Henri Rivière (French, 1864-1951) and Georges Auriol (French, 1863-1938). Thirty-Six Views of the Eiffel Tower. 1888-1902, published 1902. Bound volume of 36 color lithographs. Purchased as the gift of Louis Berman, Glyndon, Maryland, BMA 2001.290

Some thoughts on prints of still lifes

Theodor Matham (Dutch, 1605/6-1676). Vanitas. 1622. Engraving, Sheet (cut within platemark): 225 x 136 mm. (8 7/8 x 5 3/8 in.) Garrett Collection, BMA 1946.112.3424

Theodor Matham (Dutch, 1605/6-1676). Vanitas. 1622. Engraving, Sheet (cut within platemark): 225 x 136 mm. (8 7/8 x 5 3/8 in.) Garrett Collection, BMA 1946.112.3424

The still life is not as common a subject in the early history of printmaking as one might think.  I was reminded of this fact while helping Sona Johnston, then Senior Curator of European Painting and Sculpture, make print selections for The Art of Still Life from The Baltimore Museum of Art, an exhibition that traveled to museums around Maryland in 2007 and 2010.  There were few examples of seventeenth-century still life prints in the BMA’s collection, though happily we did find Theodor Matham’s 1622 engraving Vanitas.  Here, in the composition’s foreground, one sees an assortment of carefully arranged and meticulously rendered objects, including a book of music and several instruments.  The prominent location of the plaque at center, showing the word “Vanitas” topped by a winged skull, reminds us that music, like all earthly enjoyments, offers only fleeting pleasure in the face of our mortality.

Given the relative rarity of seventeenth-century still life prints, it was with great excitement that in 2011 the Museum acquired Wenceslaus Hollar’s Murex haustellum from an untitled series of 38 shells etched by the Bohemian artist in c. 1646.  Unlike Matham, who placed his shells in an elaborate and iconographically significant setting, Hollar presents all his shells in the same straightforward fashion.  By isolating the shells against plain backgrounds, Hollar draws attention to their intrinsic beauty, focusing on their distinctive silhouettes and textures.  Each shell is to scale, with every bump and ridge on its exterior rendered in minute detail; one imagines the artist scrutinizing and marveling at the murex haustellum while slowly rotating it in his hand. Hollar’s etchings lack accompanying text, distinguishing them from scientific illustrations of the time, prints in which the imagery would be supplemented with the Latin name of each specimen, if not other relevant scientific information and a plate number.

Wenceslaus Hollar (Bohemian, 1607-1677). Murex haustellum, c. 1646. Etching, Sheet: 100 x 139 mm. (3 15/16 x 5 1/2 in.) Plate: 98 x 137 mm. (3 7/8 x 5 3/8 in.). John Dorsey and Robert W. Armacost Bequest Fund, and purchased as the gift of the Print, Drawing & Photograph Society, BMA 2011.120

Wenceslaus Hollar (Bohemian, 1607-1677). Murex haustellum, c. 1646. Etching, Sheet: 100 x 139 mm. (3 15/16 x 5 1/2 in.) Plate: 98 x 137 mm. (3 7/8 x 5 3/8 in.). John Dorsey and Robert W. Armacost Bequest Fund, and purchased as the gift of the Print, Drawing & Photograph Society, BMA 2011.120

Although the murex haustellum is readily available today, it was a rarity in the seventeenth century.  Brought to Europe via maritime trade, such shells were collected both as exotic objects and scientific curiosities.  They were considered exemplary items to include in the compendium of knowledge known as a wunderkammer (“hall of wonders”), of which Baltimoreans are fortunate to have a recreation at The Walters Art Museum; there is also the wunderkammer-inspired installation An Archaeology of Knowledge by the contemporary American artist Mark Dion at the Brody Learning Commons at The Johns Hopkins University. As we know from a 1656 inventory of his collection, the Dutch artist Rembrandt owned shells, one of which most likely served as a model for the singular etching and drypoint The Shell (1650).  In etching his series of shells, it seems that Hollar worked from a particular collection, though whose it was we do not know.

Hollar’s and Rembrandt’s shell etchings lead us to one other still life print: a 2002 etching by the contemporary French printmaker Erik Desmazières entitled Register and Shells that is a promised gift to the Museum.  Desmazières is an artist who is steeped in the history of printmaking—he is a regular visitor to the Bibliothèque nationale in Paris—and over the course of his long career has explored various art historical themes in his work (including the wunderkammer).  In Register and Shells, we see a piece of coral and two shells placed on and adjacent to a well-worn tome, their inclusion paying homage to the exquisitely etched creations of his seventeenth-century predecessors.

Erik Desmazières (French, born Morocco 1948) Register and Shells 2002 Etching Collection of Nancy Patz, Baltimore: Promised gift to The Baltimore Museum of Art

Erik Desmazières (French, born Morocco 1948). Register and Shells. 2002. Etching Collection of Nancy Patz, Baltimore: Promised gift to The Baltimore Museum of Art

Engraving the Master Engravers

Stanley William Hayter. Untitled. 1936. From the portfolio "Fraternity". The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Sidney Hollander, Baltimore, BMA 1996.8.3. © Estate of Stanley William Hayter / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Stanley William Hayter. Untitled. 1936. From the portfolio “Fraternity”. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Sidney Hollander, Baltimore, BMA 1996.8.3. © Estate of Stanley William Hayter / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

One of my current projects is a large-scale exhibition focused on twentieth-century intaglio printmaker Stanley William Hayter (English, 1901-1988) and his print workshop called the Atelier 17. The exhibition is scheduled to be on view at the BMA in the winter/spring of 2018. Several artworks slated for inclusion in the Hayter exhibition would have been great fits for New Arrivals: Gifts of Art for a New Century (February 7 – May 8, 2016)—an exhibition highlighting recent gifts to the Museum paired with objects already in the collection—but issues of light exposure prevent inclusion in both projects. In the spirit of pairings that are not in New Arrivals, we want to highlight a few favorites.

Stanley William Hayter’s Atelier 17 was a nexus of printmaking in its three iterations. It was founded in Paris in 1927 and remained there until Hayter fled German-occupied Paris in 1939. Hayter set up the workshop in New York City by 1940 where it flourished until 1955. By 1950 Hayter returned to Paris, leaving the New York shop in the hands of several directors, and reopened a branch of the Atelier there, where it still exists today as the Atelier Contrepoint some 27 years after Hayter’s death. Between 1926 and now, thousands of printmakers have worked at the studio and many in turn have founded university printmaking departments and print workshops across the United States, and around the world. Members of the Hayter artistic family tree are everywhere.**

The Atelier 17 is remarkable for three technical advances in intaglio printmaking. Hayter revived the arcane art form of copper engraving, formerly used as a formulaic means of reproducing paintings by famous artists, and used it to express deep emotions in swirling, taut lines. The studio developed a technique called softground etching in which fabrics, netting, paper, and other objects are pressed into a soft, waxy ground on the copper plate, leaving behind their texture that gets etched into the copper producing interesting tones and patterns. Lastly, Hayter and a group of artists developed a method of printing in colors using a single plate (traditional color etchings require a separate copper plate for each color) called simultaneous color printing or multi-viscosity printing.

Whereas some artists adopted simultaneous color printing as their own, or the use of fabrics pressed into softground to create textures, others embraced Hayter’s first love, engraving. Evan Lindquist is a contemporary artist using engraving as his medium of choice. His tie to Hayter is through Lindquist’s graduate studies at the University of Iowa, where Mauricio Lasansky had founded the printmaking department in the late 1940s (Lasansky worked with Hayter at the New York Atelier 17 in the early 1940s). Lindquist has created a series of elegantly engraved portraits of art history’s well-known engravers like Martin Schongauer, Albrecht Dürer, Hendrik Goltzius, William Blake, Hayter, and others. In his engraving, SW Hayter Engraves War, Lindquist portrays Hayter as an intense, powerful figure out of whose burin (his engraving tool) come motifs referring to the Spanish Civil War.

That Lindquist portrays this titan of printmaking creating a print in support of victims of a crazy war, and not as a teacher, is telling. Hayter and a group of artists created two portfolios, Solidarity (1938) and Fraternity (1939), that were fundraisers for the child victims of the Spanish Civil War. The Museum is fortunate to have the complete portfolio of Fraternity, which contains prints by Hayter along with John Buckland Wright, Dalla Husband, Josef Hecht, Wassily Kandinsky, Roderick Mead, Joan Miró, Dolf Reiser, and Luis Vargas. In Hayter’s plate, a nude male stands at a doorway while an airplane flies overhead. One can’t help but think of Guernica, the small Spanish village that was bombed in April 1937, killing vast numbers of civilian men, women, and children.

Occurrences like Guernica motivated many artists to create work in protest, mostly famously Picasso, and Hayter was no different. He was a passionate humanist who used art to express his profound discomfort with the darkness that befell humanity during the first half of the twentieth century. That the symbols and marks of the war are spitting out vigorously from Hayter’s burin in Lindquist’s portrait is a perfect homage.

Evan Lindquist. SW Hayter Engraves War. 2015. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased as the gift of an Anonymous Donor, BMA 2015.173. © 2015, Evan Lindquist / VAGA, NY

Evan Lindquist. SW Hayter Engraves War. 2015. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased as the gift of an Anonymous Donor, BMA 2015.173. © 2015, Evan Lindquist / VAGA, NY

**As part of the BMA’s exhibition, we are creating an online Hayter family tree. Artists will be encouraged to trace their connection back to Hayter, add themselves to the lineage, and establish their “H” number.

How to Collect Art: Tips for New Collectors

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Collectors at the 2012 Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair.

The Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair (March 27-29) is a biennial fair that brings printers, publishers, and dealers to Baltimore for one weekend to sell the latest in contemporary prints and multiples. Ranging from emerging to blue chip artists, and from $500 to $50,000, there is something for everybody. The BCPF provides a wonderful opportunity for younger and first-time collectors to add reasonably priced works of art by today’s best makers, and also offers visitors the opportunity to engage directly with the people who worked with the artists to make the prints. Staff from many of the country’s most important print studios will be on hand to tell you about their experiences and help you understand how the prints were made. It’s a not-to-miss event. In addition, to make visitors feel welcome, Museum staff will be on hand to offer guidance throughout the weekend.

If you are a first-time collector, or just looking for a better experience buying art, these tips might help.

The Basics
The International Fine Print Dealers Association (IFPDA) defines an original print as a work of art on paper that has been conceived by the artist to be realized as a print, rather than as a reproduction of a work in another medium. There is always a fuzzy line between posters and prints, but suffice it to say, at the BCPF, visitors will be looking at original prints.

Condition
While most prints at the BCPF are very recent, the first thing to consider when looking at any potential purchase is condition. Check to make sure the print hasn’t been compromised, meaning it’s not scratched, torn, wrinkled, or too yellowed. You want the paper to be free of marks, creases, and dents.

Technical knowledge
If you like an image but are unfamiliar with the techniques used to realize it, ask the dealer to help you understand better. There are lots of glossaries around that describe printmaking techniques. A handy one can be found on the IFPDA’s website here: http://www.ifpda.org/content/collecting_prints/glossary.

We can’t emphasize enough the value of engaging the vendors in conversation. They are there to help you understand not only the technical aspects of a work of art, but also to help you understand what the artist was thinking; as we say in the department, the “what’s the what”.

Making a purchase
When it comes to making a purchase, please know the deal is between you and the vendor. Negotiating is part of the deal. Don’t be afraid to ask if a discount is available; it can’t hurt to try!

The bottom line on purchasing art is that purchases should not be made based on the speculative future value of the object, but it should be bought because you love it and want to live with it.

Framing
Once a purchase has been made, you’ll want to frame the work. There are many good framers in the Baltimore metro area. The museum can recommend several who will treat your purchase well. The quality of the materials the framer uses is important. The bottom line: pay for the best materials you can afford.

Care at home
Bringing your purchase home is always exciting. When considering placement within your home, several factors come into play. When possible, steady climate control is best. Dampness and heat should be avoided in the area where the print is stored, if possible. Be sure to keep your print out of direct sunlight as this can also cause damage to the ink and paper. If your print is unframed, be sure to store it flat to keep the edges from curling and/or tearing.
More information on how to care for your work on paper.

The Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair will be held at the BMA March 28-29, 2015. See the website for full details about exhibitors, and special events. Entry to the event is free for BMA Members. Tickets for non-members are $15 for both days, and $10 for one. Students and teachers with a valid I.D. are free. 

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BMA Voices: Le Violon d’Ingres

Man Ray. Le Violon d'Ingres. 1924. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from the Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Collection; and partial gift of George H. Dalsheimer, Baltimore, BMA 1988.435. © Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris 2014

Man Ray. Le Violon d’Ingres. 1924. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from the Edward Joseph Gallagher III Memorial Collection; and partial gift of George H. Dalsheimer, Baltimore, BMA 1988.435. © Man Ray Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY / ADAGP, Paris 2014

Thomas Primeau, Director of Conservation and Paper Conservator

In an era where technology allows for the precise reproduction of images and even 3 dimensional objects, why are we still fascinated by the idea of original works of art? In a previous blog post on Albrecht Dürer’s “Ecce Homo,” I noted that woodcut printing, a process for making multiples of the same image, has existed in the West since the early 15th-century. Other posts on the 16th-century engraver Diana Mantuana and the 19th-century lithographer Honoré Daumier, described how subsequent advances in printing technology, revolutionized the visual environment as duplicated images became increasingly sophisticated and omnipresent. When, in the 19th century, optical and chemical experiments led to practical methods of photography, artists found a new way of recording the world and improved methods for creating, reproducing, and circulating pictures. Of course, the question of whether creating a photograph, an image made using a machine, required artistic talent has haunted the medium since its inception and throughout history photographers have continually defended their work as art.

The Philadelphia-born artist Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky) was perhaps responding to this challenge when he took a photograph of the model Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin), posed nude and seen from the back as a classic odalisque, and manipulated it in the darkroom to make it appear as if she had f- holes cut into her torso. The photograph is compelling in itself as it plays on the similarity between the woman’s silhouette and a musical instrument, but once one understands that it is titled Le Violon d’Ingres, it becomes a humorous and pointed critique on the history of art and traditional representations of women in painting. The photograph is both a homage to and parody on the French neo-classical artist J. A. D. Ingres (1780-1867) who painted romanticized Oriental scenes populated with voluptuous nudes. (The Walters Art Museum has several paintings by Ingres including Odalisque with Slave (1842) which is exactly the type of picture that Man Ray references with his photograph.) Knowing that Ingres was also an amateur violinist and that the expression “Ingres’ violin” was used colloquially to refer to one’s “hobby,” heightens the comedy and focuses attention on the unsettling sexuality of the photograph. More than just a punch-line though, the image questions long-established concepts of what constitutes a work of art and how we see the world in an age of rapidly evolving technologies and philosophies. Man Ray made several prints of the photograph, and it became more well know when it was published in the journal Littérature (June, 1924). Today the work has been so frequently reproduced that it is instantly recognized as an icon of Dada and Surrealist art from the early 20th century.

Verifying the authenticity of a photograph such as this can be complicated: the artist continued to make prints of Le Violon d’Ingres into the 1960s and, due to the high prices that Man Ray photographs command in the art market, forgers have attempted to pass off fakes to unsuspecting collectors. In 1998, the discovery of a large group of forged Man Ray prints attracted worldwide press coverage and prompted conservators to develop new methods for authenticating vintage photographs. The provenance or record of ownership for the BMA photograph indicates that it is one of the originals prints from 1924. However, in order to verify this, the museum collaborated with Paul Messier, a photographic materials conservator, and Walter Rantanen, a forensic specialist, to study the print. They examined the paper composition of the photograph and determined that it was made of all cotton and flax fibers. Significantly, this combination of paper fibers was typical of photographic papers made around 1924. By the late 1920s, manufacturers began incorporating wood pulp into the papers and by the 1930s photographic papers were made exclusively with wood pulps.

When a photograph such as this one is so well known, and can be very easily replicated, is there still much value to seeing an original print? I would argue that when we view an original object, in the medium that it was conceived of by the artist, we gain insights into the processes that inspired the artist. The work of art holds onto its past: it shows signs of how it was made and bears subtle marks of wear from age and handling. In the presence of the original, even a relatively recent photographic print, the viewer is able to make a direct and personal connection with the time of the artworks creation.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

Reproduction, including downloading of ARS licensed works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

BMA Voices: The hand and mind of James Siena in “No Man’s Land”, 2004

2012.197.7

James Siena and Carol Weaver and Felix Harlan, Harlan & Weaver, Inc.. No Man’s Land. 2004. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Sidney M. Friedberg Acquisitions Endowment for Prints and Drawings, BMA 2012.197.1‑7. Courtesy Harlan & Weaver, Inc., NY.

Benjamin Levy, Prints, Drawings & Photographs Curatorial Assistant, explores the different states of “No Man’s Land”, 2004, which give us a glimpse into the artist’s mind and work. 

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

BMA Voices: Standing by the courage of your convictions

Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471‑1528). Knight, Death and the Devil. 1513. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Alfred R. and Henry G. Riggs, in Memory of General Lawrason Riggs, BMA 1943.32.188

Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471‑1528). Knight, Death and the Devil. 1513. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Alfred R. and Henry G. Riggs, in Memory of General Lawrason Riggs, BMA 1943.32.188

Ann Shafer, Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs

One of the best parts of working in a department of prints, drawings & photographs is the range of material in our collection. As curators, we cover works on paper from 1450 to today, from Japan to Norway, and from Mexico to New York. I usually cover American and British works on paper, as well as contemporary works. It may surprise readers, then, that Albrecht Dürer’s Knight, Death and the Devil is one of my favorite prints of all time. Not only is it a glorious example of engraving, but it also carries a universal message to stand by the courage of your convictions.

Albrecht Dürer was a German printmaker, draftsman, painter, observer of nature, and humanist. In 1513 and 1514 he created a trio of engravings that have come to be called his master prints. In addition to Knight, Death and the Devil, the trio also includes St. Jerome in His Study and Melencolia I. Most scholars agree that the former represents the active life, while the two others represent the contemplative life and the intellectual life respectively.

While the three prints together are spectacular, I’m most drawn to Knight, Death and the Devil. The image is a visual feast. It features a righteous German knight resplendent in armor, a horse straight out of Renaissance Italy, a wonderful and faithful companion Fido the dog, and gnarly creatures representing Death and the Devil, all set in a naturalistic landscape. Contemporaries of Dürer would have understood the symbolism of every aspect of this print. But our own unfamiliarity with those symbols doesn’t lessen the impact of the work. Clearly this stalwart fellow is making his way through the forest of temptation and vanitas. He is able to keep to his path, ignoring all that is going on around him and stands by the courage of his convictions. Even if we strip the image of its religious associations of pre-reformation Catholicism, the message of perseverance is clear. Stick to your guns, well, lance, and you can get through anything with grace and dignity.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

BMA Voices: The void formed by the clenching of the fist


Ann Shafer, Associate Curator of Prints, Drawings & Photographs, unpacks Stanley William Hayter’s Untitled (no. 6 from The Apocalypse) – a work of art that depicts the void formed by the clenching of your fist.

Stanley William Hayter and Editions Jeanne Bucher. Untitled (no. 6 from The Apocalypse). 1931. From the portfolio “The Apocalypse”. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Paul Mann, Towson, Maryland, BMA 1979.377.6. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

Reproduction, including downloading of ARS licensed works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

BMA Voices: Tauba Auerbach’s wedding of process, technique, and concept

Tauba Auerbach and Paulson Bott Press. Plate Distortion II. 2011. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Print, Drawing & Photograph Society Fund, with proceeds derived from the 2012 Contemporary Print Fair, BMA 2012.198. Courtesy of the artist and Paulson Bott Press

Tauba Auerbach and Paulson Bott Press. Plate Distortion II. 2011. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Print, Drawing & Photograph Society Fund, with proceeds derived from the 2012 Contemporary Print Fair, BMA 2012.198. Courtesy of the artist and Paulson Bott Press

Benjamin Levy, Prints, Drawings & Photographs Curatorial Assistant, speaks on the wedding of process and technique with the conceptual basis of Tauba Auerbach’s work.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

BMA Voices: James McNeill Whistler’s “Rotherhithe”, 1860.

James McNeill Whistler. Rotherhithe. 1860. From the portfolio "A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames (The Thames Set)". The Baltimore Museum of Art: The George A. Lucas Collection, purchased with Funds from the State of Maryland, Laurence and Stella Bendann Fund, and contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations throughout the Baltimore community, BMA 1996.48.7637

James McNeill Whistler. Rotherhithe. 1860. From the portfolio “A Series of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames (The Thames Set)”. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The George A. Lucas Collection, purchased with Funds from the State of Maryland, Laurence and Stella Bendann Fund, and contributions from individuals, foundations, and corporations throughout the Baltimore community, BMA 1996.48.7637

Nicole Simpson, George A. Lucas Cataloguer in the Prints, Drawings and Photographs Department 

A loud crash rang out in Rotherhithe – a shipping district on the south bank of the Thames in London. A brick had fallen from the roof of a building where workmen were doing repairs. Seated nearby on the terrace of a tavern was the dapper young artist James McNeill Whistler. He was in the middle of etching the scene before him when, startled by the noise, he jumped and accidentally left a long, vertical scratch on the copper printing plate. Although he could have removed this unintended mark, Whistler let it remain (it is visible in the center of the print, between the masts).

While Whistler delighted in such spontaneous occurrences, he was also a careful and deliberate artist. He was particularly sensitive to how the selection of paper could affect the look of his prints – here he selected Japanese paper, which is a thin, translucent paper, to add a luminous quality to the outdoor scene. Whistler was so pleased with this piece that he exhibited it at the Salon in Paris in 1863.

This print is part of the collection of George A. Lucas, who amassed nearly 20,000 prints, paintings, sculptures and books. A native Baltimorean, Lucas spent his adult life working in Paris as an art agent for wealthy and respected art dealers and collectors, including Samuel Putnam Avery (whose print collection is now at The New York Public Library), and William and Henry Walters (whose collection is the foundation for The Walters Art Museum). Lucas knew many artists, including Whistler. Whistler was notorious for his cantankerous spirit and could be a difficult friend – he frequently asked Lucas for favors and money, once challenged Lucas to a duel, and embroiled Lucas in his romantic misdeeds. Despite this undoubtedly trying relationship, Lucas continued to admire his work and collected nearly 200 prints by Whistler.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.